I have been asked what it means to be stage 4 melanoma. This is a difficult question to answer. What I can tell you is this, I am stage 4 and there is no stage 5. There is no cure and no specific treatment plan for stage 4 melanoma. The treatment I will be on is experimental. There are published statistics on survival rates; however, I will not place these on my blog as I am not a statistic. I am a young woman who is living with cancer who has her own story.
After I was initially diagnosed with melanoma in 2006 my relationship with the sun changed. I stayed out of the sun or when I was in the sun, I wore sunscreen with the highest SPF available with UVB and UVA protection. I also had frequent (every 4 months) visits with my dermatologist, oncologist and had PET/CT scans. All to watch for a reoccurrence.
I did everything my medical team suggested to treat melanoma and it came back; almost exactly 2 years after my last surgery when I was “cancer-free”. In June of 2006, I got the best birthday gift; a call from my doctor telling me that they surgically removed all of the cancer. In June of 2008, I got the worst news. It was back and in my lung.
With my reoccurrence and stage 4 diagnosis, I will again follow my medical team’s advice on treatment, which begins this week. It is a year long treatment during which I will be giving myself shots for a year (14 days on –everyday- and 14 days off). I will continue to see my dermatologist every 3 months as well as my oncologist. I will also have a CT scan every 4 months and an MRI of my brain every 6 months. I will follow this regiment for as long as my medical team and I feel is necessary. I say “I” as I take an active role in my treatment.
My reoccurrence and stage 4 diagnoses was also a wake-up call for me. My body was telling me that it needed my help to fight. The one thing I did not change 2 years ago was my diet. Research has found significant links between food and cancer. I’ve done my research and have since made significant changes. In simple and easy to understand terms, I have become a vegetarian - although, I am eating small portions of meat.
Some of the changes I have made are:
1. I have cut out processed foods (for example: no pre-made food, no chips, no lunch meat, etc. and yes that means no McDonalds or any other fast food joint).
2. I have reduced the amount of animal fats (dairy and meats) by removing dairy and only eating small portions (no more than 6 oz of meat per day) of lean meats (organic or grass fed animals and wild fish). Animal fats have been shown to feed melanoma, so it is really important to me to keep my intake to a minimum.
3. I can have sugar; however I will be limiting the intake to 5 – 10 grams of sugar per serving and will be eating protein and fiber (nuts or powder are good sources) with my sugar as this combats the effect. Sugar has also been shown to feed cancer, so I want to watch my intake.
4. I will be eating large portions of organic vegetables and fruits.
With the help of CB and the internet, I have already found some delicious recipes for snacks, meals and desserts. Just in case any of you are interested in trying some of them, I will include them in future posts. Also, there is a vegan cooking class that I will be attending for the next 3 weeks. My nutritionist suggested it and I am looking forward to learning some new recipes.