Issie has had three melanomas since 2012. After undergoing several surgeries and receiving immunotherapy treatment with pembrolizumab, she is now being monitored with regular scans and skin checks at her local hospital.
Issie has generously shared her experience with us.
“I have found the Melanoma Focus website so informative; it has helped me have a greater understanding of melanoma and my treatment.”
When I was first diagnosed in 2012 with melanoma I had a troublesome mole on my right shoulder that was itchy, crusty and bleeding. It was treated with the usual surgery. This was followed up by regular scans and skin checks and everything seemed fine. However, I was diagnosed for a second time in 2017, this time with a mole that was slowly changing colour and was a little bigger on my left forearm. This too was removed with surgery and followed up with regular scans and skin checks. I wasn’t too concerned because I stupidly convinced myself that skin cancer could be treated easily through surgery (which is the case for melanomas if found at an early stage). In my case, I was proved wrong of course!!
The third melanoma appeared in 2018 as a large lump under the skin at the top of my left arm, near the armpit. I once again thought it was probably just a cyst. But after a scan and fine needle biopsy it was discovered to be a lymph node that showed traces of melanoma cells. Consequently, I was referred to the cancer centre at Southampton hospital. After more surgery to remove the lymph node I then had a full left armpit dissection where 13 lymph nodes were removed. It was then decided that a course of Immunotherapy was the way forward.
“It was then decided that a course of immunotherapy was the way forward.”
I started a course of pembrolizumab in September 2019 and managed to complete 9 months of treatment before it was stopped due to unacceptable toxicity.
The treatment was given intravenously (through a drip into my arm) on a 3-weekly cycle. I was so lucky because I was able to have my treatment at home. This was incredible because it all happened during the first lockdown in 2020 due to Covid. The nurses who came to administer the drug were amazing and it all went so smoothly. I also had close contact by telephone with the cancer specialist nurses at Southampton Hospital and they were always available if I needed to speak to someone.
“The nurses who came to administer the drug were amazing and it all went so smoothly. I also had close contact by telephone with the cancer specialist nurses.”
I am still being monitored with regular scans and skin checks at my local hospital in Salisbury and am confident that all will be well. I can’t praise the teams at both hospitals highly enough and am so grateful that I was able to have such wonderful treatment.
What advice would you give to other melanoma patients?
Not everyone likes to know all the facts about their diagnosis or treatment, but I like to know exactly what to expect and to be involved in every step and decision making. I would however like to emphasise the importance of having some understanding of how to spot melanoma and the steps to take to help prevent it.
“Don’t ignore anything that you think looks different and go to see your GP if at all worried.”
Don’t ignore anything that you think looks different and go to see your GP if at all worried. The research into melanoma diagnosis, treatment and monitoring has made a huge difference to the survival rate of melanoma patients. I would also recommend taking a look at the Melanoma Focus website for high quality information rather than googling and finding out of date information.