In 2017 Mike’s wife spotted what looked like a blackhead on the back of his upper left ear, a few months later he was diagnosed with Stage 1a malignant melanoma. Two and a half years later, at a routine check up a consultant spotted a bluish tinge near the original site of Mike’s melanoma, this was confirmed to be stage 3b malignant melanoma.
Mike has very kindly taken the time to share his experience and advice with us.
“If you have ANY doubts get it checked out… you can never be too careful”.
My story starts in March 2017 at the age of 51, my wife spotted what looked like a blackhead on the back of my upper left ear. The following week, I saw my GP, they gave me hydrocortisone cream to treat it, in case it was a rodent ulcer. However, after using the cream there appeared to be no improvement, so I was referred to a dermatologist.
My dermatology appointment came through for September 2017. I saw a consultant who told me that she would need to remove the lesion that day and have it biopsied, however she was sure that it was malignant melanoma. Shortly after, this was confirmed to be true and two months later, I had a wide local excision, I was told from there on I would be monitored for the next five years.
Two and a half years of routine check-ups passed, and I was attending a regular sixth monthly check up. The doctor appeared to examine me a bit more thoroughly than the usual check up I had attended and concluded that she was concerned about bluish tinge, near the original site of my melanoma, again she removed a piece of skin and sent it for a biopsy.
It was now March 2020 the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, I had just returned from a weekend in Venice, and received a phone call from the doctor. She asked if I could come in that day, as the results from my biopsy showed that it was again malignant melanoma. Unfortunately, as I had just returned from Venice, I was self-isolating for two weeks, so I had to wait to put this appointment on hold until my isolation had come to an end. As soon as I could, I went for an MRI scan to see if the melanoma had travelled. I was fortunately told that it had not, which was a huge relief.
Following on from this, my cancer nurse specialist got in touch to inform me that because this melanoma was a later stage than my original, I would be eligible for adjuvant treatment with a year of immunotherapy or targeted therapy. Initially, I refused immunotherapy due to the possible side effects. In my job as a front-line paramedic during this time, I was not allowed to do my job with a compromised immune system. As it turned out, I was very fortunate that my employer gave me the time off and my nurse explained that it had more positives than negatives.
I began my treatment in May 2020 and finished in April 2021, throughout it I felt well apart from experiencing fatigue and shortness of breath, for example when running upstairs. In July 2021, I tried to return to work but failed miserably. This sadly meant that I had to apply for ill health retirement, which unfortunately was an ordeal in itself.
It’s now February 2023, I still experience shortness of breath, for example when running upstairs, and I have no physical strength anymore, however I have a good standard of life.
What advice would you give to other melanoma patients?
If you have ANY doubts get it checked out. Only recently I had an area of concern, I went to see a professional and it looks to be seborrheic keratosis. To me, it looked more like melanoma than my melanoma did! You can never be too careful.
I would advise people to read the forums regarding immunotherapy treatment, some people seem to get an easy time, others myself included not so. It’s difficult to be objective when your life has changed however, I accept the situation.
For information on immunotherapy side-effects, see here.