Grace

Grace

Grace is the youngest of our three children. She had always been a spunky, energetic, adventure seeker. She is always looking for something to do. In April 2010, we noticed a bump above her elbow on the inner part of her arm — the very soft part that rarely sees the sun. As a mom, the bump bothered me. It didn't belong there. What was it? A bug bite? A wart? It didn't look like a mole. It was my best mom guess that it was a wart. So, we decided to let it be and just keep an eye on it for a little while.

Then, Grace started getting sties on both of her eyes in May. Still nothing I couldn't handle, right? We went on vacation in June to Disney World! It was HOT and super sunny even when it was raining. I have always been the mom who annoyed everyone about remembering to wear sunscreen, and without a doubt, everyone was slathered in sunscreen on this trip. After the first day of our trip, we noticed Grace’s eyes looked worse which made us look at her arm. It had changed. Had it been that long since I looked at it? How could I not have noticed it change? It looked angry. It was red and irritated, and Grace was complaining it was itchy. I decided to check out the over-the-counter wart removers when returned home. I can honestly say, this played as much a part in saving her life as any of her doctors. On the box was a warning label read "If you are not 100% sure you are treating a wart DO NOT USE this product." I certainly wasn't 100% sure, I wasn’t even 50% sure. The next day I called and made an appointment with her pediatrician's nurse. Grace had been picking at the "wart" and made it bleed a little. She was only four. It was bothering her. What else would she do with it but pick at it?

The nurse decided we should see a dermatologist. God bless her for that. They even made the call for me, and we were able to get Grace in several weeks sooner than if I had made the call myself. A few weeks later, we saw the dermatologist and she decided she'd shave off the spot. It wasn’t a wart, but the doctor believed it was likely nothing serious. She sent it in to the lab just for good measure, and we went on our way feeling like we had taken care of this "little bump in the road." About 10 days later on July 31, 2010, I got the call to come in and discuss the biopsy results. It was melanoma.

The next week we made the six-hour drive to MD Anderson Cancer Center. We soon learned that it had spread to her lymph nodes. Grace was diagnosed with Stage IIIB Malignant Melanoma at the age of four. It all seemed impossible to digest. They removed more of the tumor on her arm and all of the nodes under her arm in an effort to prevent any further spreading throughout her body. Grace was declared to be NED. She began daily high dose infusions five days before her fifth birthday and weekly injections for a year.

Grace will never be free from this disease. She will develop a new melanoma at some point in her life. Catching it early will be the key to her survival. She has to have monthly skin checks to watch existing moles that have greater potential to develop into melanoma and look for new moles and spots that don't follow the ABCDE rules of melanoma similar to the original spot. I wish it was as easy as some people think: "Oh it's just skin cancer. All you have to do is cut it out." I wish people understood the gross ignorance in those statements.

Our wonderful daughter continues to battle side effects and new issues. She lives in almost constant pain, but she has the sweetest, kindest spirit and a smile and laugh that is absolutely infectious.