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
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.