Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"I Am Not Alone"

(by Natalie Grant) Natalie Grant - Deeper Life - I Am Not Alone

May is Melanoma Awareness Month, & I couldn't let it pass by without mentioning Ocular Melanoma (the type of cancer that my husband was diagnosed with almost 21 months ago ~ if you haven't read our story, click here). Part of the reason I have waited is because my mister has been working with the Ocular Melanoma Foundation (OMF) on a logo for their upcoming patient and caregiver conference. [OMF exists to increase awareness, enhance education & research, and provide advocacy among both patients and health care professionals regarding this rare but potentially lethal disease.] My mister printed the logo on a couple of shirts for me ('cuz he's awesome like that):


While May it is not set apart specifically for Ocular Melanoma, it's the closest thing we've got! I'm sorry if this post comes across as strictly factual & not my usual type of post. I just know that I was very misinformed about melanoma until it affected me personally, so I would like to make others more aware. Melanoma is not "just skin cancer". Skin cancer alone is very serious & claims nearly 11,000 lives each year, but melanoma is more than that. It is a cancer that begins in melanocytes, which are the cells that produce melanin (the pigment that colors the skin, hair, and eyes, as well as forms moles). Since most of these pigment cells are found in the skin, melanoma of the skin is the most common form of melanoma. However, melanoma can develop in the eye, digestive tract, brain, spinal cord or other areas where melanocytes are found. Melanoma is quite serious, because it can spread to almost any other organ in the body. It most commonly spreads to the liver, lungs, bones, and brain.

Ocular Melanoma is a rare and life threatening cancer which affects the cells in the eye. OM is the second most common form of melanoma after skin melanoma, representing about 5% of all melanomas. It is the most common form of eye cancer in adults & the most dangerous. 50% of patients eventually develop metastatic tumors for which there is no known effective treatment, which means that metastatic disease is always fatal. More research is needed urgently to improve patient outcomes. OM is an "orphan" disease, meaning that because it is so rare, there is little in the way of public funding devoted to research and treatment; therefore, private contributions are critical! I would like to ask anyone who is able to please consider making a donation to the Ocular Melanoma Foundation, in the hopes of one day finding a cure.

While I'm talking about this, I would also like to ask for your prayers as we await my mister's scans next week. This is always an anxious time for me. In the six months between scans, I do my best not to think about it (and I'm successful every once in awhile) ~ but when we are approaching scan time, I experience quite a bit of "scanxiety". I'd like to trust that everything will be OK, but in reality that may not be the case. I find it hard to fight off the thoughts that this will be the time we find out that it has spread.

Thank you so much for hearing me out today! Just a couple more things on both skin melanoma & ocular melanoma...to prevent skin cancer, please use a broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher ~ especially on your little ones, as studies have shown that 80% of lifetime sun exposure is obtained before 18 years of age. (For more tips, visit the Skin Cancer Foundation). & while there is no known cause of OM, early detection is SO important, so please get yearly dilated eye exams!!

Amy

3 comments:

Brooke said...

prayers for your hubby (and you) for the upcoming scans. i know how hard it is seeing your darling love not well - its quite frightening. *hugs*

The Messy Mom said...

I was going to ask if sun can effect the ocular melanoma, but judging by the sunscreen plea at the end I am assuming it does. Your testimony is so moving and I will be praying for you as you continue to walk through this.

Amy said...

Thank you both for your prayers!! I appreciate them more than you could ever know.

& Natalie, I'm so glad you mentioned that you were going to ask that question! I'm sorry for the confusion, & I have updated my last paragraph to hopefully make more sense! There is no solid proof that the sun affects OM, though it may increase the risk...I figure it's best to wear sunglasses, just in case! {Plus, it should help prevent some wrinkles!}