In 2011, at the age of 8, Leah discovered a very tiny raised skin colored bump on her thigh. Two dermatologists dismissed it as a wart and told us to watch and wait, because of her age. The bump grew slightly over a couple of months and Leah insisted it was not right. So I couldn’t wait any longer. I went back to a dermatologist and pressed for more tests.
After a biopsy, three pathology reports, and months of searching for answers day and night, Leah was finally diagnosed with Melanoma Skin Cancer. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, my sweet daughter – What? As a mom, it was impossible to comprehend.
But the doctor told us that Melanoma grows fast, and can travel quickly to your lymph nodes and then attacks your vital organs like the brain. We had to act fast.
Within 2 months, Leah had 6 invasive surgeries, including removing all the lymph nodes in her groin, tubes, pic lines, daily cancer treatments with chemotherapy, infections, complications and hospitalization to deal with her Stage 3 Melanoma. Test after test, poke after poke…her scars are a constant reminder even now.
At the time, Dr. Leonard Sender, the Medical Director of the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s Hospital in Orange County, California, was one of the very few specialists in the country who knew and understood Pediatric Melanoma.
Melanoma is now recognized as the fastest growing cancer among teens and young adults. We now know it is no longer only an adult disease. Kids get Melanoma, too!
Leah’s melanoma was most likely not caused by sun, as most are. She was in the very rare 5% of cases that are caused by a genetic mutation. However, Leah said it best, “How can we let anyone else go through this, or possibly die, if it can be prevented in most cases? They need to know that they can prevent skin cancer!”
No matter how many times I try to write Leah’s story, I can’t begin to explain what happens to your life when you have a cancer diagnosis. When you see “The Cancer World” first hand, you will never be the same.
Leah is a survivor and we were fortunate. Strong and determined, Leah decided she is going to do something about this horrible disease and help educate the world about the simple steps they can take to help prevent skin cancer and save lives!
Leah is on a mission to let everyone know that 90% of skin cancers can be prevented by sun protection. How can you help?
Make the commitment to protect yourself from the sun, check your skin regularly and help us spread the word!
Leah’s Mom, Jenny