In a previous post, I wrote about my father’s diagnosis of metastatic melanoma to the lungs and liver. At that time it wasn’t known that the nodules had also spread to his brain. Though he fought the good fight, my father succumbed to this horrific disease on March 20th, just two weeks to the day after receiving word from his oncologist that the nodules in his lungs had grown significantly and that the treatment (immunotherapy) wasn’t working. The oncologist recommended hospice for the next month or two. Dad was sixty-eight when he passed away.
Melanoma is a sneaky bitch. In my father’s case, he developed a brownish spot on his cheek ten years ago. It wasn’t dark and we all thought it was just an age spot, even his general practitioner. He said he had a treatment that would “bleach” the spot so it wouldn’t be noticeable. It was an in-office procedure and the spot scabbed up and went away for a few months before returning a hideous dark brown to black. The doctor said nothing.
When Dad went to the dermatologist, it was found to be melanoma and they did surgery to remove it. He was left with a huge “z” shape scar but it healed so well that after a month or so the scar was barely visible. When they removed the section, it was determined that the cancer was “lateral” and that it had not spread. He would be fine.
That was three years ago.
Last year, my father developed a cough; a nagging, nonproductive tickle that was so bad that he would lose his breath. He had other symptoms, too, like shortness of breath and becoming exhausted after minimal exertion. He told his general practitioner, who told Dad not to worry, that he was only suffering from “the hundred day cough.” Then my father told his cardiologist, who monitored him for a possible heart condition, other than his high blood pressure and AFIB (irregular heartbeat). Still the cough persisted, but the cardiologist found nothing unusual otherwise. Dad then told his otolaryngologist (ear, nose, throat doctor) and was told it was probably allergies. In the mean time, he kept up his regular appointments with his dermatologist who proceeded to burn off any skin lesions or irregular spots that were found on his body, but the dermatologist said nothing about his cough.
No one thought to order a chest x-ray until eight months later. Hello? HE HAD A COUGH. Shouldn’t that have been the first thing to order, especially with his history of melanoma?
Needless to say, my faith in the medical profession is greatly shaken. I am beyond angry that my father lost his life because this wasn’t detected a year ago. I am frustrated that no forewarnings, no scans, no check-ups were advised after the initial lesion was removed from his face. I’m heartbroken that he wasn’t given any information about melanoma; no brochures, no literature, no anything. No talk about metastasizing lesions or survival rates by stage.
None of us saw this coming because we were told they “got it all.” Had my father been given some basic information about melanoma instead of just a pat on the back and shown the door, maybe, JUST MAYBE, he’d be sitting next to me right now helping me blog something different, like good treatment options, diet, sun protection, CBDs, etc. But no advice was given. He was just sent on his way.
Through the course of his short illness, there were roadblocks left and right in treatment and in the way insurance handled billing. He was even denied cough syrup! Ironically, once he was on hospice, the cough syrup was covered. Nothing made sense.
I have a lot of questions, lots of thoughts going through my mind but trying to remain objective is difficult because Dad is in Heaven now. Though I know that he is no longer in pain, and in a much better place, Mom and I are still missing him greatly. I can’t help but think that the gaping hole in our lives left by my father’s death could’ve been avoided if only ONE of his physicians had taken him seriously and looked at his chest last April.
My advice to anyone diagnosed with this heinous form of cancer is to make your doctors listen to you. Don’t let them sweep your symptoms under a rug or offer antiquated diagnoses like “the hundred day cough.” Make them do their job.