This past Sunday, we were honored to have the U.S. Surgeon General, Jerome Adams speak at our annual event, The 2019 Taste for a Cure Gala. It was amazing to hear about our nation’s biggest health concerns, but it was even more meaningful to find out why Melanoma is so personal to him. In the very early months of his appointment, his wife of 17 years, Lacey, was diagnosed with stage 3C metastatic Melanoma. This has made his first year as the “Nation’s Top Doctor” interesting to say the least.
Lacey’s original Melanoma diagnosis was almost 9 years ago and was a simple mole removal. Like so many others, she assumed that it was a one-time thing and as long as she kept up on skin checks, she would be in the clear. In fact, so much time had passed that when she felt swollen lymph nodes near her original site, she assumed it was nothing and ignored it for a few months. Their family of five had just moved to DC and was already overwhelmed with transitioning. She remembers thinking, “I don’t even have time to unpack my house, let alone make a doctor appointment to check out a few bumps that don’t even hurt”.
When she did finally get to a doctor, everyone was shocked to find out that it was Melanoma and was in at least 3-4 lymph nodes (finding out later it was in 8), and it was the same Melanoma from 9 years ago. Lacey couldn’t believe that this sneaky disease had been quietly lurking in her body for almost a decade with no obvious symptoms! “I have learned from this experience to never ignore anything going on with your body, no matter how small or silly it might seem.”
So just months after moving from their Midwest home, Lacey had total lymph node removal surgery and started a year of Immunotherapy treatments. She remembers her Oncologist at Walter Reed telling her to live her life for this year as normally as possible and let them do the watching and worrying. “Thank God for the miracle of Opdivo (Immunotherapy). I would never have thought that having monthly cancer treatments would just be another thing on my calendar to get through.” Her side effects have been very minimal over the past year (ie. dry mouth, skin rash, fatigue), which is a good thing since she is always running to keep up with three kids and a husband with a pretty heavy-duty travel schedule.
During the treatment year, Lacey received 2 scans to make sure that the disease was not growing anywhere else. Both scans have been clear, and she is on track to finish treatments in May (this month!). Her family will be happy to close this chapter and move on with life. She laughs about her 9-year-old asking her occasionally, “So, are you done with this cancer thing yet”? J Lacey says she is excited to be “done” but she knows now that it will never be far from her mind. She will be much more diligent about her own self-monitoring and will always be preaching skin checks to others. “I just love Tracy and everything about the Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation. I know she is too modest to admit it, but she truly has saved and is saving lives everyday with her work. Jerome and I were so honored to be part of the gala this year!”