"Melanoma, and Me "

" My goal: To ensure people are more educated about the danger's of the sun"- Tiffany

Please note: Tiffany lost her fight with Melanoma on October 8th. For more information please visit this Link.

Disclaimer- I am not a doctor, and don't claim to be. This information is of reccomendation of the webmaster, and should be thoroughly discussed with a qualified physician. The information above is for reference to get you to a qualified doctor who can then help you further. The webmaster





Q. Isn't melanoma just a fancy word for skin cancer and aren't all skin cancers the same?
A. One of the common misperceptions about melanoma is that it is "just another skin cancer." Far from it. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Most people that die from skin cancer die from melanoma. One reason it is so deadly is that it is very aggressive. In fact, melanoma is likely to kill you if not diagnosed at an early stage.

Another misperception is that melanoma just stays on the skin and it is merely a blotch or mole that should eventually be removed. Not only does melanoma leave the skin by traveling through your bloodstream, it will attack vital organs like your lungs and your brain. Once melanoma travels to other areas of your body, the traditional treatments (radiation, chemotherapy, surgery) rarely work. After it has spread (metastasizes), melanoma kills almost nine out of every 10 victims.

Victims of melanoma include the daughter of former President Ronald Reagan (Maureen Reagan), musician Bob Marley and actor Burgess Meredith.

Q. Am I at risk?
A. Melanoma affects people of all ages, all races, all economic levels and both sexes. However, people who are fair-skinned, or who have a large number of moles or freckles, are at greater risk of this disease. Exposure to ultraviolet light, such as that in sunlight or light from tanning beds, is also a risk factor for melanoma.

Q. How common is it?
A. 1.2 million will be diagnosed with skin cancer and there are more than 51,000 cases of melanoma every year in the United States. Although melanoma accounts for only 4 percent of all skin cancers, it causes approximately 79 percent of skin cancer deaths. About 11,000 Americans die of this disease every year.The overall incidence of melanoma is rising at an alarming rate. In 2001, at current rates one in 71 Americans have a lifetime risk of developing melanoma, a 2000% increase from 1930.

Q. Ok, so what should I do?
A. If caught early melanoma is highly curable. You can catch it early if you check your skin regularily. Please visit the self-exam page on our site and absolutely seek qualified medical help if you see anything suspiscious on your skin.

(Above statistics are from HealthScoutNews and The American Academy of Dermatology)



Going to Houston Texas to see Melanoma specialists at MD Anderson Hospital.

Still no news to report about my long term chances. As long as I'm riding and living my life I am a pretty happy girl.

Found one lump in my cancerous leg. Then 3 day's later found another one. Now I will get an emergency surgery to remove the infected lympnodes and cancer cells, then back on chemo I go.

Feeling good and strong now. Dealing with Surviving now on a daily basis. I am confident in saying I am now a Cancer survivor who is making progress each day.

 am done with my Chemical Treatments ( Interfeuron), I already am feeling more energetic and am eating more now. Adding a few needed pounds to help me battle the future. I don't plan on going back to work yet as I'm still experiencing some seriously hideous side effects, like depression and anxiety! But now its onto seeing about my long term chances of survival.

Just because I have cancer doesn't mean I cannot participate in daily activities. Even though physically we "Appear" to be healthy, inside we are weak and feeble. I sleep a lot and need a lot of rest. I do what I can , when I can. I push myself really hard to ride as it is the only thing I seem to enjoy and it honestly takes my mind off of the problem at hand.

"But you look good though"

I hear that ALOT! And it often irritates me even though the person meant well. How exactly should a cancer sufferer/patient look? Should we be....old, pale, skinny and clinging to death??

Diagnosed February 4th 1999 Stage 3 Level 4 Melanoma of the right leg. Two major operations were needed to cut-out the cancer cell's within two weeks of eachother. Then  a centinel blue node biopsie came back positive for spreading to my Groin lymphnodes. The cancer is now in my blood stream and stands the chance of spreading to my organs unless the chemo did it's job.

At 23 years old, I have been diagnosed with STAGE III Malignant Cancer. Melanoma as the doctors call it, the skin cancer that kills. 8000 Americans will get diagnosed with it each year and a few thousand of them will die from it, ranging from ages of 22 to 75 years old. In my stage of progression I stand a 40% chance of long term survival according to the books I have read. So now ask yourself,  How much do you need that tan? Is that  really worth dying over? 

Why you ask:

Part of why Melanoma is THE fastest growing cancer in America is because of the depletion of the Ozone layer. Which blocks out the harmful UVB ray's that give us skin cancers. Now a day's the sun is much stronger than once thought, and even tho you can't see sun damage with the naked eye, I promise you it is there! Sun spots, wrinkles and freckles are all signs of sun damage. I reccomend seeing a qualified Dermatologist so get a once over on your skin condition, and these doctors are qualified to make diagnosis' in regards to skin cancers. Even in your daily activities sunblock is necessary, perhaps wearing a brimmed hat while washing the car or sitting on the porch sipping iced tea. It is the little things that can do so much. Stay covered up in the sun more as apposed to just letting it all hang out, that is why you need to come to terms that a tan isn't all it's cracked up to be!

I never laid out in the sun nor did I use tanning facilities. What I have wasn't directly sun related but rather, bad luck. I had a mole on my leg that was undetected for too long, thus resulting in cancer. It wasn't my fault but since I choose to turn this negative into a positive I am creating more awareness for this dreaded disease.

Chemo Therapy:

Recently I had a port put into my shoulder to administer chemo therapy. I took many drugs intravenously and in extremely high doses. Only 9 places in the country are allowed by the FDA to administer these dosages.  To name a few they were Interlucan II, Interfeuron and many others that made me critically ill. 6 blood transfusions, 3 bags of platelets and 13 weeks in and out of the hospital made my life a little hectic. Not to mention flying while ill sucked. Especially since airplanes are the breeding ground for infections due to lack of proper fresh air flow. 

For 12 months I did a chemo-treatment called Interfeuron. Interfeuron is a bodily produced antibody that helps fight off disease. For the first 30 day's I was hooked up to an I.V for HIGH DOSE treatment where I dropped 15 lbs and never ate a solid meal. Following that, I did my own injections 3 day's a week at home.  I was put onto this drug to help my body fight even harder to get rid of the ever present cancer cells that still linger in my blood stream. The side affects were hell, and sticking myself with a needle sucked! But I did what I had to and Id do it again if necessary.

" You think you have balls, try injecting yourself with a drug that gives you a fever and a migraine 3 day's a week for 12 months..."- Tiffany

The ABCD's of checking your moles

Q & A

Q: Is it advisable to have atypical moles removed?

A: We recommend having atypical moles removed if they are in locations where they are not likely to be noticed routinely. We also recommend a complete skin exam by a dermatologist for anyone having any atypical moles. And, if an atypical mole or any mole is new or is changing, it should be seen immediately.

Q: Will removing atypical moles reduce the risk of melanoma?

A: The risk of an individual atypical mole becoming cancerous is about 1% so, if you have 7 atypical moles, for example, the risk of one of them turning into melanoma is about 7%. Having atypical moles removed will reduce your risk but not to "normal" because melanomas in people with atypical moles often develop in normal skin rather than in moles. Think of atypical moles as "markers" which indicate a higher than average risk for melanoma even if they are all removed.

Q: Can melanoma develop from a "normal" appearing mole?

A: Yes, a mole with a normal appearance can be the origin of melanoma. In adults, any new mole should be seen immediately, preferably by a dermatologist, even if it looks normal. In children and in adults, any changing mole should likewise be examined immediately even if it looks normal. The photo below is a melanoma that developed from a raised mole with a normal appearance.

This is a very real scenario

 This image is copyright, Dr. J. Ashworth
of www.dermatologist.co.uk.

Q: Can a mole much smaller than 1/4 inch be a melanoma?

A: Yes. If a mole is changing have it seen immediately even if it is small. Likewise, a new mole in an adult should be seen immediately even if it is small.

Should I be concerned about a mole that is getting smaller and lighter in color?

A: A mole that is changing should be examined by a dermatologist immediately. Although most malignant changes involve increasing size and darkening color some cancerous moles decrease in size, become lighter, and may even disappear. The danger is that, even though a cancerous mole may be fading on the surface, it may grow deep enough to release melanoma cells into the lymph fluid or bloodstream. The rate of decrease in size and fading of color is important; a very gradual change over a period of years is often benign while a rapid change over a period of weeks or months may signal melanoma.



Q: Do African Americans need to check their skin too?

A: Although the risk of melanoma is about 15 times lower among African Americans than in the white population, everyone is susceptible regardless of skin color. If there is no personal or family history of melanoma, we recommend that African Americans check their skin every three months. The most common location of melanomas in African Americans is on the soles of feet, palms, between toes and fingers, and under toenails and fingernails. The photo below shows a melanoma under a toenail; this type of melanoma is sometimes mistaken for a nail fungus.

Yes they happen in places you wouldn't think of

 This image is copyright, Dr. J. Ashworth
of www.dermatologist.co.uk.



Q: How should a mole suspected of being a possible melanoma be removed?

A: The American Academy of Dermatology recommends surgical excision. Some dermatologists remove moles by shaving them off. The problem with shaving is that the entire mole is often not removed at one time, making it difficult to measure the thickness. If the mole turns out to be a melanoma, knowing the thickness accurately is essential for determining the prognosis and whether additional treatment is necessary. Don't be afraid to insist on surgical removal rather than shaving.

Q: Can a dermatologist remove a mole from the face without leaving a noticeable scar?

A: Most dermatologists refer patients to plastic surgeons or dermatology surgeons for removal of lesions from the face or other noticeable areas. These specialized surgeons are adept in techniques that leave minimum scarring.

Q: Should I have a mole I'm concerned about biopsied before deciding whether to remove it?

A: If the mole is small and not in an especially noticeable area why not have it surgically removed and then biopsied? If the mole is very large or in an area where removal could result in cosmetic disfiguration, initial biopsy may be advisable. Discuss the options with a dermatologist and don't be hesitant to seek a second opinion, especially if the first opinion goes against your gut feeling.



Q: During self-examinations, are there areas besides the skin that should be checked?

A: Yes. Although melanomas usually start on the skin they may less commonly originate from mucous membranes and in the eye. To avoid the possibility of missing an early melanoma a thorough skin check should include eyes and inside mouth, nose, and ears. The anal area should also be checked and women should check their vaginal area.


Here is what I experienced while taking Intron A interfeuron-

All patients receiving INTRON A experienced mild-to-moderate side effects. Some patients experienced more severe side effects, including neutropenia, fatigue, myalgia, headache, fever, chills, and increased SGOT. Other frequently occurring side effects were nausea, vomiting, depression, alopecia, diarrhea, and thrombocytopenia. DEPRESSION AND SUICIDAL BEHAVIOR, INCLUDING SUICIDAL IDEATION, SUICIDAL ATTEMPTS, AND COMPLETED SUICIDES, HAVE BEEN REPORTED IN ASSOCIATION WITH TREATMENT WITH ALFA INTERFERONS, INCLUDING INTRON A THERAPY.