During Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Coolibar invites skin cancer survivors to share their stories with us in their own words. The ins and outs of treatment can be intense and not necessarily a fun thing to read; however hope, determination and drive to educate others play a major role in these individuals’ lives. Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate, it can happen to anyone. Prevention and early detection can be life saving! We hope you share these stories with your friends, family and colleagues. Be SunAWARE this month the all year round.
“My name is Stan Hankins, age 76, and I live in Albert Lea, Minnesota. I discovered a lump under my jaw in the fall of 2010. The tumor was surgically removed by a Mayo surgeon in Rochester, Minnesota, in December 2010. The pathology report showed metastatic melanoma that had spread from an unknown skin mole that was never found. I had never noticed a mole that looked suspicious nor had a doctor check any moles. In March of 2011 a new tumor was discovered in the same general area as the first one. It was removed along with 110 lymph nodes in my neck and cheek. The tumor and two of the lymph nodes in the tumor were again diagnosed as metastatic melanoma.
After healing of the surgical site, I underwent five radiation treatments. Each of the five treatments was equivalent to six regular radiation treatments, because melanoma is a beast. In June of 2011 a PET scan revealed tumors on the left lung. In July my doctor started me on Leukine where I self-injected the drug that has shown some success in melanoma patients. I did this until October when I had a CT scan that showed multiple tumors had developed in both lungs as well as on my liver and peritoneum. I had another surgery in October to obtain a biopsy of the lungs to determine that it was indeed metastatic melanoma. With melanoma in my vital organs, my prognosis was rather dire. I would probably live less than a year.
In November 2011 my doctor at Mayo suggested that I join a clinical trial that was just beginning. There are eleven patients on this clinical trial. The doctor had done a similar clinical trial six years ago, and two of the ten patients are alive and show no signs of melanoma. The trial is a 28-day cycle. I take a nausea pill and chemo pills before bedtime for 5 nights and then nothing for the next 23 days. The chemo drug boosts the immune system and does not destroy good body cells, and it does not make me sick at all.
After the second cycle in January 2012, I had a CT scan that showed many of the smaller tumors had disappeared, and the larger ones were reduced by 50 percent! After the fourth cycle in March, I had another CT scan that showed further reduction of the tumors, and my liver was clear of tumors. I have just completed six cycles, and I will have my next CT scan in May. My hope is that all of the tumors have disappeared. Six people of the eleven on this clinical trial have had positive results. My doctor is excited and I am. Our hope is that this is a breakthrough for melanoma treatment. I consider this a miracle. Throughout this journey, I have had prayer covering around the world. I have no symptoms, and I am feeling great.
I used to have no worries about the sun, and for many years I wore no shirt outside during the summer. Now I wear a hat and a long-sleeved shirt when I am outside. My advice would be to have moles checked out by a doctor on a regular basis, because I obviously had a mole that was the culprit and I never noticed it.”
Photo: The picture was taken in May 2011 when I finished radiation at Mayo. They have patients ring the bell to celebrate the completion of treatment. I had five treatments that were equivalent to 30 treatments.