By Leslie Gallagher
When Kenny arrived one of the first things I had noticed was a large tumor on his back left leg. It was about the size of a nickel and really thick. Super concerning. All my in-house vets told me that Kenny had bigger fish to fry, as at this point the only body part that he could voluntarily move was his head! While I understood that and agreed with them, the tumor nagged at me day and night. I knew that if we didn’t get Kenny up and walking again that tumor was going to be the least of his problems, but still!
To be fair, I am a freak about cancer. To be even more precise, I’m a freak about melanoma. I slather sunscreen on myself every day like I’m a stockholder in ACME Sunscreen Co. I slather up my arms and then put on long sleeves every day of the year, 100 degree heat be damned. My neck, my ankles, my hands, my ears, every single day of the year my sunscreen addiction is tended to, usually twice a day (per my dermatologist, whom I see every four months like clockwork – God forbid we miss a mole!). I won’t walk out the front door at 5:00am without my sunscreen on. I swim with long pants and a long sleeved rash guard on no matter what time of day it is. I have a thousand hats. I have a sunscreen scarf for driving. I have sunscreen GLOVES for driving (thanks, Mom). Other than that, I’m pretty normal.
Why am I such a freak, you might ask??? My favorite boss, the man I would have worked for for a thousand years, the man I absolutely adored, died because of a mole on his shin that no one noticed until it was too late. He had always been like a second father to me. When I got married my father said that it was too bad my boss had died because “he should have been the one to walk you down the aisle.” So, as you can imagine, when melanoma took him from us I was devastated. I think I stayed in bed for a month, unable to move. Something so simple to treat, so curable in its early stages, killed a man that I loved. I lost my boss, I lost my job and I lost all my friends as the company shut down and everyone moved on.
Then I adopted Savannah, a five year old albino Doberman. She was the love of my life. She came to me with a zillion weird moles and tumors that the vet I was working for kept telling me were “nothing”. I begged and begged and pestered him to remove and biopsy her moles for months. When he finally relented and removed ten of them, guess what? Every single one of them was melanoma. I believe his parting words to me were, “Don’t buy a big bag of dog food.” We battled her melanoma for three years, multiple surgeries, chemotherapy every three weeks, enrolled her in a clinical trial, flew her to New York for a melanoma vaccine that was only available there, etc. When I finally lost her it was like losing my boss all over again. And did I mention that every member of my family has had malignant melanoma but me (so far!)??
So of course I looked at Kenny¹s tumor and suspected the worst. Three weeks into our daily rehab sessions I could stand it no longer. I marched him off to the oncologist, she agreed with me (finally, someone!!!) that the tumor didn¹t look good, removed it and sent it off for analysis. I felt so vindicated but then terrified when the biopsy report came back as malignant melanoma. I KNEW IT!!!! They could laugh at me all they wanted but I was right. Unfortunately. Kenny was great through it all. Riding on gurneys, charming all the hospital staff, always that big smile. And thanks to my being such a freak about it and getting it removed in time we got clean margins. Kenny was in the clear. THANK GOD.