Experiences of melanoma

Ben's Story

Read more at www.meandmyunwelcomevisitors.com

My name is Sally and this is the story of my husband, Ben, who died in January 2013 of malignant melanoma. He was just 31 when he died – a wonderful husband to me and doting father to our toddler daughter, Saskia.

He was first diagnosed in 2007 with stage 1 and a very positive prognosis that it could be removed with minimal risk of reoccurrence. However, time told a different story and by February 2012 the melanoma had spread all over his body and was now impossible to cure.

A month after receiving this devastating news, Ben decided to start a blog – Me and My Unwelcome Visitors. In his first post he tells the story of what had happened over the last few years…

"Almost 5 years ago I was found to have a malignant melanoma (a form of skin cancer) on my left shoulder. I was 27 years old, otherwise generally healthy, and had never been near a sunbed in my life. The odd bit of sunburn as a teenager while prancing round Cornwall trying to become a surfer, but nothing major.

It was surgically removed, and after a lot of debate (for about six months) between doctors as to whether it had spread, I was given the ‘all clear’ and sent home.

Two years later it was detected in a single lymph node under my left arm. I was promptly back in for surgery, and had all the lymph nodes from my left armpit removed. Some more scans later, and I was again given the ‘all clear’ (albeit qualified with ‘as far as we can tell’).

The three years since then have been characterised by worries about recurrence, trips to various hospitals for scans and biopsies on various innocent lumps and bumps, and wondering whether I was becoming paranoid and beginning to annoy the doctors with questions about lumps on my testicles.

So in January this year, when I started to develop some lower back pain, I worried about cancer. But I told myself I was being paranoid, and put it down to having a new baby – lifting her up, hauling prams in and out of cars, bending over doing her bath and changing nappies, etc. So much so that I nearly didn’t mention it at my six monthly check up at the Royal Marsden (for those who don’t know, generally ace cancer hospital in London – one of the best places in the country).

In the end I did mention it, just in passing I hoped…
“Bad back? No, that won’t be cancer, probably something like a new baby or something”.
“Great, thanks Doc, see you in another six months”.

Unfortunately the conversation didn’t go quite like that. An MRI on my back and a CT of the rest of me later, and in late February I was told it was back, and had brought friends to play this time – on my spine, in my liver, lungs and spleen (what does a spleen actually even do?)."

Throughout the rest of 2012 Ben blogged about how was feeling and the treatment he was having. He went through two lots of chemotherapy, several bouts of radiotherapy and also participated in a trial for a vaccine.  

Despite having been told that his condition was terminal, Ben chose to remain positive and hope that the treatments he was having might stave off the cancer long enough for a breakthrough or even a miracle recovery. This was his hope, but that didn’t mean he had buried his head in the sand. He was a practical person who knew the statistics were against him, so whilst staying positive and sticking with the treatments, he also got on with preparing for the possibility of death. We had our wills done, Ben wrote his blog (a lasting treasure for all of us who remember him), he wrote a book of memories and advice for Saskia, and gave me instructions on special gifts from Daddy for me to give to her on her birthdays as she grew up (such as teddies from his own childhood and his favourite CDs).

Ben fought hard and went through some tough times as the treatment and the disease brought him down. He remained his kind and cheery self to the end however, as his blog testifies. Please take a look at it – it’s still there for anyone who would like to take a look, just follow the link at the top of the page. "

?2013 Seanty

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