11 Jun Surviving Melanoma Cancer | Jeff Nicks
Sergeant Jeff Nicks is with the Rohnert Park Police Department in Rohnert Park, California.
In July of 2008 I was given the most devastating news my ears had ever heard. I was diagnosed with cancer. Tears filled my eyes as I made the long lonely drive home from the doctor’s office. I stopped by my father-in-law’s office and received a blessing from him and he stated that I was going to be fine, but at that moment my anguish wasn’t lessened and my fear of the unknown was almost overwhelming.
The only thing that I could think of was my wife and five children. Kimberly and I already had a pretty clear feeling what my diagnosis was going to be, so my main thoughts were how I was going to tell my children. Their grandfather died of lung cancer eight years ago and all they knew about cancer was that it killed you. My wife and I had some tender moments with our children explaining my circumstances.
A biopsy indicated that I had two primary lesions, melanoma, on my body instead of the typical one lesion. This fact raised the eyebrows of the dermatologist so the chain reaction began with the surgeon, oncologist and then the nuclear medicine department. I was seen within two weeks by the Oncologist and surgeon and my first surgery was scheduled within three weeks of my diagnosis.
During the first surgery, they removed the two primary lesions as well as the sentinel lymph node in my left groin and the sentinel lymph node underneath my right arm. The biopsy results from the two primary lesions, the left sentinel lymph node, and the surrounding areas came back clear. The tissue on the sentinel node underneath my arm showed microscopic melanoma cells. This prompted another surgery consisting of the removal of 15 lymph nodes from underneath my right arm and the dissection of the sentinel node underneath my left arm. The biopsies from the second surgery came back negative but that only meant I was going to start chemotherapy sooner rather then later.
On November 10, I began a four week high dose treatment of Interferon. This treatment is done five days a week and it takes about an hour at a time. This drug sucks the life right out of you. If it wasn’t for my wife driving me to every appointment and holding my hand the entire time I don’t know how I could have done it. If it wasn’t for my beautiful children caring for my every need, I don’t know how I could have done it. If it weren’t for my closest friends, checking in with me regularly, I don’t know how I could have done it. If it weren’t for the chemo nurses encouraging me to hang in there, I don’t know how I could have done it.
I tried to remain positive throughout the last several months and leading by example, but I have to admit the medication kept me down and depressed. I took a couple days off, but it seemed like work was the only place I could be alone to get something done. This is where my perspective changed. My world revolved around my job, my family, and my church…in that order. Although my outlook looks favorable, I look at things a lot differently now. My family is everything, my church is my foundation, and work pays the bills.
I’m not looking for sympathy or bragging about this in any way. What I want to emphasize to you is don’t sweat the small stuff. Concentrate on those things that are most important to you; your family, your friends, your religion, etc. Because when it comes down to it, these are the things that help me cope.
Don’t wait until you receive bad news, live your life happily. Don’t always look at the negative. Look at ways that you can remain positive and lead by example.