Mary sat in disbelief. How could that small dot in her eye, the one her doctor had called a “freckle” just twelve years ago, now be a malignant tumor? Uveal melanoma?
Mary’s doctor said radiation was the best treatment option in her case. He explained he’d like to perform a test to assess the likelihood for metastasis—that is, that her tumor had already spread. It required a fine needle aspirate biopsy, a quick procedure in which he’d remove a tiny sample of her tumor with a very thin needle before sending it to a lab for processing.
“I remember my dad was scared for me to have the surgery and especially the biopsy. He has eye problems too and thought it might actually cause the cancer to spread.”
In fact, thousands of biopsy procedures are performed safely every year in many cancers, including uveal melanoma. After talking it over with her doctor, Mary decided to go forward with the test despite her family’s misgivings.
“I made a decision that this was my cancer. And I wanted to know my risk.”
Shortly after, Mary scheduled her biopsy and surgery. As a neonatal nurse practitioner and single mother of a twelve-year-old autistic child, she is used to the role of caregiver. But eye cancer temporarily changed that.
“My boyfriend and dad were right there when I came out of surgery. My parents live in Alabama, and I stayed with them while I was recovering. And my boyfriend—he has been so supportive throughout all of this.”
Much to her relief, Mary’s tumor was Class 1A meaning there is only a 2% chance that the cancer will spread within the next five years. “I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I had cancer, but I’m so grateful for a good prognosis. I’m so glad I know.”
Mary now requires some level of monitoring because of cysts in her liver, but she is back to work and enjoying life. “My job taking care of these tiny babies is very rewarding. I’m exactly where I need to be.”
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