Since being diagnosed with skin cancer nearly two years ago, Marsha Epperson has gone through a series of biopsies and life-saving treatments.
It’s the second time the 56-year-old mother of three has been treated for skin cancer, but the diagnosis still came as a shock.
“I was always outside, either playing sports like tennis and softball or at the lake, but I never was a ‘sun tanner,’” says Marsha. “So I never thought I would get diagnosed with skin cancer once, let alone twice.”
Precaution pays off
In 2006, Marsha began seeing a dermatologist yearly. During the next five years, she had a few precancerous sites frozen, but was never diagnosed with skin cancer. She continued to work with her physician to carefully monitor her skin for any new sites or concerns.
When her dermatologist moved in 2012, she was referred to Kesha J. Buster, MD, a dermatologist with Via Christi Clinic, for a routine check.
During her initial screening, Marsha asked about a growing lesion on her right lower leg. Dr. Buster identified 10 additional areas of concern for skin cancer. She biopsied six of the most worrisome sites, treated three basal cell carcinomas — the most common and least threatening cancer which develops in the lower layers of the skin — on Marsha’s back and prescribed topical chemotherapy for other areas.
Test results confirmed two spots, including the one on her leg, were melanomas, the most dangerous and invasive type of skin cancer, and Marsha returned to Dr. Buster’s office for further treatment and some additional tests.
“I decided that the other suspected basal cell carcinomas needed to be biopsied and tested as well, especially since the spot on Marsha’s right arm was atypical and turned out to be amelanotic or ‘pink’ melanoma,” says Dr. Buster. Microscopic examination confirmed Dr. Buster’s suspicions. The areas were basal cell carcinomas and Marsha completed a course of topical chemotherapy.
In August 2013, Marsha underwent a series of treatments for her melanomas and, as a precautionary measure, had the sentinel lymph node removed from her right leg where the cancer had been especially deep.
Marsha was fortunate the cancer had not yet spread to her lymph nodes, but she’s not yet in the clear as new spots have required treatment at each of her three-month check-ups.
While the cancer and subsequent treatment has scarred her skin, it hasn’t taken away her positive outlook and hopes for the future.
“I am not going to let cancer define me,” says Marsha, who is eagerly awaiting the birth of her fourth grandchild.