Home » Inside SafeNet » The Battle Field: One man’s fight against Choroidal Melanoma
The Battle Field: One man’s fight against Choroidal Melanoma
October 18, 2010, 01:05 pm EDT
This was the battle field.
I know it looks like Jupiter with one of its moons, or an image from a sci-fi movie. You look at the image and just wait for a space shuttle to land and for Captain Kirk to show up. But this is not an image from Star Trek, actually if you’d look really close (and with the right equipment) into my left eye in 2004 this is exactly what you’d see. On June 9th 2004 I was diagnosed with Choroidal Melanoma. This is a rare variation to the infamous skin cancer, where the tumor is at the back of the eye and not on the skin. Back to the image, the orange “Planet” is my eyeball, the pastoral moon is the malignant tumor. I was 37 at that time, married with a 6 years old son, and holding a Vice President position in a small startup.
About a year after I recovered I ran into “It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life,” Lance Armstrong’s inspiring book about his fight against cancer. He wrote, “By fight I mean arm yourself with all the available information, get second opinions, third opinions, and fourth opinions. Understand what has invaded your body and what the possible cures are.”
In retrospect, I did all of this. But no one prepares you to the other questions that my family faced. What, how and when should we tell our son about the disease? And what about work-life balance? I was working 18 hours a day 6 – 7 days a week and travelling constantly. Even Armstrong could not fight cancer with this lifestyle. Changing it, however, meant quitting my job with all the financial and emotional consequences.
The fact that I was diagnosed with a relatively rare disease (rate of 1 per 150,000 people) was not helping. If you never heard about Choroidal Melanoma you’re in a very good company. A malignant tumor in the eye is so rare that there are good chances that your general practitioner never heard about it. “You should stop seeing physicians,” said my general practitioner when I told him about a lesion that the ophthalmologist found in my eye. “It’s strange,” another GP told me. “I never heard about Nevus (the medical term for lesion) in the eye.” So much for a second opinion….
I know that most people, when reading about diseases, especially those considered rare, are being curious about the symptoms, trying to identify the potential threat ahead of time. My symptoms (which are pretty common among other CM patients) were black flashes that blinded me for a second or two. However these flashes appeared so rarely that it took me nearly nine months before I complained about them to a physician. If you have such flashes (or white flashes for that matter) there are good and bad news. Good: you most probably not suffer from Melanoma. Bad: This is a common symptom for retinal detachment. Though it is not deadly disease, if not treated it can cause sight-loss. In any case, you’d better go to your ophthalmologist as soon as possible to be checked.
So what have I taken away from this experience? I think it goes along with Armstrong’s “Live Strong” motto. I’ve learned that life is way too important to be just wasted. I’ve changed my life balance, spending more time with my family, had another child, started volunteering work, and am giving back to my community. Not sure if this will make me healthier, but it’s definitely making my life more meaningful.
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This entry was posted in Corporate Culture and tagged cancer, cancer awareness, choroidal melanoma, detached retina, SafeNet by Cheryl Shoults. Bookmark the permalink.
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