Seeing the World in a New Way
By Megghan Holland
8 February 2016
My first meeting with something not being ‘quite right’ was in the year 2000 at the age of 12. I noticed that the corner of my right eye became very bloodshot and it didn’t seem to be improving. Then on close glance, I noticed a little red lump had formed. I was referred on to an eye specialist for assessment and underwent a biopsy. These biopsy results came back as an inflamed mole and no further treatment was required.
However, the lump reoccurred in 2001. Back we went to the specialist, and he recommended having surgery to remove it. The pathology results couldn’t determine what the lump was so it was sent onto America for further testing. It was then I received my diagnosis of conjunctiva melanoma. I had to have further surgery to remove a larger section and have an amniotic tissue graft to completely remove it.
2002 came along and another lump popped up on my right bottom eyelid this time. My specialist also noticed another lump near the previous graft site. Both lumps were removed and both came back as melanomas. The melanoma on my bottom eyelid had spread and I was required to have a complete eyelid resection. This involved removing most of my eyelid and constructing a new eyelid from my nose using nasal mucosa. The right side of my face then needed to be pulled over to cover the missing tissue. It was a long recovery process, both physically and mentally. At the age of 14, getting used to my new face and looking different to other people was a very hard thing to accept. I had visible face scarring, inflammation and would never be able to grow bottom eyelashes. Luckily, I had a good support system behind me and I was able to get on with life.
However, in 2003 a new lump formed on my right top eyelid. Once again I underwent a biopsy and once again the results came back as a melanoma. At this stage, my specialist’s advised my parents and myself that the best option was to remove my whole right eye. I couldn’t even deal with this at such a young age, and my parents couldn’t come to terms with it. My specialist’s then collated with other specialist’s all around the world and came back with the nicer option of removing more of the top eyelid to see if the melanoma had spread. In for more surgery I went and the results came back clear. I could keep my eye!
All went well for the next few years, until in 2007 I noticed a lump in the right side of my neck. I had a CT scan and there was concern about one of my lymph nodes. I was referred onto a plastic surgeon and underwent a PET scan and a needle biopsy. The results confirmed that there was malignancy in the node. I now had to have a radical neck dissection where 55 lymph nodes were removed from my neck. Luckily, only 1 out of the 55 nodes was cancerous and I avoided radiotherapy.
It’s now 2016 and I’ve been cancer free for nearly nine years. I’m very happily married with great family and friends. I work as a registered nurse and have recently started working in a skin clinic dealing with skin cancer diagnosis and treatment. I’m still self-conscious but am trying to become more confident as each day goes past and I’m definitely committed to kicking some melanoma butt by helping raise awareness and funds for Melanoma March in this year.
Getting melanoma at such a young age has, I believe, made me a better person. I'm more accepting and considerate of other people. I try to never judge a book by it's cover and find people's differences beautiful. I take time to 'smell the roses' and live life to the full surrounded by people I love. I also treasure my good health everyday and aim to live a healthy active lifestyle. Mostly though, it inspired me to do my nursing degree because I wanted to help people that were going through a hard time and give them some comfort in their time of need.