Niagara Gazette —
It turned out her melanoma was diagnosed as stage three malignant, indicating it had spread. They decided not to wait, though they considered holding off until after Christmas so she could work. Paula was OK with waiting. But James felt differently.
Ultimately, he won.
“(Dr. Loree) said it wouldn’t make much of a difference,” James said. “But there were (several) steps where they’d removed tissue from her face and every time they’d done it, it had spread. So it was aggressive and it was fast. So my instinct was if they’re misjudging how fast this is repeatedly, we’re not going to wait until January. So I called him the next day and implored him. He accommodated us.”
So she went under the knife Dec. 5 that year, with Loree removing several cancerous nodes.
It was a debilitating procedure, originally intended to last five hours. Designed to be aggressive to fight the cancer by cutting it out of the body before it spread, Paula’s time on the operating table doubled to 10 hours that night.
“We had to do radical neck dissection,” she said. “He said, ‘I have to catch the melanoma before it gets ahead of me. I have to remove all of the lymph nodes from the side of your neck.’ ”
The next day she was up and moving, walking around the hospital. She was cleared for release and prescribed a one-year run on Interferon, a medication designed to keep the cancer from returning.
It came with side effects, though, which hit Paula hard as bricks. It didn’t take long for her to figure out her life wouldn’t be the same. She was about to turn from what she thought was a cancer survivor into a patient. Her struggles were only just beginning.