Anna LaBenz

First post: Oct 12, 2018 Latest post: Feb 7, 2019
On September 20th (yes, before I went to Europe), I was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Ocular Melanoma. It has taken me a bit to process the news, and to be honest I’m not sure I fully have. I guess I am probably still in denial about the whole thing, but I know I need to be moving forward with treatment.

I am sure all of you have many questions, just like Mike and I. I will try to give you the shortened version of what I know. 

Ocular Melanoma is a distant cousin to skin melanoma, they are not the same beast.

Ocular melanoma can be an aggressive cancer

I have a cancerous tumor inside my right eye

When I first got glasses in junior high my optometrist found a choroidal nevus in my right eye (a freckle) 

My doctors have watched this nevus every year since then, by dilating my eyes and taking a picture of it.

Two years ago they noted some change. I followed the steps and saw my ophthalmologist and then a retina specialist. No one seemed too concerned, because it was such a subtle change. They told me to do follow up. I did, but not in the fashion they had suggested. Life was busy, and since no one was overly concerned and I’ve known about it since I was 13...well I didn’t think it was a big deal.

In September I went to the optimist for my yearly eye exam. They took pictures, said it looked like there had been a good deal of change in the nevus. I then went to my ophthalmologist, who then sent me to a tumor specialist in Phoenix. The tumor specialist then delivered the news, that the nevus had indeed turned into cancer.

Ocular melanoma is very rare. 6% of all fair skinned caucasians have a nevus in their eye. Of that 6% ; 1 in one million become ocular melanoma.

Because this cancer is so rare there are not many who have a lot of experience with it. Mike and I leaned heavily on our dear friends Rob Mahanti and Dave McGarey (both ophthalmologists) for guidance. 

I will be starting treatment with Dr. Finger of New York Eye Center on Dec. 5th.

I am sharing all of this with you, because after a chat with a dear friend I realized that I gain strength from community. I am also a firm believer in the power of prayer. If I chose to keep this news to myself I would be missing out on all of the goodness that comes from an abundance of prayer, community, and love.

Thank you for holding me and my family in the light through prayer and love...we are so very grateful.

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