Caitlin Winter

First post: 4/15/2016 Latest post: 5/13/2016
Welcome to our CaringBridge site. We've created it to keep friends and family updated. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement during this time when it matters most.

Caitlin was diagnosed with melanoma after a visit to the dermatologist. The biopsy of the abnormal mole on her leg was found to be a thin melanoma, meaning it was less than 1 mm thick.  If you have to have a melanoma, a thin one is the kind you want. (Just the first example of how the concept of "good news" changes on a journey like this one.) She was referred to a surgeon at the University of Kansas hospital who has a specialty in melanoma treatment.  He removed the melanoma and the tissue around it, as well as a single lymph node. Unfortunately that sentinel node was found to contain a microscopic level of melanoma cells which set her up for more aggressive evaluation and treatment.

Thankfully her PET scan and MRI both came back clear--two painfully long weekends of waiting for results--but the recommendation from both surgeon and medical oncologist was for her to undergo surgery to remove the lymph nodes in her groin, the area nearest to where the original melanoma was found.  It's entirely possible the melanoma has already been removed. Unfortunately, there's no way to know that with certainty unless the other nodes in the area are removed. Surgery is scheduled for Tuesday April 19, time to be determined, at the University of Kansas Hospital. The surgery itself lasts about 4 hours. She'll be in the hospital 4-6 days and will be looking at a recovery period of about 6 weeks. Her plan is to work from home, hopefully beginning week 3.  When you think about the location of the surgery, and everything that is connected/impacted by that part of the body--sitting, walking, standing bending,breathing--its easy to imagine the challenges the road ahead might hold.

There are treatment options on the table post-operatively. Exactly what those might look like will be dependent on the results of the biopsy of the lymph nodes removed in this surgery. A year of immunotherapy is the standard recommendation. We will be traveling to MD Anderson in Houston for a second opinion consult on treatment sometime in May to help her make final decisions about what that treatment ought to be.  Whatever treatment is determined it will likely begin in June.

Caitlin has always walked on the sunny side of the street.  Her positive outlook on the world, the people in it, and life in general are helping her, and all of us, navigate this difficult, unexpected situation.  The support we have received from family, friends and colleagues means everything to us.  Thank you for reaching out, for staying in touch, and for your kind thoughts and prayers.

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