William McAteer was successfully treated for melanoma at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center. Here, the Annapolis, Maryland, resident shares his patient experience.
How did you first learn that you had melanoma?
I had a small blemish on my cheek for several months that wouldn't seem to heal. After a vacation to Puerto Rico for five weeks and baking in the sun, it got considerably more irritated. When I returned to my home in Annapolis, I went to went to a dermatologist, who took a biopsy and told me it was cancer.
I really didn't realize how serious it was and thought, "Oh well, they will cut it out and I will carry on, maybe have a few stitches, a large band aid and that would be it." It turned out that it was a bit more serious than that.
How did you decide to come to UMGCC?
My doctor recommended the University of Maryland, and he contacted Dr. Susan Kesmodel and arranged for me to see her. My care here was magnificent right from the word go. From the moment you walk into the reception area, you realize you are in a very special environment. The registration desk staff were efficient; they had me checked in within minutes. The waiting area is very comfortable. Everyone is very friendly, and you feel like you're getting personalized service.
Dr. Kesmodel is very knowledgeable, and she put me right at ease. She told me what she was going to do, and explained the process. She and her staff were superb -- very caring and patient.
What was your surgical experience like?
I was admitted for a one-night stay on the day of my surgery. Dr. Kesmodel operated to remove the cancer, along with a margin of tissue around the lesion to make sure she got all the cancer. She also removed my nearby lymph nodes, to check if the cancer had spread. It turned out that the cancer was still localized, but was somewhat deeper that we first thought. During the surgery, the plastic surgeon, Dr. Ronald Silverman, took flesh from behind my other ear and my eye and essentially pulled my cheek up about two inches to cover the wound. The surgery took about three hours. I went to the recovery room, and stayed in the hospital overnight. I was able to go home the next day.
During my overnight stay, the nursing staff could not have been better. When I first woke up, it was painful, but they took great care of me. They never left me alone and were very professional and organized.
How has having melanoma changed your life? Do you do anything differently now?
I was lucky that we caught it in time. If I had waited longer, it may not have been localized, and the results could have been much more serious.
I have always been an active, outdoors person. I do a lot of sailing, including two trans-Atlantic races. You can't avoid being in the sun in that situation. I also enjoy cycling and gardening. So I'm outside a lot of the time. But now I'm more aware of my skin and sun exposure. I have regular follow-up visits to keep on top of things, and make sure I don't have a recurrence. I make sure to always wear a hat outdoors when I'm in the sun, and I apply lots of sunscreen.