Hi! My name is Glenna Kohl and I have Stage IV Melanoma.
I realize that sounds like a confession, but it’s true and that’s who I am. Of course I didn’t use to be this person. Not very long ago I had a pretty close to perfect life actually. I was born and raised on Cape Cod, MA with two loving parents and a younger brother. I graduated from Barnstable High School in the National Honors Society in 2001. Then I moved off to Newport, RI where I graduated from Salve Regina University four years later with a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance. I’ve always been a healthy and active person – involved in sports since I was young and an avid runner and gym-goer ever since; I’ve also always tried to stay involved in the community through clubs and community service. I waitressed throughout high school and college to help get by and the summers in between my years at Salve I came home to lifeguard on the Cape.
Yes, I was a lifeguard for almost 5 whole summers. Unfortunately the summer of 2005 was cut short because I found a lump in my left groin which turned out to be Melanoma. And that’s when my entire life changed drastically – at 22 years old.
Before I continue with my story I should bring up the fact that not only did I love teaching swimming lessons and basking up the sun for those 5 years, but I loved being tan. In high school I started going indoor tanning with my friends before dances and vacations (to get that ‘base tan’), and by college I was going regularly just because. It became almost a challenge in the winters to not go tanning too often because it was breaking my wallet! But it made you feel good, and I thought it was so much more flattering to have a little tan or ‘glow’ rather than being what I used to think was ‘pasty white’. I knew it was bad for you… but it was really my one indulgence that I regret already in life.
Anyways, sparing you all the gory details of the past 15 months, I was originally diagnosed with Stage III Melanoma back in August of 2005. My doctors trace it back to a mole that I had had removed years before that I was told at the time was only ‘abnormal cells’. I had surgery removing the a total of 13 lymph nodes from my left groin, followed by 6 weeks of radiation treatment, then followed by what was supposed to be 1 year of what’s called Interferon therapy treatment. (For those of you who aren’t familiar, Interferon is given to you intravenously every day for the first month, and the rest of the year you give it to yourself by small needle injections. It causes flu-like symptoms along with other things such as thinning out your hair – for me – significantly.) Nine months into my treatment, which I managed fairly well, it was terminated because I found a small lump on my right side. A biopsy on September 19th confirmed that my melanoma was back. The explanation that I was given this time was that there were still some microscopic cancer cells in me that scans weren’t able to pick up before, that have now traveled through my bloodstream to 4 different spots in my body. I just completed a treatment called Interlukin-2 therapy which is much more like chemotherapy than the Interferon was. The Interferon was to prevent the melanoma from coming back, but seeing as it didn’t do its job, I moved on to do Interlukin-2 in hopes of possibly killing the cancer that’s there. I spent most of the month of October in the hospital overnight receiving this intense treatment and am very glad to have it behind me. The statistics of it working are not very promising, but I’m learning to not believe only statistics and better yet, be my own statistic. According to my doctor, my odds of it affecting me are actually pretty good based on my personal situation. It does take some time for it to affect you if it’s going to so I won’t know for a little while anything more.
If I’m lucky enough that my body does in fact respond to the Interlukin-2, then I’ll actually do another round of it probably after the holidays. If not… well it’s on to Plan C! I look forward to the future and can’t wait to be able to look back on these years knowing that the worst is behind me. I am currently taking a Nutrition class at Quincy College in Plymouth and plan to eventually go back to school for my Master’s in Health and Nutrition. It’s always what I’ve had a passion for and I hope to be able to someday work with kids and be able to maybe even help with our country’s obesity epidemic. If there’s any good to be had out of my experience, it’s that I’ve learned to take advantage of what you have, and to live each day as if it were your last.
I’m here today to share my story in hopes of possibly helping prevent others from ending up in my shoes. I wish when I was a little bit younger I had someone like myself now to warn me of what really can happen if you’re not more careful when it comes to sun safety and preventing skin cancer.