Craig Schuh

Melanoma has been in my family since 2004 but did not impact me directly until 2020. In April I went to a dermatology appointment to have a mole on my forehead checked that had progressively gotten darker in color. I knew enough to know that this wasn’t a good thing but thought there was little chance I could have an issue at only 35 years old. To my dismay a few days after the appointment I was called with the news that I had melanoma and thus began my cancer journey.

Fortunately, I was quickly able to get an appointment with doctors from Mass General based on my family’s history with melanoma. After an initial consultation it was determined that I would have surgery at the end of May or beginning of June (thank you coronavirus!)

My surgery ended up being scheduled for May 18th and the plan was to fully remove the mole from my forehead and do a lymph node biopsy. Unfortunately, during the initial surgery they found melanoma in lymph nodes in my parotid gland. Ironically enough, I had noticed a bump in front of my ear earlier in the year but my PCP had thought it was a cyst on my jawline and I had not pursued it further. Shame on me.

After finding the melanoma in my lymph nodes it was time it get scans which brought us the next round of troubling news. The scans confirmed the cancer had spread to other parts of my body – mainly my spleen and gall bladder. Stage IV at 35 years old – yikes.

From there it was all about getting a treatment plan in place and, something I had never heard of, immunotherapy. My doctor and I talked at length about my options and we ultimately elected to do a combination of the standard of care drug Keytruda and a clinical trial that creates my own personal vaccine.

For me, that treatment started on July 1st and I am now almost six months into treatment. I have been through a couple sets of rescans and the treatment has so far stabilized my disease. For that I am grateful beyond words.

While I do not know what the future holds, or if my treatment will be my long term solution, I am thankful for what my cancer experience has been. Immunotherapy has allowed me to continue doing the things I love and there are many of my fellow patients that can’t say that. In addition, I am proud to be a part of the cancer community and my hope is to use my experience to give back to others battling this disease. As I always say to my wife – “If I can prevent someone else from going through this then that is worth it”.

I believe sharing my personal story of melanoma with others through IMPACT Melanoma’s Speaker Bureau will allow that hope to happen.