Ocular Melanoma

The story of Kelley

In 2005 I was treated for ocular melanoma. This is one of those diseases people never hear about unless they have a loved one or are diagnosed with it themselves. Treatment included radio-plaque therapy. A small plaque was loaded up with 5 radio-active beads, sewn onto my right retina, and removed 4 days later. This was followed with monthly, then quarterly, and finally quarterly checks that involve a sonogram on my eyeball, and a look at my retina through a special camera.

Five years and I was free to go. 8 years and I was finally able to get life insurance again! I also got a surprise straight from the hand of God! We had adopted our precious son in 1991. Doctors said not to bother with birth control because I would never get pregnant anyway. We listened…thankfully. Then in April of 2011 after much arguing between my husband and I about whether I should get a pregnancy test, on 4/17, I was nauseous and finally convinced to at least test. 17 days of arguing about it were enough. You can guess by now the test was positive. My son left for Coast Guard boot camp and came home 8 weeks later to a 47 yr old mom with a baby bump! Gracyn Victoria was born on 11/13/11. She was due the 16th, but she has a mind of her own. Life was perfect for 14 months.

My doctor told me to go live my life and get a liver scan once a year if I thought about it and he’d probably see me in my 80’s because that’s when ocular melanoma usually metastasizes. Gracyn was 18 months old and on June 17, 2012, I was diagnosed with melanoma metastasis to the liver. Stage IV.

We quickly found Dr. Sato at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia. He was world class in this disease so the choice to go to him was a no brainier. We did a year of targeted chemo every 4, then 6 weeks. 9 tumors and they’re currently dead or dying with the exception of one in my top right lobe.

We continually pray for 27 years, so my kids can have an adult relationship with their Mom. Jon is now married, and Gracyn is 4. I’m now disabled because the pain is so great and stress creates a great growing environment for this disease.

Strangely enough, there is no proof of a genetic predisposition to ocular melanoma. The odds of getting it are something like 1 in 3 million. Yet, my first cousin has the same thing, same eye. He’s 11 years older and has been blessed with no metastasis. We continue to praise God for bringing us this far. Most patients don’t last three years. I’m tracking toward my third anniversary this June. I think I’ll breathe a sigh of relief on the 18th and continue celebrating life with my beautiful family. We believe and hope for a cure SOON!