Amanda Racan: How Acting Quickly Following a Melanoma Diagnosis Saved Her Life

"I truly believe that choosing Fox Chase was the best decision possible."
‐Amanda Racan

In June 2015, I was very busy finishing up my last year of nursing school. My husband and I had two young boys. One day I noticed that a mole on my left thigh and I couldn’t remember if it had always been there. Truthfully, there was nothing about the way it looked that was that concerning. But I was a little worried because I could not remember it being there, and because a year earlier my younger sister had been diagnosed with melanoma.

At first I ignored the mole. I kept telling myself I would make an appointment as soon as school was over. Once my younger sister saw it, she urged me to see a doctor right away. She had received prompt and aggressive treatment for her own cancer with an excellent outcome. I knew she was right. 

Choosing not to ignore the signs

Following my sister’s advice, I made an appointment to see a dermatologist, and was in the office within two days. The doctor removed the mole and I had some time to wait for the pathology results. When the nurse practitioner walked into my follow up appointment, I just knew immediately. I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma on my left lateral thigh. There wasn’t much information she could give me right then, but she did say that I’d need to receive treatment and that I needed to go to a cancer center. I broke down in tears in the office.

Questions and fear entered my mind. How do I tell my husband and kids? How do I tell my sisters? How do I tell my mom and dad, who already went through this with another child?

I realized in that moment that my life had changed.

I told my husband when I got home and he assured me that we would get through it. I called my mom and sobbed as I told her. She stayed as strong as she could, but as a mom myself, I’m sure that was nearly impossible. I tried to remain strong, but inside I was struggling. My future was uncertain. All I wanted was to have the chance to be a mom and watch my boys grow up. This was the scariest time of my life.

Coming to Fox Chase for treatment

The next day my sister called and said she found a doctor for me to see. She gave me the contact information for Sanjay S. Reddy, a surgical oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

I called immediately and had an appointment set up in the next few days. Everyone I spoke to was very helpful. They understood my concerns and did everything they could to get me in immediately. They really walked me through the entire process. Everything was very clear, even directions into the parking lot. They took the guess work out of everything, and that is exactly what I needed.

Meeting Dr. Reddy was very calming and therapeutic. I could tell immediately that he has a passion for what he does. He is very intelligent and he tells the truth. He is optimistic and realistic at the same time.

Ensuring the melanoma did not spread

Things moved very quickly that June. Only weeks after discovering the mole I had my first surgery, which was the removal of the residual melanoma from my left thigh. My second surgery was a sentinel lymph node biopsy in September 2015, which would tell us whether the cancer had spread. Thankfully the lymph node biopsy was negative.

Dr. Reddy gave me his cell phone number and told me to call any time if I had questions. That was one of the most helpful things he could have done. Just knowing I could call him was comforting. He also reduced my anxiety by delivering all results quickly.

I was overwhelmed with gratitude for Dr. Reddy. He is so smart, and combines his knowledge with grace and kindness. Dr. Reddy is truly the complete package when it comes to doctors. I’m blessed to know him, and I truly believe that choosing Fox Chase was the best decision possible.

Having a close knit family to support me has made this experience much easier. My husband Ryan and I hve been married for nine years, and our sons Brody and Maxton, are the wildest and craziest and most loving boys in the world.

My sons are so grateful for the care I received at Fox Chase, that they started an annual lemonade stand fundraiser to give back. At their most recent event, in August 2017, they raised $500 to support Dr. Reddy’s research. I am so proud of them!

Had I not gone to the doctor early on, my story may have been very different. I urge others to check their skin, and not to ignore anything. Melanoma is an aggressive cancer, but if it’s caught early it can be treated. Be an advocate for yourself. Talk to others about the dangers and signs of melanoma. Wear sunscreen, stay out of tanning booths, and protect your kids from sunburn. I’m thankful every single day that I have the opportunity to educate others and not be another statistic.

Learn more about how to check your skin for suspicious moles and other skin protection tips, and learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of melanoma at Fox Chase Cancer Center.