Paul & Isaac’s story: Keep an eye on your kid’s skin
Paul Young is a 40 year old father from Lower Hutt. In November 2013 his 10 year old son Isaac noticed the first signs of what was a melanoma on his leg. The next seven months were a trying time for the Young family but Isaac responded very well to treatment and has bounced back to a full recovery.
Isaac is aged 13 now and actively encouraging his friends and classmates to be more careful in the sun. He has presented on melanoma to his whole class.
As avid athletes and huge supporters of Melanoma New Zealand, Paul committed to running the 2015 Ironman in Taupo in order to raise funds and awareness for Melanoma New Zealand. Isaac competed in the IronKids run on the day before the main event.
In Paul’s Words
Back in November 2013 Isaac noticed a lump on the back of his right leg. It looked a bit like a pimple, but just without the whitehead. We decided to give it time but it was still there after a week and that was when we took him to the GP. They seemed to think it could be a granuloma and we were given silver nitrate sticks to remedy it.
After a few days it had gone down but it hadn’t disappeared, so we returned to the GP. A photo was taken and the GP got in-touch with a plastic surgeon. My wife, who is a GP herself, said at first – ‘that looks like a melanoma.’ Then she said ‘don’t be stupid, he is far too young for that.’
Isaac found that it was beginning to hurt and there was a bit of dermatitis in the surrounding areas. We carried on with the nitrate treatment over summer and kept in touch with the doctor, visiting every month. In March 2014 it the lump turned an interesting blueish colour and the decision was made then to shave it off under local anaesthetic.
Then in mid-March my wife Beth and I received a phone call from the GP to come see him immediately. That was the worst phone call of my life. We scrambled to the GP and he told us it was melanoma. We were in shock. It took a bit of time to sink in. We decided to go to school to tell Isaac. We had to take a moment to collect ourselves in the staffroom. He was a bit casual about it. He didn’t quite understand. He was disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to captain the cricket team for the first game of the season.
He was operated on three days later, with the plastics team making a narrow excision in order to confirm the diagnosis. This was followed in April by a series of different tests, including a biopsy, CT scan, MRI scan and a PET scan. The PET scan was a pretty weird process with all those radioactive sugars that go in.
The sentinel node biopsy was particularly painful for Isaac. This is a process where doctors determine which nodes to remove. They made four injections around the sides of his melanoma and he found that really sore.
Isaac had a second surgery in May. This was more of a wide excision and three lymph nodes in his groin were taken out. His leg was also treated by a skin graft, taken from his hip. He was fortunately only in hospital for one night.
Beth and I were both able to go into theatre with him which was good. He was in there a couple of hours and then the doctors came out and they were happy. He had a huge bandage on his calf, which covered him from knee to foot. It was really tough on us because my mother passed away later in the week, just to add to things.
Isaac was pretty stunned by seeing his leg. The size of the excision was big. It was a 4cm by 5cm piece that they removed. He was not happy when they removed the dressing. He was nervous when anyone got near it.
On the 4th of June we got the last of the results come through and everything was clear. It was great to get some good news at last.
Isaac is hugely sports orientated and he missed it. He was back playing soccer in no time after all the results were through. Just 10 days later on June 14 he played his first game, wearing shin pads on the front and the back of his legs. He is wearing a compression garment and he will have this for about two years.
It made us reflect a bit on life in general. It gave my wife and me a huge fright. It put everything in perspective and made us realise that you can’t take anything for granted. We were in a knowledge vacuum. We didn’t know what was happening. Time seemed to pass so slowly. There was an extraordinary amount of waiting. It was a very long process. You spend a long time not knowing. Beth and I were pretty scared. We got the news we were desperately hoping for. It was tough because he was very young for melanoma. There weren’t a lot of other parents out there going through the same thing. This just proved that while it’s not expected, it can happen to young people too.
In Isaac’s words
This all helps my philosophy of life which revolves around "I woke up this morning and I wasn't dead. Now that's a really good start to the day and nothing I face can ruin that feeling". It was a bit disappointing. That Friday I was meant to be captaining the cricket team. It was tough. It put me off.
I used to think that sun-block was overrated and I couldn’t be bothered with it. I know different now. It’s not just getting burnt that’s dangerous either. Tanning does the same thing. If you get sunburnt it can have big consequences later in life. I didn’t even know what melanoma was. I know all about it now. Be safe. You’ve got to slip, slop, slap and wrap and all that but you’ve also got to know what you’re doing it for.
I’m back to normal now. I just have to moisturize and put on a compression pad.