I saw a brown spot underneath my eye getting darker and spreading. That concerned me because I had Melanoma cancer seven years ago and had to have three surgeries. After the surgery, I saw the doctor every three months for a while then was able to extend it to every six months.


Almost a year ago during a doctor visit, I pointed out a brown spot on my cheek. The doctor disregarded it and said it was just fine.


I had been going every six months and a few items had been frozen off through the years, but never had I had a thorough check by this dermatologist. When she said it looked fine, I told her she needed to put the lights on me because I could see it getting bigger and darker. She had started to leave and I insisted she check it. She took off a little bit of makeup I had on the left side of my face and she finally saw the brown spot but she guessed it could be dead tissue from the prior surgeries or a pigmentation from the sun.


Then she started rubbing my face, still claiming it was nothing to worry about. Finally, she said there might be a problem because the spot wasn't turning pink when rubbing it. She decided to take a biopsy.


A few days later, I got a phone call. I was told I was positive for Melanoma cancer again. I was scheduled to see a plastic surgeon the following week. After I met with the surgeon, I was scheduled for surgery within days.


A week after the initial surgery, I was told the entire section of skin removed was completely contaminated with cancer. I was then scheduled to see a specialized surgeon in Los Angeles in an attempt to remove the cancer.


Within a few weeks, I had five surgeries. I was awake for each surgery as they cut flesh from my face. The most disturbing memory of all was the pain of each of the multitude of shots I was given in my face during each surgery and they were still unable to remove all the cancer.


The surgeon could not go any closer to my eye without some disfiguration to my face. I was told they did remove all the aggressive cancer, but were not able to get some of the non-aggressive type.


On Dec. 22, I went back for a skin graft with the plastic surgeon. They took skin from under my left arm and put it on my face. The surgeon warned me that the healing process could take up to a year. He said not to worry about how I look for at least six months.


A week later, the stitches and staples were taken out and again, it was quite painful! Then, they put an antibiotic dressing on the graft and covered it was gauze and tape. I was told not to bend, stoop, lean or pick up anything. I was instructed to sleep sitting up with my head above my heart, and without moving my head from side to side. After all the instructions, my nurse told me I had the most positive attitude she'd seen. I responded, "I'm positive all right! I'm positive I'm going to look TERRIBLE for the next year!"


A week later, I returned to the doctor to have the graft checked. He was very pleased with the graft, but we found I had a severe reaction to all the antibiotic ointments I was given to keep my skin moistened.


As I began healing, I found my eye was dragging. The doctor said that was expected as the graft constricts. I've cried so many times, because this was all preventable. Even as I write to you, I am in tears again.


Many of you may be surprised that I am writing about something so personal, but I beg you to have any unrecognizable spots checked or any health concerns checked! If you feel in your heart that you're not getting your doctor's attention, speak up!


With my husband, Gary, not driving, it's been really tough. Friends are so important and they have been there with food, transportation and support.


I've got a long road ahead of me. I am going to take a few months off from my column because I need to concentrate on healing. I had no idea how serious this was going to be.


Again, please take very good care of your health. If you have to, insist on thorough check-ups and second opinions. Things could be going on that need further diagnosis.


This was such a shock for me. That's why I wanted to write this article. I thought it was going to be a simple one-time surgery, but it's turned out to be a huge trial in my life. I love all you in Hesperia and hope to be back in a couple of months.


Love, Charlene


P.S. This is especially for Dr. Daron Geldwert and his staff. I couldn't have asked for better care than what you gave me. It would have been so much harder to get through this without your kindness and caring manner.