Shirley’s Story – Surviving Melanoma

My name is Shirley Mc Entee, I’m 40 years old and a trained paramedic with National Ambulance Service. I currently live in Limerick, but I’m originally from Galway. I’ve survived terminal metastatic malignant melanoma…until now.

It’s all started in September 2004 with a black itchy freckle on my l shoulder. I went to my GP, he took a sample and some weeks later I needed to have an operation to remove it. They removed a lot of muscle and a lot of the actual shoulder area which has left a very unflattering scar. That following December, I was just back at work and the doctors who explained that melanoma can spread and it can be one of the most dangerous cancers to get.

This was only the beginning of my battle and in October 2005 I found a lump in my neck, so off I went again to get PET scans done – this resulted in more surgery.

In April 2009 I was coughing a lot and an x-ray which showed I had a lesion on my lower left lobe. I needed to had another type of X-ray called a CT guided needle lung biopsy, which confirmed the worst – the cancer was back and had spread to my lungs. Further test showed it hadn’t spread to any other areas, so my lung was going to be removed. Recovery was tough; I was in hospital for 6 weeks and had pneumonia twice.

Jan 2010 I started a new drug treatment which brought its own set of misery, eventually I returned to work in June of this year but the effects of the surgery and harsh medication had taken its toll on the rest of my body. I was sick every day, everything was sore; my tummy was battered, my thighs were red raw from injections, my hair fell out and I lost a lot of weight. I looked and felt awful. And in September I got word that the cancer had spread to two more places – my adrenal gland and right ovary. This meant more surgery.

6 weeks later my neck was beginning to annoy me, I felt unwell and irritable. On New Year’s Eve 2010 my neck was swollen like a tennis ball it was getting bigger by the hour and it was so painful.
Off I went again the cancer was back in another 2 more places – my neck and other ovary. This meant I had cancer in 4 places in approx 6 weeks. This time I was told surgery was not an option, they were going to try radiotherapy. As I got fitted with my mask for radiotherapy, I asked Proff Gupta straight “what was story, how long?”. He told me “6 months -the cancer was chasing itself”. The treatment hadn’t worked before so I decided to do out my will, my wishes and my funeral plan.

In May of 2011 I went in for my final X-ray and the tumours were gone. I actually didn’t believe them and it took me nearly a year to think it is gone.

The whole way through the last few years doctors from all areas asked me about sun beds which I used a lot in my 20s and I can say 95% that my melanoma was cause by using sun beds and not wearing any sun block. Next time you go on a sun bed or go out in the sun without sun cream just think of this story….

Useful links:

Vist our Melanoma & Skin Cancer section
Watch our video ‘your skin & the sun’