Tina's Story - In Memory of Tina (Wardlaw) Sullivan




Tina's Place was founded in memory of our daughter Tina (Wardlaw) Sullivan (1973 -2011).

 

Tina Tina was a wife and mother of a little girl. She taught preschool at a local school in Arizona. She left Michigan after college in search of warmer weather. She loved family, friends and supporting other warriors of melanoma during her own battle. But her biggest reward in life was becoming a wife and mother. Tina's battle with melanoma would often interrupt her time with her daughter, but she gave it all she had. As hard as it truly was, she found the strength to be up-front with her daughter about what was going on inside her body as she battled the beast, as she called melanoma.
 
Tina’s melanoma journey started with a mole in the middle of her back. Stage III. An additional surgery was needed, a lymphoid dissection of both underarms. Melanoma was found, so she moved to Stage IV. Then the melanoma began to spread in her body. New trials were started and the fight continued. Eventually melanoma invaded her left lung, and doctors removed the lower lobe. Next came blood clots and small tumors in her lungs. After a very hard battle with IL-2, which produced zero response, melanoma was found in her right kidney five years after the original diagnosis. After much research, we discovered she was only the second person to have melanoma enter a kidney, and she was by far the youngest; the other was in their 80s. She endured a surgery to remove the kidney. During the operation they found the melanoma had spread up her main artery, and there was not much more they could do. Tina expressed it best when she said, “I need a miracle now.” She was tested and was found to have BRAF, which was a good thing. She started a trial of the genetic form of the new BRAF meds. At first it looked like it was the cure-all; the cancer was shrinking. Then one month later, a large tumor appeared in her abdomen. Several months later her battle was over and Tina went to heaven.
 
Near the end of Tina’s journey, she and her immediate family made the decision to bring her back to her childhood state of Michigan. Once there, she spent as much time as she could on the deck overlooking the lake. She enjoyed the peacefulness, the calming water and waves, and watching her little one play with cousins. Tina said, “Everyone should be able to have a view like this at least once in his/her lifetime.” To honor her wishes, Tina’s Place was born.
 
Tina's six-year battle against Stage IV metastatic melanoma ended her life way too soon, but through Tina's Place she will never be forgotten. Tina fought valiantly, and it is our vow too keep her story alive.
 

Pale Skin Is In - Tina’s Blog



Tina created her blog in order to share her story and knowledge with the world. Pale Skin Is In (www.paleskinisin.com) defined much of who Tina became after melanoma slammed its way into her life. We could not share Tina's Place with you without including this part of her journey. 
 
Tina’s blog became an outlet for her. She could share information as well as receive it.  She gained strong friends and support through her blog. She was able to talk with people battling melanoma. She began sharing her knowledge of melanoma and promoted awareness and nutrition on her blog. Most days people would never know she was in a battle for her life.
 
Tina’s own words: Pale Skin Is In
Thanks for coming to my blog. I thought about creating this for awhile and I finally decided to go ahead and do it. I liked the idea of having a place to not only provide updates, but to create a journal of my thoughts & experiences and most importantly spread awareness of melanoma.
 
Most of you know that I was diagnosed with melanoma in April of 2006. Within two months I had two surgeries and found that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes under both of my arms. At that point I had Stage III cancer and went through a year of chemo called Interferon, which consisted of giving myself shots three times a week for eleven months. The first month I went to my doctor's office every day and received the drug through an IV. I won't go into all of the details, but luckily I tolerated the drug very well and did not suffer too many side effects. Now that the cancer has spread to my lungs, I am Stage IV. After my surgery to remove the tumor I will undergo another year- long treatment.
 
I have been asked what it means to be stage IV melanoma. This is a difficult question to answer. What I can tell you is this, I am stage IV and there is no stage V. There is no cure and no specific treatment plan for stage IV melanoma. The treatment I will be on is experimental. There are published statistics on survival rates; however, I will not place these on my blog as I am not a statistic. I am a young woman who is living with cancer who has her own story.

After I was initially diagnosed with melanoma in 2006 my relationship with the sun changed. I stayed out of the sun or when I was in the sun, I wore sunscreen with the highest SPF available with UVB and UVA protection. I also had frequent (every four months) visits with my dermatologist, oncologist, and had PET/CT scans. All to watch for a reoccurrence.
 
 I did everything my medical team suggested to treat melanoma and it came back, almost exactly two years after my last surgery when they said I was “cancer-free.”

"Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live."
- Jim Rohn

Testimony by a follower of paleskinisin.com
 
"I am riding home with my mom from round 4 in the chemo suite. Posting on my iPod is a little difficult, but I needed to request thoughts and prayers for a family. It is with a heavy, heavy heart that I  tell you Tina, author of www.paleskinisin.com has lost her fight against melanoma today. Tina is the definition of a melanoma warrior. She was strong, determined, brave, and kind. Despite the hardships she faced personally, she made time to encourage other warriors to continue their fight with courage AND a smile. She made sure to leave me kind and detailed messages offering her support and advice. My battle was nothing compared to Tina's, but that did not stop her from being a cheerleader. Dear, strong, and beautiful Tina, it is now your time to rest."
- Chelsea P.