Cindy Baker: We Are On a Journey We Knew Nothing About
When Cindy Baker’s husband, Warren, found out he had melanoma, both of their worlds stopped spinning.
“It was a shock. I remember just sitting there and thinking, ‘well, what does this even mean?’”
Cindy, a retired social studies teacher, immediately jumped into caregiver mode and started doing research. We talked to the doctors and I did a lot of research myself on melanoma.
“We had no starting point – we didn’t know anyone with cancer, much less melanoma – so it was a journey we knew nothing about,” Cindy recalls.
Warren had a biopsy then surgery to remove the lump. He then found out it had spread to a lymph node in his groin so Dr. James Spellman of Beebe Surgical Oncology removed the node.
“We thought it was over, but then a few years later, Warren found other spots and then another lump under the skin in nearly the same location as what had been removed,” Cindy said. “When we found that new lump, it was scary, but we knew we were in good hands with Dr. Spellman.”
After meeting with Dr. Spellman, Warren underwent another surgery to remove the spot. He then went to Tunnell Cancer Center where he met with Dr. Nisarg Desai, medical oncologist. Warren had options, Dr. Desai said. He could do radiation, but there were also new clinical trials that showed immunotherapy would be a good option.
“We really weren’t sure about clinical trials. I didn’t know if that would be the right option since there wasn’t a ton of research,” Cindy said.
To ease their concerns, Dr. Desai suggested they meet with Dr. William Sharfman, a top medical oncologist and melanoma specialist with Johns Hopkins.
“That meeting with Dr. Sharfman was eye-opening,” Cindy said. “He knew Dr. Spellman and he knew about the program at Tunnell Cancer Center. He told us we would receive the same treatment at Beebe as we would at Johns Hopkins.”
Cindy and Warren returned home confident that Warren’s immunotherapy treatment was the best option.
“We hope that our story can help save lives,” Cindy said. “I tell everyone – wear sunscreen, wear a hat, and if you have a spot that seems new or different – get it checked out.”
Melanoma can show up in a number of ways, including as a sore that doesn’t heal, a mole that becomes uneven looking, redness or swelling beyond the border of a mole, or even a change in sensation such as a lump with itchiness or soreness.
“The first step is to get it checked out. If you or your loved one has an odd spot, show it to a doctor. Hopefully it is nothing, but you need to get it looked at,” Cindy said. “We feel so lucky that Warren found the melanoma and that we have this amazing team of physicians and care providers right here at Tunnell Cancer Center. The team with Beebe understands what you are going through – they care about you. That’s important. It matters. And, it has made the difference for us.”