Paula Berg

I am a beautifully pale 27 year old who has Stage IV melanoma and is SURVIVING! 

I found out that I had melanoma when I was eight months pregnant with my son Liam. I am happy to report Liam was born a healthy bouncing baby boy and he and his sister, Bella Luna, made it just fine through the surgery that I required right after Liam was born. The surgeons removed about 10 inches of skin and diagnosed that I was stage II at the time. 

After four years of very careful interaction with the sun and regular checkups, I thought skin cancer was a thing of the past. However, last December I felt a swollen lymph node on the back of my neck. By the time I made an appointment to have it biopsied, I felt more bumps on my stomach and arm.  The biopsy came back that I was BRAF melanoma positive, and because it had spread, I was at stage IV. I have a brain tumor (very small), a lung tumor, several intestinal tumors and a few other tumors sporadically placed around my body.

The tumors made every day functioning come to a halt. I couldn’t walk because my leg would go numb. I am assuming it was from the tumor blocking off blood flow. The muscles would spasm and it was very painful.  The tumors in my stomach made it so I could barely eat because it felt like razor blades were going through my intestines. I was pretty much bedridden within a month.

It is very odd to be 27 and be bedridden in only a month since I had a little bump on my neck. It was as much a mental journey as it was a physical one. 

As a single mom, I had to move out of my home and move in with my mother. It was a big change for me, since I had been living independently for the last four years since my separation. But my mother took such wonderful care of me and my children. It was a blessing to have that option. 

My kids were even more amazing, though. They didn’t act out and would come and check on me every day. Liam would bring me water every morning as soon as he woke up and Bella always made sure that I was smiling.

I started chemotherapy drugs in January. They were really painful at first. I think I understand what is like to become a vampire or the Hulk, because I could feel the poison in my veins and all throughout my body. It made everything hurt, even things I hadn’t felt before, like organs. I also did one round of radiation for the brain tumor. This wasn’t so bad; it just made me tired and sore everywhere. 

Luckily, after a few weeks of writhing in pain in my bed and throwing up, I started to recover. A big accomplishment for me was making it to the kitchen to make my own breakfast, which I could eat! My slogan was, “better than the day before.”

It was an easy goal to attain. Each day, I got better and each day the chemotherapy drugs didn’t seem as harsh on my body. About four months later, I am happy to report that I function like a normal human being! I am back at work, I can eat real food, I drive my children to school, and other than taking chemo for breakfast and dinner I am just like anybody else. 

One exception though: I am blessed because I can actually enjoy simple things. I truly get excited when I feel the rain on my skin or feel a little hand curl their fingers around mine. I have regained a sense of wonder that most adults lose in the rat race that life requires. For that, I can say that I am happy I went on this journey. I hope that my story can encourage others because I know that cancer is an ocean, and no one is the same, but I sure like to hear about people who make it.

Tell Your Story. Whether you’re a patient, survivor, caregiver, or loved one touched by cancer, your story can have an enormous impact. You can provide hope and inspiration to someone who has recently been diagnosed with cancer or a patient undergoing therapy.