Danielle Russo, diagnosed at 27

I was always the type to say “it’s nothing, relax.” For years those were the words I would say to my family, friends and soon-to-be-husband when they would question me about a mole on my stomach. It wasn’t until six months after my wedding that I myself began to worry about this mole.

Not only was it starting to irritate me, but I was suffering from terrible stomach aches. I decided it was time to listen to my body. The doctors were genuinely concerned as well so they scheduled an excision of the mole right away.

Five days later my worst fears were confirmed – I had melanoma. The next 21 days were excruciatingly long, waiting for tests to come back. I didn’t know exactly how bad the cancer was, if it had spread, how long I had to live, was it life threatening, what’s next?

My life was going to be changed forever. I had blood work, a PET scan, and a sentinel lymph node biopsy. Results showed that the surgeons got clear margins around the melanoma site (in cancer terms this is good news), however, two lymph nodes out of four that were removed came back positive. I was diagnosed with Stage III melanoma.

“Being diagnosed with cancer at 27 is a shock. I was young and naive; I never thought I could get cancer.”

This wasn’t supposed to be happening. I was newly married; I was supposed to be worrying about having a baby and buying a house. Instead, I had a surgery to remove all the lymph nodes in my left groin area, another surgery to put in a port, and endured unimaginable pain from my chemotherapy drug, interferon. The pain landed me in the ER several times and eventually my oncologists suggested I stop treatment because my body couldn’t handle it any longer. Now I have pet scans, MRIs, X-ray’s, cat scans, blood work, and skin checks on a regular basis.

Being diagnosed with cancer at 27 is a shock. I was young and naive; I never thought I could get cancer. If a loved one questions something on your body, it’s because they care and you should listen. If I had listened, I may not have had to endure so many surgeries or chemotherapy. I get skin checks every couple of months, and since my diagnosis, I have had three more moles removed—each pre-cancerous.

To those of you that go tanning and spend time soaking up the rays, next time think about my story and ask yourself if that tan is really worth it. Chances are it won’t be.


  • mole on stomach
  • stomach aches