Battling and winning against melanoma five times

After multiple surgeries - sometimes on the same day - Paula Schnack explains how she formed a successful team with her surgeons. 

Dr. George Dittrick
George Dittrick, MD


I have been diagnosed w/ Melanoma 5 different times, 4 of these requiring multiple surgeries at Methodist Hospital. In 2013 Dr. Dittrick removed part of a section of my ear where I had a Melanoma along with a few lymph nodes from my neck to check for cancer cells.

One of those lymph nodes tested positive for cancer which meant that I would have to have all of the lymph nodes from the right side of my neck and a larger section of my ear removed to ensure that we had clear margins.

This second surgery would require a new surgeon to be brought on to my team - Dr. Russell Smith. I began immunotherapy treatments a few weeks later under the guidance of Dr. Stefano Tarantolo and continued these injections for 12 months.

A few months after those two surgeries my dermatologist excised another spot on my back that came back Melanoma, so I met with Dr. Dittrick for another surgery. Three total surgeries in 2013!

Russell Smith, MD

Fast forward to December of 2016 I had 4 suspicious spots removed at the dermatologist and two came back Melanoma, one on my back and another one on the same ear. I met with Dr. Dittrick to plan our course of action. He would perform a wide excision of the tissue on my back, but he would refer me back to Dr. Smith for the ear.

The two surgeons performed the surgeries on the same day and I had a wonderful outcome. Dr. Smith had to perform a skin graph on my ear and I was so pleasantly surprised at how well my poor ear looked afterwards. His main concern was removing enough tissue to get clear borders, but trying to maintain a "normal" appearance to my ear.

Both of these surgeons have been very important people in my healthcare. I am only 36 and would hope that I will never have to see them in the future, but unfortunately Melanoma is a nasty beast no matter how hard I try to stay on top of it.

The two surgeons performed the surgeries on the same day and I had a wonderful outcome.

Paula Schnack

Over 130 skin biopsies and 6 surgeries later I know that between these two surgeons, my oncologist and my local dermatologist - I have trust in them all as part of my team.

Paula Schnack