- Associated Press - Sunday, August 9, 2015

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Green bows dot many of the mailboxes and front doors of homes and businesses north of the river in Tuscaloosa and in Homewood in Jefferson County. But, the bows don’t represent a school or political issue. Instead, they are a call for prayer for one Tuscaloosa native as she fights stage 4 melanoma.

Thirty-two-year-old Molly Remmert Rossell had given birth to her third daughter on May 28 when she started feeling ill a few weeks later - she was fatigued and short of breath and could feel a lump near her liver.

“I originally thought I was having gallbladder issues,” said Rossell, a Tuscaloosa native who lives in Homewood. “But an ultrasound led (the doctors) to discover I had masses covering my liver and had innumerable lesions.”

A biopsy soon afterward gave her a diagnosis on July 1: The masses were melanoma, a particularly aggressive skin cancer that can metastasize in other parts of the body. About 50,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed in the United States every year. Melanoma kills an estimated 9,940 people in the United States annually, according to the American Cancer Society.

If melanoma is caught early, there is a high rate of survival. Less than a fifth of melanomas diagnosed in the early stages metastasize and go to another part of the body. If it does spread - usually to the brain, liver, bones, abdomen or lymph nodes - it can become difficult to treat.

Almost five years ago, Rossell had been diagnosed with stage 1 melanoma from a mole on her scalp.

“I was doing annual checkups and this was a large mole that I had noticed and my hairdresser had noticed,” Rossell said.

Early warnings signs for melanoma include moles that are asymmetric in shape, have irregular borders, are more than one color and can change in appearance over time.

Rossell’s mole was surgically removed with clear margins. Rossell had been told there was a very slim chance the cancer would spread. She went for skin checks two to three times a year, as advised by her dermatologist.

But, years later and after three pregnancies, the melanoma returned.

“Knowing that it was so advanced and so aggressive, we were very devastated and fearful what the future would hold,” Rossell said. “But we’ve had support and family surrounding us. The day we got the phone call our family was here. We immediately turned to God and turned to prayer and found our direction and hope in him.”

Soon after her diagnosis, friends and family started putting out the green bows as reminders to pray for Rossell and her family, including her husband Rich and their three young daughters: Rayne, 3; Brooks, 21 months; and 2-month-old Bess. Smith’s Variety store in Mountain Brook started making the bows for free, only asking for prayers for the family in exchange.

“We actually looked out the window and saw my neighbor across the street putting bows on all the mailboxes,” Rossell said. “It was so emotional. We are incredibly humbled by the prayers and support.”

In Tuscaloosa, many people are making the green bows themselves, said Rossell’s sister-in-law, Adrienne Remmert.

“Molly grew up in Tuscaloosa and her parents live in Tuscaloosa, so the word about the bows spread to Molly’s parents friends and neighbors,” Remmert said. “Lots of different people have been making them and passing them out.”

“It’s been amazing and overwhelming, the amount of people that love and care,” Remmert said.

Because Rossell’s lesions are widespread on her liver, surgery is not an option. However, she is on inhibitors to shrink the tumors. The new medication has minimal side effects, but the downside is that the inhibitors have a lifespan of about 10 months before they stop working. After that, Rossell may be put on immunotherapy.

“It all has to do with how my body continues to respond and on my scans,” Rossell said. “We won’t know until we get to that bridge. There are a lot of different options that we have to wait and see.”

Unlike a lot of people who get melanoma, Rossell never went to tanning booths and rarely laid out in the sun.

“I never really tried just because I have such fair skin,” Rossell said.

But, she did go to regular screenings with her dermatologist, something that she recommends to everyone, along with sun protection including sunscreen, hats and shirts to prevent skin damage from the sun.

“Just be your own advocate and really know the spots and moles that you have,” Rossell said. “Recognize when you have a new one, and don’t wait to go in. Make an appointment and follow up with it.”


Information from: The Tuscaloosa News, https://www.tuscaloosanews.com

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