Kent State student stays positive while overcoming deadliest form of skin cancer


Mariah Gibbins senior advertising major alongside sister Megan Gibbins, freshman pre-nursing major, who currently is undergoing treatment for melanoma. Megan recieves constant support from her family. Photo by Jacob Byk.

Christina Suttles

Megan Gibbons has been battling severe melanoma for several months and plans to take something positive from the experience.

Gibbons, a freshman pre-nursing major at Kent State, was diagnosed with stage 3A melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, less than one year ago.

During the summer of 2011, she noticed a small dark spot on her cheek and originally wrote it off, believing it to be a blackhead until it began rapidly growing.

She was then told that she had the most severe form of skin cancer and was immediately scheduled for surgery.

“I was completely shocked,” she said. “Once I got over the initial shock, I was very scared because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.”

After she had the tumor surgically removed, she was told that she only had five years to live. Refusing to accept this diagnosis, her family decided to get the opinion of the Cleveland Clinic and was told that it was a misdiagnosis and based on assumption.

After three surgeries, the rest of the tumor was removed with limited scarring and Gibbons is currently receiving various treatments as well as attending classes at Kent State.

“I am currently getting interferon every day for four weeks,” she said. “Then after the four weeks are up, I will be giving myself shots three times a week for 11 months.”

Interferons are proteins that protect and defend the immune system and help eliminate or prevent viruses, bacteria and tumors.

She said that she doesn’t believe she is at all responsible for her diagnosis.

“I have done everything that I can to protect myself,” she said. “I used sunscreen when I did go in the sun, and I’ve never gone to a tanning bed. I do not know how I got it.”

Regardless of her turbulent circumstances, Gibbons is incredibly optimistic about her future and looks forward to a long, healthy life. She expects to have a successful career in caretaking and medicine.

Melanoma facts

The most uncommon form of skin cancer

75 percent of all skin-cancer-related deaths

The sixth most common cancer in American men

The seventh most common in American women

Median age at diagnosis between 45 and 55

25 percent of cases occur in individuals before age 40

Second most common cancer in women between the ages of 20 and 35

Leading cause of cancer death in women ages 25 to 30

Symptoms include irregular, abnormal moles that are tan, brown, black and occasionally white, red or blue

Mole will usually be larger than 6 millimeters in diameter

According to the American Cancer Center.

“I am excited to see what the future has in store for me,” she said. “I would like to be a pediatric oncology nurse. After everything that I have been through, I want to help children be able to beat their cancers. Nobody should have to go through this alone, so I want to be there for them. I want to help make their life better.”

Gibbons said that her friends and family have given her the strength to attend college while she overcomes this difficult time. However, because she’s a commuter student, most of her friends at Kent State don’t necessarily know what’s going on in her personal life.

She said that her family — especially her sister Mariah, who also attends Kent State — has been a stable source in her life.

“She has overcome the odds,” Mariah Gibbons said. “[She] kept up with her school work, maintained a social life and does it all with a positive outlook on life. She has taught me that what I consider to be a ‘bad day’ is really just a small inconvenience. She has a strength to her that words would not do justice.”

Megan Gibbons made it clear that she hopes that others will take something positive from her experience and possibly take less for granted.

“Going through this has taught me so much and it has really made me prioritize my life,” she said. “My advice is to really live life to the fullest. Make sure you do not have any regrets. Also, make sure you’re doing everything you can to try and prevent this from happening in your life. Everything I have gone through, I would not wish it on anybody.”

Mariah Gibbons said her sister, with amazing bravery, has not let the diagnosis define who she is.

“If you were to see her on the street, you would never know by looking at her,” Mariah Gibbons said. “She is the girl who brightens the room and provides comic relief.”

Contact Christina Suttles at [email protected].