FORSYTH COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Ever heard of a 5-year-old getting skin cancer? Maddie Hobbs proves it can happen.
"Hers was on her rib cage and abdomen," says mom Jenny Hobbs. "Practically unheard of."
Jenny was very unsure whether to tell me her daughter's story. They live in Forsyth County. She says you don't hear people freely talking about pediatric cancer there, plus, she's a little separate from that cancer community because all of her daughter's doctors are in Charlotte. Maddie is being treated at St. Jude Novant Health.
"I debated in my head for the last two months whether or not to write you," Jenny says. "I'm not entirely comfortable about going public, but I know the importance of raising awareness. Or, maybe, ACTION? I decided it was time to talk about our family's situation."
Let me say first, thank you. That's not always easy. Let me say second, sharing Maddie's beautiful face – and scar – is bound to impact many.
No second grader should have a scar like this.
Maddie loves to swim, play with dolls, create in Minecraft, dress up and mess with her siblings (she has two sisters and a brother) and recently turned 7 years old. Her mom said she never had a sunburn and her stomach was always covered. Maddie had been to a dermatologist twice in the nine months before her diagnosis and was told it looked fine.
"Yet something told it wasn't," Jenny said. "I finally called and insisted it be removed for my peace of mind."
Thank God for a mother's intuition. Maddie's biopsy showed a thick and very aggressive melanoma.
Once at St. Jude in Charlotte, doctors said they'd miraculously caught Maddie's cancer before it spread to her lymph nodes. You can see by this picture the large area of skin they had to remove to get clear margins. Doctors say though she is NED (No Evidence of Disease), it is likely it'll return. She gets regular follow ups to catch future melanoma spots in early stages.
They still don't have any answers as to why or how she got it.
Though skin cancer is really rare in kids, today, September 18, is the last day of a pediatric melanoma summit at Great Wolf Lodge in Concord. Who would think?
"It's awesome!" says Jenny. "Our family will finally get to meet other families who have been dealing with melanoma, at a place the kids can enjoy water activities without being in the sun!"
Now here's the other thing… Maddie (along with two of her three siblings) also has Mitochondrial Disease. That's a rare metabolic disorder.
Doctors say Maddie's has nothing to do with her skin cancer, and it didn't cause her skin cancer. But that's another reason Jenny said she didn't want to come forward with Maddie's story. She doesn't want to sound like she's complaining.
"Both diseases are scary and overwhelming individually," Jenny says. "Living with both in our household has made us more dependent on our faith, family and friends for support."
For more information on melanoma, go to Purple Promise Foundation (started in Charlotte) or Melanoma Research Foundation. For more on kid cancer organizations that helped Maddie, go to Camp Care and The Sandbox.
For more on mitochondrial disease, the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.
Maddie deserves the chance to have enough energy to play outside during recess and run around the neighborhood. She deserves not to be afraid every time a freckle shows up on her body. She definitely deserves to be free of tubes and lines.
September is Pediatric Cancer ACTION Month. September 18-24 is Mitochondrial Awareness Week.
You're reading about her this morning because she represents both.
**Editor's note: This is about one of #MollysKids in the month of September, children WBTV Anchor Molly Grantham follows closely on her Facebook page. This article was first published there – maybe you'll be able to tell that in the personal way it's written. For years Molly has followed the stories of dozens of kids with uphill medical battles. During Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, she features one a day. Thirty total. Find this story (and updates on all of #MollysKids) here.