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Kingwood mom hopes to raise awareness through book

January 6, 2017 GMT

A freckle on the sole of a foot. That’s all it took to change Elizabeth Egan and her family’s lives forever.

Now the Kingwood resident hopes to educate others through a book she wrote after Egan’s daughter Ashley was diagnosed with metatstatic melanoma in 2013.

“My head was exploding with everything that was going on,” Egan said.

The book, titled “One Family’s Journey: A Love Story,” was released in October through Tate Publishing. Egan insisted she never intended to become a writer, though she’s been writing poems and riddles since she was a child.

Egan’s father was in the military, and she moved a lot as a kid, graduating from high school in Germany. Egan and her husband met at Stephen F. Austin University, where she was studying child development. The couple ultimately settled in Kingwood, where they’ve lived for 30 years raising their three children.

At first, Egan said, she didn’t think much when her daughter first commented on a tiny freckle she found on the sole of her foot.

“We’re all freckly kind of people,” she said.

But more than a year later, she pushed Ashley to get it checked out before leaving for Florida to go through a nine-month certification program to become an echo sonographer. It wasn’t until Ashley returned home and tried unsuccessfully to remove the freckle using wart remover that she caved to her mom’s plea.

The day after Egan’s 50th birthday, Ashley was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. Egan was initially reluctant to join a support group, but ended up reaching out online to a woman who had a daughter, also in her 20s, diagnosed with melanoma.

The woman encouraged Egan to write everything down, and she did.

“I started writing for me, just to get it out of my head. It was sort of like a journal,” Egan said. “My daughter found out, and she said, ‘I want to read some.’ I said, ‘No, thank you.’ I was just terrified to let her read it. I don’t know why.”

She first gave a chapter to a coworker who recently lost her husband. Before long, the coworker asked to read the whole thing. Ultimately, Egan relented and also showed bits of her writing to her daughter, who encouraged her to get it published.

Ashley said it was interesting to read, not only the perspective of her mom, but also the insight into her dad as he dealt with the diagnosis.

“Everything that she wrote was therapeutic for her,” Ashley said. “I was just like, ‘This is so well-written, and it’s good information for people to read and good for awareness reasons. You have to keep writing. You have to make this book.’”

But reading the full book saddened Ashley in part. In it, her mother writes about how she wishes she could do more and worries she isn’t doing things right. Ashley remembers it as the exact opposite. Her mom has gone to all of her scans and been with her every step of the way.

Ashley now must endure scans every three months, and no matter how many clean scans she comes back with, Egan knows her daughter will always have metastatic cancer. It’s a question of when, not if, the scans come back with something.

Last year, a scan showed a spot on her brain, but further testing showed it to be a shadow. She has spots on her lungs that doctors are keeping an eye on, but could just be swollen tissue.

“To look at her, you’d never know anything ever, never,” Egan said of her daughter. “She’s living large and loving life. She’s living in downtown Houston. She’s going and doing, but melanoma is wicked. It creeps up on you, and one little tiny cell gets loose and it sits and it waits.”

Egan hopes to raise awareness of the risks of getting melanoma. According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, using a tanning bed before the age of 30 increases the risk of obtaining melanoma by 75 percent. A sunburn doubles the risk.

“It’s not the kind of cancer that makes you sick when you’re first getting it,” Egan said. “It’s something that is wicked. It is sneaky, and it is horrible.”

Melanoma can affect every part of the body, including the eyes and fingernails, and it loves organs, she said.

Egan spent three months emailing back and forth with the woman she first contacted online whose daughter also had melanoma. It was several months in when the woman divulged her daughter had died three months prior. Egan was shocked. For months, she’d been sharing her fears and thoughts while she could still give Ashley a hug.

The woman told Egan not to be upset; talking about her daughter keeps her alive. The woman’s friends and family told her the pain will get better with time. She liked being able to talk about her again.

“The feelings and emotions of such devastating news transcends a lot of different stuff,” Egan said. “If you can share it with somebody else, it makes it so much easier.”

Egan plans to leave two copies of her book at M.D. Anderson, where she’s spent a lot of time while Ashley received treatments. She places a sticker with her email address on it on the inside cover of each book she gives out in hopes of getting feedback on her work.

“One Family’s Journey” can be purchased online through sites like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Egan has a book signing scheduled at Half Price Books in Humble on June 3.