With Wednesday marking the first full day of summer, a young San Diego mother who was diagnosed with skin cancer shortly after giving birth to her son opened up about her yearlong battle as she sought to educate and warn others.
Shelby Nish, 26, has always enjoyed spending time in the sun but only began sunscreen last year after she was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma when she gave birth to her son, Baron.
“The doctor came in and said that they had found cancer in the placenta,” she recalled.
By that time, the disease had pervaded her body from head to toe, she said.
“There were thousands of tumors all throughout my body — in my brain, my bones, lymph nodes — everywhere,” Nish told KTLA.
Dr. Steven O'Day at Santa Monica's Providence Saint John's Health Center started the young mother on immunotherapy treatment, a method that boosts the patient's natural defenses to help the body overcome the disease.
“Immediately after birth she started this powerful cocktail of immune antibodies for her T-cells, and within weeks to several months her tumors disappeared,” O'Day explained.
Although the treatment results were encouraging and Nish's husband kept her spirits up, she had to deal with the pain of remaining quarantined from her infant son.
“I physically couldn’t hold Baron," she said. "I couldn’t pick him up.”
Nish's experience with melanoma has changed her life in countless ways, she said, not the least of which is a new emphasis on taking preventative measures.
“Now sunscreen’s in my everyday moisturizers, in my makeup. I put it on my son constantly," Nish said. "I swear he always smells like the beach because he always has sunscreen on.”
Nish is now is remission, and new scans she completed this week came back clear. The young mom said she never seriously considered alternative outcomes with Baron as a constant reminder of why she couldn't give up.
“Failure was never an option," she said. "It was always that I was going to beat this, I was going to be a mom, I was going to be there for him forever.”
Correction: A previous version of this post misidentified the city in which the Nish family lives.