Cancer Detected in the Nick of Time
How Mark Dybas Beat Melanoma
Updated October 2022
In February 2016, Mark Dybas of Gurnee, Illinois, was shaving his neck and accidentally nicked a raised spot. He did not think much of it — small cuts were an ordinary shaving occurrence.
However, the spot grew back, and it continued growing larger, until one day it reached the size of a pencil tip eraser.
Mark, who was 51 at the time, booked an appointment in a nearby dermatological office. The care team there removed the spot and sent it to be tested in a laboratory.
“I knew I had to get it checked out,” Mark says.
A couple of days later, his care team called him and Mark learned he had a notably large and aggressive melanoma, which would be terminal if it was not treated as soon as possible.
He then contacted surgical services at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, who told him to come in for evaluation immediately.
“I asked how long I had if things were to go south,” he explains. “I was told two weeks, and that was when I went into shock.”
Though shaken up, Mark and his family worked with his care teams to get treatment and fight the cancer. He went in for a PET scan, and even though that Northwestern Medicine office was supposed to be closed on the Friday morning he needed the scan, the team opened their doors for Mark, and they learned that the cancer was isolated to his neck.
The following Monday morning, Mark went in for surgery to remove the cancer. When he saw his Northwestern Medicine oncology team later that week, he heard the news he had been hoping for.
The surgical team had removed all of the cancer in his neck.
With the most daunting part of treatment behind him, Mark looked forward and focused on regular, proactive care. Staying within the Northwestern Medicine system, he found Jennifer N. Choi, MD, Chief of Oncodermatology at Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and a dermatologist with a specific focus on melanoma and other skin cancers.
“When I met her, that was when the healing started,” Mark says. “At this point, Dr. Choi is truly a part of our family.”
Mark knows that early detection is key in handling any future issues with his skin, so he sees Dr. Choi once every four months and Sunandana Chandra, MD, a Lurie Cancer Center oncologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital with expertise in melanoma, annually.
At his five-year appointment, which occurred in 2021, Mark was officially considered cancer-free.
Today, he wants to share with everyone that when it comes to your health, never hesitate.
“It can be intimidating,” he explains. “But if you see something changing on your body, get it checked out.”