If you are like me, growing up in Oklahoma, you spent a lot of time outdoors. I spent hours at the pool, riding bikes, playing in the park, and on the softball field. I was usually pretty tan in the summers. Then in high school, I was all about tanning beds. As I’ve gotten older, I still enjoy being tan, but not like I used to. I’ve become fearful of skin cancer. So, I read this article in Glamour a couple of months ago about a vivacious young woman named Ellen. She was healthy, athletic, and fun-loving, and a newlywed. She noticed a lesion on the top of her head, and had it tested. She found out it was a level 4 or 5 melanoma, and had been growing for at least a year. You can read the complete story here- http://www.glamour.com/health/articles/2008/04/cancer_test. In the end, the cancer spread, and Ellen had more than 20 surgeries, immunotherapy, radiation, but it just wasn’t enough. She passed away three days after her 29th birthday.
This article touched me, and it scared me. I called a dermatologist that week. There were a few spots that I was concerned about, but I just wanted to be proactive and catch anything early that I could. I had a full body check in July. All of the spots that I was worried about seemed normal. However, there was one spot on my right side, just below my armpit, that the doctor thought looked a little off. Nothing to worry about, she said, but we should do a biopsy, just to be safe. She called me a few days later. Well, the biopsy shows that it’s severly pre-cancerous, she said. What does that mean? You’re one sunburn away from it becoming cancer. We need to remove it in the next 6-8 weeks. I was back in the office within 2 weeks, having the spot fully removed. The results came back that they got it all. I’m going in today to have my stitches removed, then back in 6-12 months for another full body-check. Given how much time I spent outdoors in my life, I wasn’t surprised. Just thankful that it was caught.
This is my PSA for all of you to have your doctor or dermatologist check out your moles and spots. Mine was found in an area that doesn’t even see much sun, so you never know where this will turn up. It wasn’t a painful process at all- even having the mole fully removed didn’t hurt. Use sunscreen. Use a moisturizer or make-up with SPF to protect yourself daily. Wear sleeves, hats, sunglasses, etc when outdoors. This is one area of our health we can be take precautions and be preventative with.