Friday, July 22, 2011

Time For Something a Little More Serious

Yesterday I took the SunSavvy PledgeI am very inspired by these two incredible ladies who decided after reading each others stories to start a blog about raising awareness for sun protection.



 


I have my own story.

Three days before my wedding in 2005, I got a call that has forever changed my life. I don't talk about it much because it brings back fear, bitterness and vulnerability. I also get scared that speaking of it aloud may jinx me somehow, and that just the act of verbalization will make me have to go through it again. Silly? Yes. Irrational? Definitely.

Now I realize that not sharing my story isn't going to help anyone. I hope it helps you, or someone you love...

The year before I got the call (2004), my fiance, now husband, noticed a mole on my back that he said seemed to have gotten darker. I am not one to wait around on health issues so I went to my dermatologist (whom I visited yearly) to check it out. He seemed to think it was fine, and actually said I was too young to worry about it too much. I asked him to take it off anyway, but he calmed my fears and told me not to worry, and that he's been doing this for years. To trust him.

Perhaps he had been doing "this" for a bit too long, and now I think his approach was a bit old school, and he was a tad too confident. When I looked around his waiting room, I realised that most of his patients were in their sixties and upward. That reassured me that yes, in fact I was young, whereas these people had had years of life long sun exposure. I shrugged off my initial worries and waited a whole other year for my next check up.

Since I was getting ready for my wedding and honeymoon in a couple of weeks, I decided (after more nagging from my fiance) that I would go back to my doctor for a check up and also INSIST he take off the mole that was making us nervous. He again told me it wasn't a concerning mole but that fine, he'd take it off. 

You can imagine my surprise when a week later (3 days before my wedding), I was told it was Melanoma. I cried. I was also very, very angry. Did I not go to the dermatologist once a year for a check-up?! Did I not ask him to remove that exact mole one year ago?! 

I also, VERY UNFAIRLY started feeling angry towards my friends. Very few of them rarely if ever went to yearly check-ups. Almost ALL of them used tanning beds. And they used them frequently. Why was this happening to me?!


I had 2 surgeries to remove all the skin where the cancer had spread.  The scar is quite large but gradually fading. For me, its a symbol of strength and a reminder of how precious life is.

I was one of the lucky ones. Unlike other skin cancers, melanoma spreads, and rather quickly, to lymph nodes and ultimately other major organs. If caught too late, it is fatal. Mine was caught before it spread, however it did spread deeper into my skin than it would've if I had just removed it the first time around. 

It saddens and surprises me how many people still think skin cancer is just some nuisance you may have to cut off someday when you are old. If not caught early, Melanoma IS FATAL. 

Looking back, I remember having a sinking feeling in my gut every time my fiance reminded me to get that mole taken off. Memories of my yearly trips to the beach and my handful of trips to the tanning bed senior year of college, crept up and nagged at me. I think sometimes we don't want to face things or think they can't exist if we don't know about them.

My new dermatologist will take off any mole that bothers me. She believes that it is my body and that I know it better than anyone else. I have since asked her to remove other moles that seemed to change and found that they were indeed precancerous. I only wish my old dermatologist had the same ideologies. It would have saved me some heartache, but now I take it as a blessing and a warning. If none of this had happened, if i had cut it out the first time, I would still be sunbathing and would have not known the realities of sun damage. 

Let this story be a reminder to listen to your own intuition, (after all, my doctor who had been practicing for over 30 years wasn't worried). Practice safe sun. Wear sun screen. Get yearly check-ups. You, and only you are responsible for your health.

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17 comments:

  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing this story. This proves what I've always believed- if the doctor gives you an answer that doesn't sit right with you, always get a 2nd opinion. You're so right, so many of us take Melanoma so lightly. Thanks for this reminder.

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  2. So true! I have friends that never use suncream and I don't understand...
    Damn doctors,

    Rosie x

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  3. More people need to be like you and on top of their health. I can’t imagine what you went through but fingers crossed you change just one persons views/ life through them reading this post. I'm so pale and find I burn even when the sky is overcast. I love the beach but find I spend most of my time covered up. I love being pale but find for a healthy glow its best to use a 'wipe on wash off tan'.

    Helen

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  4. Thank you for sharing with us. Come to think of it, here in the tropics, we tend to stay away from the sun as much as possible because it's scorchingly hot, and also here in Asia a tan is not considered pretty.
    And yes, always get 2nd opinion. Doctors are human, so they do make mistakes. My Mom was advised to operate her knee once when she had some problems walking. She refused, had 2nd opinion, and it turned out an operation was not necessary at all. She can walk faster and longer than me now, and she is a petite lady with much shorter legs than me. :)

    LeeAnne, Style N Season
    http://stylenseason.blogspot.com

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  5. Wow thanks for sharing your story! In Malta, especially in Summer the UV is extremely high and lots of tourists come here for the sun. It's really sad when I see them looking all burnt and still they stay by the beach sunbathing. Glad that you and others share their personal stories to make others more aware.

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  6. thankyou for sharing your story - it demonstrates how important it is to check your skin and follow your instinct. my partners father had a skin cancer that turned into a tumour and had to have half his ear removed. it was a very scary time and now I am so much more concious of how important it is to look after yourself in the sun.

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  7. Thank You for sharing...when faced with Life's Surprises and Turmoils, we as individuals grow. Glad you caught it when you did, even though the Quack Dr. let it spend more time with you than needed. Stay AWARE! SPF baby!!!

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  8. wow. thank you for sharing. i am so glad you insisted on getting that mole taken off. i have a lot of moles and do try to get them checked often, though have always been reassured that everything was okay. i do get nervous sometimes. how big was your mole that was getting larger?

    thanks again for this story and reminding us how precious life is and the importance of sunscreen!

    spinning-threads.blogspot.com

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  9. @Claire, the mole was slightly smaller than a pencil eraser. The main thing was that it seemed to get darker over time. It was pretty round and symmetrical, so somewhat atypical for what they tell you to look out for.

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  10. Wow Wow Wow Wow....I never been to a dermatologist. And I hardly wear sunscreen. Thank you for this post..

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  11. Thanks for sharing, now we all know the importance of sun screen. Especially here in my country, its HOT 24/7/365. I always had the practice of slathering some lotions or sun block if i knew i would be under the sun. Really a good awareness to all the ppl out there, thanks again :)

    XoXo

    http://pretzyness.blogspot.com

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  12. Thank you for sharing your story with us! I'm glad that everything turned well for you! I would be so angry with your previous dermatologist.
    I always wear sunscreen cause I'm really white and can get easily burned. But I must go to a dermatologist to get my moles checked as well.

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  13. thanks for sharing your story...I just hope it can cause at least one person to go to the dermatologist and get their skin checked!

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  14. Thanks so much for sharing this story, I can only imagine how scary it must have been for you. When I was younger I never thought to use sunscreen regularly but in recent years I've really been making a concerted effort to protect my skin from sun damage. Hope your experience can encourage others to do the same!

    xo, alison*elle

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  15. Thanks for sharing this story! I think it's very important that we all remind us about the dangers of the sun. Glad to hear you've found a new and better doctor!

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  16. Mimi--

    First off, I can't thank you enough for sharing your story or signing the sun savvy pledge. Your story touches so close to home and I can't thank you enough for your email that you sent my way as well. I think I was angry too when I first received my diagnosis because I also watched everyone else around me evade what I had to face. I miss my tan, but I know I'm healthier in the color I'm in today. Thank you so much for spreading the word and I wish you many more years of health and happiness :) xoxo {av}

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  17. I saw this from my phone when you posted it, but didn't get the chance to read it fully or comment. Thank you SO much for posting this. It had to be such a difficult thing to go through. I used to tan regularly and I've gotten so much better since I've turned 30 about wearing sunscreen and I never use the tanning bed anymore. I'm also so incredibly careful with my kids. Thank you again for the reminder why we all need to be careful with our "sun worship".

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