I am seated on the edge of a hotel the bed, chatting with the Germ, wearing a summer dress. As I cross my legs, my perceptive Germ points to the back of my thigh and asks–what is that? I look. Odd, something new that I had never seen before. I lick my finger in an attempt to rub it off. Pen? Chocolate? It is not coming off. There is a small black dot and I know instinctively that this is not good. I am sure that it is really not good. It is tiny, however it is black, brand new and looks like nothing else on my body.
I had an appointment with a dermatologist two weeks later–booked months before for an unrelated problem. Of course the original issue had already resolved itself. I went to that appointment and asked the intern and the derm to take a look at the black dot. Both of them thought nothing of it. It was small, but I could not shake the feeling that it really shouldn’t be there. The derm told me that she was “99% sure it was nothing”, but since it was bothering me–off it came. No big deal, 1 needle, 2 stitches, done.
I put it out of my head until l I got the call two weeks later. The derm’s first words were–I am so glad I listened to you. It is melanoma. Cancer. A surgery has been scheduled.
I didn’t think much of it, perhaps because everyone uses the term melanoma so interchangeably (usually incorrectly) with all other forms of skin cancer. Melanoma is the bad one. It’s the one that spreads. It’s the one that kills. My friend Dana lost her father far too young to this type of cancer. Melanoma was also the cause of death for Bob Marley–God rest his rasta soul.
A few weeks later I arrive at the hospital for the surgery which I thought was going to minimal. I pictured another biopsy and a little scar–maybe something the size of a penny. Not the case. The surgeon drew with a purple marker all of the flesh that he was going to remove. Seriously? THAT big? The mole was tiny. The drawing was as big’s as a man’s thumb. Oh well. What’s a scar when compared to life? The staff commented on my mature attitude. I hadn’t actually seen the drawing of the incision at the time I said this…
Do you tan? No–never. Do you wear sunscreen? Always–I am known for it. Family history? None.
SINCE it was caught early–I am all good. I didn’t spread. t thankfully escaped chemo. Forever on mole patrol, but happy to say–am now cancer free.
I do have an ugly scar which unfortunately can be seen in most of my dresses, but will remain hopeful that it will shrink and fade as times goes on.
Life lesson: Be your own health advocate. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
-Melanoma is the least common of all skin cancers
-Melanoma is the deadliest of all skin diseases
-Melanoma is more common in women than in men
-160k cases of Melanoma diagnosed each year WORLDWIDE
-48k deaths related to Melanoma each year WORLDWIDE
-Melanoma is more common and dangerous to fair people (light hair, eyes and skin)
-Exposure to tanning beds increases the risk of Melanoma
-If not caught early, it spreads to other parts of the body, most commonly starting with lymph nodes
-Melanoma can usually not be cured once it has spread beyond skin and nearby lymph nodes
I entered into 2012, the champagne year with a list of new things I wanted to try and actively saught out new experiences.
I was not expecting this one…But I have kept calm and will continue to carry on. Stay tuned.