Honestly, it’s one of those things that you think will never happen to you. It never crossed my mind even after a wonderful childhood of beach days, swimming, swim team, lifeguarding, and trips to the river without much sun protection.
Flash forward to my mid-thirties and sure enough, there were the freckles my mom told me would show up—not just freckles but basal cell and squamous cell cancer. Oh boy, did I become best friends with my dermatologist and the biggest bottle of sunscreen ever. I never ever missed that yearly exam with the Derm.
Flash forward a few more years and now I’m 50. Wow, how did that happen? In March of this year, I noticed a new freckle on my lower lip and decided that it needed to be checked. I went to the dermatologist and she removed the spot and reassured me that it was nothing to worry about. At that time, she mentioned that we should just do my yearly exam while I was there. Yes, it was about 6 weeks early but there was no reason to come back. I left the office that day with two small spots removed off my back and one off my lip. I never gave it a second thought. I just knew that I would get the clearance letter in the mail and it would be no big deal. I was wrong.
I’ll never forget the Tuesday afternoon when I got the phone call at work. I had melanoma. I seriously thought she had the wrong number when she called me. In her next breath, she told me that I would be seen at City of Hope National Cancer Center that Friday. What? City of Hope was for sick people. Again, I was wrong. City of Hope is for treatment, recovery, hope, prevention and so much more!
On May 1st, 2017, I had a wide local excision on my left shoulder blade. Paths came back stage 1, clear margins. Amen! I am continuing 3-month exams at City of Hope and my mission is to educate people that say “it’s just skin cancer”.