Crystal Henderson: Melanoma Survivor
I lived in the sun as a child. I never wore sunscreen. My parents didn’t even talk about it. I always tanned and have never had a sunburn in my life. As I got older, my sun addiction grew. I was scared of tanning beds at first because I didn’t want to get skin cancer but eventually, I gave in and started tanning a couple months out of the year.
In February of 2016, I noticed a mole on my right side under my ribcage that looked a little odd and it was itching like crazy. I asked my primary doctor and she wasn’t too concerned. She said it was likely just a mole. I continued to tan, and I just put sunscreen on the mole to keep it from getting any more exposure—I know, not the brightest idea. Finally, at the end of June, I convinced them to take the mole, but I had to sign a waiver that it was for cosmetic purposes and my insurance might not cover it. A week later I got the call. My diagnosis was superficial spreading melanoma. My doctor was shocked. I cried my eyes out.
At 34 years-old I had cancer. I have three kids at home, my youngest being two at the time. I remember researching and googling and driving myself crazy. Eventually, I found a support group on Facebook and they really helped me get through my rough days. I finally got my staging. I was stage 1b. My mole was .44mm with a mitotic rate of 1 Clark’s level 4. I had a wide local excision and a sentinel lymph node biopsy. Another two weeks of waiting and my lymph nodes were clear. I now see my derm religiously every three months and have six-month check-ups with my oncologist. It’s a new normal you learn to live [with]. I never thought it would happen to me.