In the Beginning
Start, stop, start, stop. I began this blog post two months ago and basically, haven’t been able to get past the title. Melanoma is a game changer for sure. All types of skin cancer are formidable foes, and how do you do skin checks without letting it rule your life and your mind? I’m delving in to a bit of my cancer history here…the beginning and a tougher place to bring myself than I realized.
My first diagnosis was in 2015, after noticing and watching an area on my left cheek for a few months. It didn’t look particularly “stand-out, hey I’m different” and comparing my spot with online photos, well, don’t bother is my advice. Use your sunsmarts and get screened for anything worrisome; digital diagnosis is virtual, not real.
Another day, I’ll talk more about surgeries, treatments, radiation, clinical trials, and all that “fun” that is how we live now. Today’s blog is about looking for unusual spots. That little area on my cheek wasn’t all that different than all the other spots. I mean, we all have our spots, right?
For me, the area felt different to the touch, an internal hmmmm that left me wondering “IF” something was going on. Going for a routine physical, I mentioned it to my doctor. She felt it was nothing but worthy of a biopsy, so off to the local dermatologist I went.
X Marks the Spot
The call, the one we never want to get, never ever…came less than two weeks after the punch biopsy. The doctor, grave and concerned, informed me of the melanoma and that he could set up appointments with an oncologist and surgeon.
Yes, that was the start of my journey with cancer. We cancer patients all have our stories, our moment of truth, that one conversation. The c-word that turns so many of our worlds upside down. Health information came from all directions. Phone calls and appointments were quickly scheduled. The dreaded health insurance queries ensued.
A lifetime of sun was now encapsulated in a tiny spot in my left cheek or possibly racing through my body; the belief that I would never have skin cancer stared me down in the mirror every day with a small, purplish spot. Grateful that the carcinoma was right there staring at me, I wonder if I would have found it if it had been in a less obvious place?
Learning the Alphabet
A basic guideline, the Melanoma Research Foundation lists the ABCDE’s of melanoma with photos. Again, I would note this is not the gospel of diagnosis. My spot looked nothing like these photos and only minor areas of note in the listing of ABCDE’s:
I do think the guideline is just that, a guide to start your understanding of skin cancer. Cancer tips can be sketchy so go with your gut. The one thing I would note is that my first spot was purple, just a faint purple color-enough so that I noticed it was not like the freckles, skin spots, or scars. So the letter C was relevant for me.
The letter E, evolving, became present over time. It was very slight but my spot was changing. I noticed it sometimes, again, a slight feeling in my cheek. Indescribable, something just felt different.
Because I was always healthy and had no concerns. I was quite sure I didn’t have skin cancer; it really wasn’t possible. Until, it all was possible and not only did I have skin cancer, I had the deadly kind, melanoma. Courage came later.
Have a spot that looks different to you? Know that you have skin damage? Have you spent a lot of time outside? Get a skin check done by a dermatologist. Many people do this annually now. Don’t wait because melanoma is not just on the surface; it buries deeply into your tissue. The deeper the cancer, the more challenging the treatment.
Ending on a positive note, a dear friend and another freckle face, was very concerned and supportive at my first diagnosis. As a retired nurse, it also turned out she was a bit concerned about her own bespeckled self. In talking one day, she confessed, “I’m looking at every friggin’ freckle and mole I have, thanks to you, Janis. That’s a lot of work for a retired person!” Gotta love her!
Yes, give those spots due diligence and #getnaked. Screening and early detection matter for all skin types. Leave paranoia behind and enjoy life sensibly. I’d love to hear how often you do skin checks and what you use as your guide? #melanoma #melanomatheskin #cancer
We can-cer vive!