I have more than 30 spots on my body where I have been scraped, burned and lasered. I have just returned from my six-month dermatology appointment and as I look at these fresh wounds, I remember an appointment 4 years ago.
It was a quick visit, routine really. It was more of a vanity issue to have one ugly mole removed than a health concern.
The ugly one and a few others were frozen with liquid nitrogen with one removed and sent in for a biopsy – just to make sure, the doctor said.
I got dressed, gathered my purse, paid the receptionist, took the brochure the doctor gave me about skin cancer and went on with my day. When I got home, I cleaned out my car and the brochure went into the recycling bin.
After, all I thought, it won’t happen to me.
There have been many times in my life when I have been surprised. This phone call was one of them.
“The biopsy came back positive,” the nurse said.
It was melanoma.
She scheduled an appointment for me to have a larger section of skin removed for another biopsy. Where was that brochure? I hadn’t even read it.
“Melanoma is a BIG DEAL,” the doctor said as she sat down next to me in the examining room.
We read the lab report together. This had been found early and the hope was that by removing a larger section it would capture all of the melanoma cells.
This was a long visit that included numbing of my leg and a larger, deeper piece of my skin was removed, then stitches.
As I got dressed, I searched through the doctor’s display of information for the brochure. The one titled, “Skin Cancer.”
This time I kept it. This time I read it.
It outlined three types of skin cancer. I scanned through the first two and came to the third. I read that “melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.” The brochure went on to outline all the things you should do to “Prevent-Detect-Live.”
I have pretty much done everything it said I shouldn’t. I remember so many years ago splashing on baby oil to lay in the sun to gain the perfect tan. The years – years – of water skiing, swimming and hiking. And yes, visits to tanning beds.
As time went on, I heard about skin cancer and sunscreen was added to my life, but not in the amount or intensity it should have been.
I always thought it won’t happen to me.
Regular dermatology appointments became a must in my life. Being self-aware of changes in my skin became routine.
Six months after that first melanoma removal it was time for another skin check. This time I had one that I was suspicious of and pointed it out to the dermatologist. She felt it was probably fine, but listened to my concerns, removed the suspicious spot and sent it in for a biopsy.
Again the phone call came, and the biopsy was again positive for melanoma.
My life repeated the scenario of taking a larger section of my skin, more stitches and more reality.
It had happened to me again.
That was four years ago. Now I have regular six-month dermatology appointments. Now I continually scan every mole and spot on my body. Now I wear hats and sun-protective clothing and pay attention to the best sunscreen and how I apply it.
Now I also encourage others to do the same.
The sting of these 30 new red sores reminds me to never forget and never get careless. The minor discomfort is a gentle reminder to love myself enough to take care of me, a reminder that if it can happen to others why couldn’t it happen to me.
And if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.
Pennie’s Life Lesson: Love yourself enough to take care of you.