Last week, I went to the dermatologist for what I thought would be a routine skin screen. "You know," I thought, "I'm 35 now, my insurance deductible is met--I should probably go do that." There is a history of this skin cancer disease in my family, so it puts me at a high risk. Slathering myself with baby oil and "laying out" as a teen didn't help. Nor did living in Hawaii for two years and not wearing sunscreen and ignoring the fact that I was developing more and more large moles on my chest, back and arms. Over the years I have been less than responsible about protecting myself against sun damage and I did not take the potential consequences very seriously. In fact, a doctor once told me I should have my moles mapped. I dutifully went to the specialist and she took photos of them, but never went back for a follow up. That was 10 years ago.
At any rate, I walked out of the doctor's office last week, after an on-the-spot, minor surgery, with the knowledge that I had a 50/50 chance of having melanoma in three different places. I have to admit that I was a little worried. Okay, more than a little. Thankfully, a dear friend gave me some good advice and told me not to get myself worked up about it. What good would it do?
I got the results back yesterday, and the moles were benign. Relief washed over me. "But," the nurse said, "one of them is very questionable because of its abnormal shape and color so we are going to continue to monitor the area." The fact is, I'm alright for now, but I have to go back every three months to see how things look.
My children both have their father's fair Irish skin, so I have a new attitude towards sun exposure. I have put sunscreen on my kids, by the way, I just haven't covered every inch of their little bodies every time. Gone are those days. I will not go out or take the babes out in the peak heat and sun of the day unless absolutely necessary. I plan to actually spend amount of money on a decent (as in good quality) bathing suit that covers more of my skin (sorry boys), and to wear t-shirts instead of tank tops while doing yard work. I will park our stuff in the shade at the pool and the park. Now is the time to set a good example. Besides, I rock a straw hat like nobody I know.
If you or anyone you are close to has large skin lesions that even remotely resemble those on the guide, please either get yourself checked out or find a way to talk to your friend/loved one about it. Ask if he/she does skin checks, give him or her the cheat sheet attached to this post and plant the seed about getting screened. Not because you are trying to scare the person, but because you care. I plan to send it to my dad.
For more information about melanoma, please visit this Web site. If a malignant tumor is caught early enough, usually surgery is enough to treat it.