This is my story of melanoma. I am fair skinned and have 300+ moles on my body so I am at high risk of melanoma.. Starting in my thirties I became more vigilant about protecting my skin and making regular appointments to see a dermatologist. I was not always so vigilant about my skin because I felt being tan meant you looked healthy and beautiful. My visits to tanning salons did not last too long, but I still used them in my early twenties.
When I was young, I was always on the swim team in the summer and we would stay outside all day long. My mother was good about making we wear sun screen, however, it would wash off because of the hours I spent in the pool. It was my mother who warned me of skin cancer all my life and it drove me crazy. She would send me articles in the mail about skin cancer and I would throw them away.
I thankfully stopped tanning in my earlier thirties and became more aware of the dangers of melanoma. I guess I finally started listening to my mother. I started going to a dermatologist every 6 months and they always took several moles off to have them tested. In 2006, I had growth that appeared on top of my eyebrow which I became concerned about, so I went to the dermatologist and they found it was basil cell. I had it removed on Valentine’s Day and it was swollen for about 3 weeks. They removed 8 layers and I was looking really cute. My husband called me “Rocky”.
Even after the basil cell scare, I really didn’t think I was going to get melanoma, but it reared its ugly face in October, 2011. While I was in California on vacation, I noticed a mole that I had on my calf that had grown a black tail. It was actually a mole that I had since I was little and was very faded, but the tail was ugly. I had gone to the dermatologist about a month prior to my trip to California and I thought it was strange that they did not notice it, but I don’t think it was visible. When I went to my 3 month check up I pointed it out to them and they removed it. About 5 days later I received THE CALL from my Doctor who informed me that I had melanoma and I needed to come in to have it removed the next day. I was terrified, but the good news was that it was Stage 0.
On October 19th, I had surgery and I was alone and scared, but I put on a brave face. My husband was out of town and asked if should come home and I told him I could handle it on my own. The surgery lasted about 1 ½ hours which I was awake the whole time. They cut 5 inches across 3 to 4 inches deep. When they pulled the cancer out, they told me it was the size of a man’s fist. I am thankful that I was so vigilant and I hate to think what would of happened if I ignored it. The worse part of the surgery was the inability to walk; it took me three months to actually walk normal. There were several reasons for this, infection, blood clots and nerve damage.
After the surgery, the dermatologist care was dreadful and I have since fired them. I also had to go to physical therapy for 6 weeks 3 times a week because I had chronic pain syndrome and I could not straighten my leg. The scar tissue was not massaged and it remained in one area and was extremely painful if anyone touched it with even a gentle touch. The physical therapist noticed there were still 3 stitches left in from the surgery which was also causing me pain. They were able to remove two of the three stitches; however, the third one is still in me because it is under my skin. It is a constant reminder of my experience.
I would like everyone that reads this story to make sure that they have a good dermatologist that is less concerned of the beauty aspect of their practice and more about saving lives. The dermatologist that removed my melanoma had been my doctor for about 7 years, but her practice changed quite a bit over the past 3 years. The money they were making with injections and beauty treatments seemed to be more important to them. I have since fired her and found an incredible new dermatologist that cares about her patients well being, not just the way they look. I am going for mole mapping procedure on March 22nd, which I had never heard about from my last dermatologist.
I am proud that I did this on my own and I will not cover up my huge scar because that is my “Medal of Awareness”. I am looking forward to the day that someone asks what happened to my leg, I am going to make up a story that a shark snacked on my leg because my scar resembles a shark bite. Of course, I will tell them the truth after I have some fun with them. I am not having any plastic surgery nor am I putting any creams on my scar to fade it because I want to do my part in bringing awareness to melanoma.
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