May in National Melanoma Awareness Month and as a 14 year survivor I always love an opportunity to push sun safety on everyone.
When I was 16 years old I was diagnosed with Superficial Spreading Melanoma.
"Superficial spreading melanoma is by far the most common type, accounting for about 70 percent of all cases. This is the one most often seen in young people. As the name suggests, this melanoma grows along the top layer of the skin for a fairly long time before penetrating more deeply." -SkinCancer.org
I had a freckle appear on the inside of my arm, along my elbow. At first I thought nothing of it. I've had lots or freckles. They kind of come with the territory when you spend every waking moment you can outside. As summer went on and school started, I started thinking it looked like it was getting bigger. But, I just chalked that up to me seeing things.
During my "Well Child" physical my doctor noticed it. He asked me if that mole had always looked like that? Mole? Last I checked it was a tiny little freckle. I told him my freckle had appeared sometime during the summer but, that we hadn't really thought much of it. He immediately called for my mother to come into the room and explained to her that things looked very irregular around the boarder of my once freckle, now mole, and said we need to have it biopsied.
"The first sign is the appearance of a flat or slightly raised discolored patch that has irregular borders and is somewhat asymmetrical in form. The color varies, and you may see areas of tan, brown, black, red, blue or white. This type of melanoma can occur in a previously benign mole. The melanoma can be found almost anywhere on the body, but is most likely to occur on the trunk in men, the legs in women, and the upper back in both."-SkinCancer.org
A few days later we headed to the dermatologist. Nervous, scared, but, hopeful it was nothing. The dermatologist agreed that it looked rather irregular and that a biopsy was necessary.
He had my mother sign some more paper work, and then numbed my arm and took what looked like a miniature post hole digger to my elbow and removed the entire freckle-mole-totallynowscary-thingy from my skin.
At check out the nurse assured us not to worry, and reminded us that no news was always good news, saying 'If you don't hear from us in the next two weeks, forget all about it."
4 days in I was still feeling fairly confident that it was nothing more than another weird freckle. Imagine my surprise when on the 5th day we got a phone call asking us to come back into to the dermatologist's office.
"Superficial Spreading Melanoma" he said. "We need to remove some more tissue and make sure nothing has spread."
That statement is still one of the most terrifying things I have ever heard.
Luckily for me, nothing had spread. Everything was gone, and the skin cancer had been completely removed.
Since turning 16 I have had skin checks every 3 to 6 months depending on any weird changes happening to the freckles or moles on my body. I have had ungodly amounts of biopsies; usually they come back fine, but other times they come back as dysplastic.
"DYSPLASTIC NEVI (atypical moles) are unusual benign moles that may resemble melanoma. People who have them are at increased risk of developing single or multiple melanomas. The higher the number of these moles someone has, the higher the risk; those who have 10 or more have 12 times the risk of developing melanoma compared to the general population. Dysplastic nevi are found significantly more often in melanoma patients than in the general population".-SkinCancer.org
After every biopsy I wait with baited breath in fear of a phone call saying "We need you to come back into the office" With every mole that comes back as dyplastic, my fear goes up, as well as my desire to tell people to cover up.
I don't care if "tan fat looks better" being alive looks a WHOLE LOT better to me.
Protect yourself, protect your children. You can prevent melanoma. Sunscreen is a lot cheaper than quarterly skin checks, biopsies, more invasive surgeries, or a funeral.