I hope this isn't constrewed as "preachy". This is what I know from being cancer free for 5 years. I have helped others and just want to get the word out!
My story starts out 6 years ago. I know I said I was cancer free for 5 years, but, once I noticed my mole, I went 6 months without telling anyone, and another 6 months before I went to the doctor. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS!!!! (Okay, I'm off my soap box!) I was at a local conference and at a hotel. I was brush my teeth, and had shorts pajamas on, and looked in the mirrored doors behind me. I noticed a black spot about the size of a pencil eraser, on my left thigh. I licked my finger to try to wipe it off. that didn't work. It was on there, and raised. My gut tightened and I thought right away, this is skin cancer! I put it in the back of my mind for a while, thinking it would just go away (denial!).
I finally told my mom, and she yelled at me. She asked me if I rememebered that she had a mole removed from her knee, several years earlier. I vaguely remembered, and she continued to say that hers was Melanoma. Now I knewe that mine was skin cancer. My gut twisted again.
Six months after that discussion, I still waited 6 months before going to the doctor. Mon gently reminded me again, and I went. I was sent to the University of Michigan's dermatology department, and they took 3 biopsies. The doctor called me at work and asked if this was a good time to talk. I should have known then that the news wasn't good. He said my other two came back benign. The one I had found a year earlier was cancer. Melanoma. I would have to have surgery to remove it.
It didn't hit me. My husband asked me if I had cried yet. I was offended, but, I knew he was right. I am an emotional person. The next day a nurse called and talked to me about scheduling a date for the surgery. I joked that it was just a "procedure". Then she said three word that freaked me out. Malignant. Melanoma. Surgery. It hit me like a ton of bricks.
I saw the Melanoma Specialist at the U of M, and asked MANY questions. I asked about sunscreen, and the ingredients I should look for. I asked why I saw African Americans walking down the hall in a Melanoma clinic. I was educated right there and have made it my quest to educate people with the facts I learned. (I'll do another article about those facts later).
The day of my surgery, I was nervous. They took me in and I was to lay on a medical table on my stomach. They gave me a local anesthetic, and asked me if I could feel anything. At first I said no. Then, I said "Ow!" She said she'd give me some more, after that I couldn't feel a thing. They had to take an inch around the moel out, and go in just short of the muscle. Since you can't close a circle, they had to enlongate it, then stitch it closed. I now have a 3" scar for a mole the size of a pencil erasser. It took between 30-60 minutes, and I was out of there.
I was instructed to stay off my feet for one week. With 2 young boys, I had to re-arrange my couch, so I could see out the front and back windows. They told me that the leg heals the slowest, and if I didn't stay off my leg, I'd have to take another week off of work. I couldn't afford that, so I stayed off it as much as I could. When I had me stitches taken out, the head of the Melanoma Clinic said he could tell I satyed off my leg, and praised my healing.
Now, you are thinking, she must have been a sun goddess. Not really! Yes, I laid out, but I could always find someone else who laid out twice as much as I did. I did go in the tanning beds in the 80's when they were new. That didn't last long, since I hated the closterphobic feeling of being in a coffin. My mom worked at a salon that had one, and she was in it more than me. Once I started working at a restaurant, I missed most of the high risk sun times (between 10 and 4) and found that I didn't have the time to lay out. The last time I was in a tanning bed was just before our wedding - 18 years ago.
I hope you have found this informational and useful.