July 8th is one of those raw days. Yearly reminders like birthdays, anniversaries, days that you have when you’ve lost someone.
July 8th, 2012 we lost Mother to cancer and it’s a hard day. She’s not really lost; I know she’s in Heaven with her Lord but we had to let her go from her earthly body that was racked with cancer that day. As I’ve written before, Mother and 3 of her 5 sisters have had breast cancer. Three of the six sisters passed from this earth because of that cancer so it’s there in the back of your mind. You read everything you can about what causes it, how to prevent it, the latest treatments, etc.
On July 8th 2013, an especially raw day since Mother had passed away one year earlier, I received a call around 5:30 from my dermatologist that I wasn’t expecting knocked me down. I had been to my yearly skin screen and pointed out a little pink place on my forearm that had been itching for a couple of weeks.
She examined it and decided to do a shave biopsy just to be sure. Surprisingly, the pathology report came back as Melanoma.
I was floored. It didn’t even have any of the things you’re supposed to be on the lookout for…. It was atypical with no pigment. I didn’t even know there was such a thing.
A few days later, I had surgery to remove it and the doctor removed quite a bit of tissue to get clear margins. Turns out that it had a long “root” on it but thankfully he got the clear margins needed. The stitches were very tight and I looked like I had a pair of lips on my arm for a while.
I went for checkups every three months for a year and then went to screens every six months. I look under my arms for changes in lymph nodes.
One of the hardest things I had to come to grips with was that I did this to myself.
I had some signs that I ignored. My skin started to develop a rash the first (and last) time I went to the tanning bed that March. When we went on Spring Break to the beach, I broke out again after 30 minutes of sun after 3:30. I was in denial to what I was doing to my skin because I was avoiding those hours from 10-2 and using sunscreen….
I know a lot more about Melanoma now; here’s something that a lot of people don’t know. The sun’s UV rays reach you from the time it appears over the horizon until it disappears at sunset . The rays are strongest from 10AM -2 PM. Sand, water, and snow reflect the rays so you are exposed even under an umbrella on the beach. Snow skiers and pilots are at greater risk because of higher altitudes.
Everyone is at risk for it, not just fair-complexions. It can occur anywhere on your body, even places that have never seen the sun. It can occur internally.
One person dies every hour from it.
If you get a Melanoma on your head or neck you’re more likely to die from it.
It can metastasize to organs or to other parts of the body.
People of color can get it also and are more likely to die from it because they often don’t see the changes as quickly.
For goodness sake, quit tanning & keep an eye on your skin. Use a sunblock with at least 50 SPF when you go outside.