Two weeks ago, I was frolicking on Folly Beach. But a week before that I had no idea what my future was going to hold or if a beach trip would even be possible.
I went in for my annual skin check-up a little over a month ago. I’ve talked about it before on the blog, but I’m a melanoma survivor. I was diagnosed less than two weeks after my 20th birthday. I spent a lot of time coping with my diagnosis and the way that it changed my life in ways that I had never imagined possible. I really don’t think there’s anything in the world that can prepare you for that.
So each year, as I prepare my skin for warmer weather, I take an afternoon to get my skin checked. I have it down to a routine at this point – shower in the morning, wear my hair up and skip the makeup to give the doctor a better view of my skin, and wear loose clothing to work just in case I have to have biopsies. I plan my appointment as close to the end of the work day as possible so that I don’t have to come back to the office, just in case I have a biopsy. For a few days, my world revolves around this.
The actual checkup isn’t so bad. The doctor and her nurse make small talk with me as every inch of my skin is examined. I tell her about spots I’m concerned about, and she explains to me why they’re okay. Sometimes I leave with all of the skin I started with. Other times, like this time, I leave with biopsies on spots that I thought were totally normal. I’m numbed, so I don’t feel anything, and I take deep breaths and avoid looking at the tray with the tools on it at all costs because I’m squeamish. We go over cleaning details – wash, apply Vaseline, cover with a bandage. I laugh, because there’s a lifetime supply of Vaseline and clear, waterproof bandages under my sink. Results will come in two weeks, if I don’t hear from them by then, give them a call.
And then the waiting game begins. In my mind, every discussion reverts back to those test results. And while I know it’s not healthy to worry like this, I feel the need to mentally prepare myself. I had my first mole removed at the age of six, so when I had a biopsy done at 20, I was so calm, cool, and collected about the situation that I didn’t worry a bit. Being diagnosed with cancer caught me so off guard that I now prepare for the worst because the control freak in my cannot fathom ever being that caught off guard again.
I don’t say all of this to scare you, just to give you some insight on what it’s like to be diagnosed with cancer before you’re old enough to do thinks like drink wine or rent a car. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was at an age where I felt like I was invincible, and it was a total wake up call.
This is my annual reminder to be good to your skin. Slather up if you’re going to be outside, use skin care and makeup with SPF, and avoid the tanning bed at all costs. (And don’t forget about places like your feet, scalp, etc.) Don’t buy into the “at least if I die of skin cancer, I’ll die tan and pretty” graphics that people share this time of year. (Seriously, can we agree that those are the worst? My blood boils every time I see one because that’s not quite how it woks…) Schedule a dermatologist appointment; they really aren’t that scary.
I feel very blessed to share that this round of biopsies came back fine and have even healed up nicely. Now that I have the “all clear,” I’m ready for some spring and summer fun and a little sunshine.
Happy Thursday, and thanks for the opportunity to share my story!