Thursday, April 9, 2009

My Life Altering Experience

"It looks like we have a melanoma," the voice on the phone said.

That was 1998 and the voice was my doctor at that time. What I had feared most, was a reality...I had skin cancer. Actually, I didn't just have skin cancer, I had melanoma...the most deadly form of skin cancer.

I can't even begin to tell you how my life changed that day. I went from a very confident happy woman that loved being outside, to a terrified shell of a person that feared even having the sun shine on her skin while riding in the car.

I look back now and actually feel bad for my family and even for myself. I loved life so much and the very thought of losing it consumed me...and I was one of the lucky ones. Further biopsy showed my melanoma in it's very earliest stage. I did not require any additional treatment.

My skin cancer was most likely caused from the many, many, many sunburns I received as a child and even as an adult. I am very light complected. I use to burn, blister and peel over and over and over again...never knowing that what I thought was funny at the time....could actually be shortening my life.

My diagnosis turned me into a bit of a hermit. I didn't venture outside if I wasn't covered from head to toe in sunscreen, sunscreen clothing, hats, shoes and socks. In the past few years, I have slowly come to understand that the sun can still be my friend, but I have to respect the sun. I know that it can make me smile and warm my heart and soul, but it can also do great harm.

These days, you will find me outside on sunny days. I love walking out onto the deck and turning my face to the sun to feel the warmth. I will stretch out my arms and let them take in the the suns rays....but only for a few minutes.

I have a large scar on my upper left arm. My doctor told me I could have surgery to improve it's appearance, but I said no thank you. That scar is there to remind me to respect the sun.

My melanoma looked NOTHING like what you see pictures of. It was small and perfectly round and "normal" looking. Last fall I found a tiny little spot that looked like a dry, bumpy rash. I had it removed and it was a basal cell carcinoma...another form of skin cancer. I thought it was dry skin!

I recommend everyone wear sunscreen and a hat when out in the sun, and see a dermatologist for a skin check once a year.

If you would like more information on skin cancer, please click here. If you would like information on a great sunscreen clothing company, click here.

9 comments:

Sally said...

Wow! Thanks for the timely follow... I too have fair skin and am not careful.. I recently noticed a new lump on my face (which I thought was a strange progression from a zit to a lump - not normal) -- this one is in addition to a lump I have had on my forehead for years - perfectly round and colourless... I think I will get them checked out very soon - maybe the timing to connect was just right here. Happy Easter!

Angela said...

When we went on our cruise last year I covered myself from head to toe with sunscreen when I went outside. I still came home with an incredible tan. It took me years to realize that you can protect yourself from the sun and not have to be pale. Sunscreen blocks the bad rays and you can still enjoy the good ones.

Baroness Bijoutery said...

Your post comes at a perfect time..the sun is coming out and people are already getting sunburns. Even with all the information out there most people don't heed the warning..Thank you for posting this...

Kala Pohl Studio said...

Kathy, very timely. Even, us dark-skinned people get skin cancer. Even though I love sunshine, I like to enjoy it from a shady spot. I get terrible migraines if I am in the sun - which is interesting, since I grew up in a tropical country:):)

aliceinparis said...

How scary and how lucky for you that it was caught early! I have had some bits burned off my face. Early basal cell stuff.I also have to be very careful but really we ALL do.Thanks for the reminder.

Shaunna said...

I worry about this every day. I am a soil scientist so I'm outside all summer. I get TONS of freckles and I'm always finding something for the dermatologist to look at. So far everything has come up non-cancerous. I just consider that lucky. After reading this blog I'm even more convinced I should be vigilent. I have fair skin and I use TONS of sunscreen. I also have sensative skin so I have to use certain sunscreens. Working and sweating outside all day during the summer for the last 2 summers has helped me find the right sunscreens for me! I enjoy the Aveeno SPF 30 and higher sunscreens and the Neutrogena SPF 50 and higher sunscreens. I also use Oil of Olay sensative skin with SPF 15 in it everyday on my face. I've seen a drastic decrease in the amount of burns I get and at least a longer time before the freckles pop out in the summer. So get yourself some good sunscreen people!
I also just bought some SPF clothing from Gander Mountain so I'm going to try that this summer in the field. Its such a good idea!

Also I had LASIK and I learned the importance of eyecare in the sun. The sun not only harms your skin but UV rays can also harm your eyes. I wear sunglasses everywhere and I have a baseball cap just in case I misplace them so my eyes can at least be shaded. Protect those eyes too!

Wow thats probably my longest comment ever! Hehehe. Great blog post!

Sara said...

I'm glad to hear it was caught early and you had a happy outcome. You are very fortunate!

AMIdesigns said...

This post really rings home for me. My big sister has had 2 malignant melanomas one basal cell carcinoma removed. My younger sister has had a basal cell carcinoma removed. I always thought it was me, being red haired with white skin that burns easily was most at risk. Both my sisters tan, so they thought they were 'safer'. Happy Easter

A Blond And A Torch said...

Kathy, I am so glad you caught it in time. With the sun out, this was a great reminder to us all to respect the sun!

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