Skin cancer PSA

Several years ago, a red patch of skin appeared on my upper left arm. At the time, I thought it was a scar that I got from scraping my arm somehow or other.

Being of Irish heritage and with the realization that both of my parents have had bouts of skin cancer through the years, the thought that it could be cancer occurred to me. I’d look up pictures of skin cancer on the internet, and they all looked much more ominous than the spot on my arm. Nothing matched what I had.

I monitored it visually and it didn’t seem to be changing. Last year, John and I were on a business trip in San Diego and parked next to the beach was a mobile dermatology bus. They were doing free skin cancer checks.

Since it was convenient, I popped in and had a quick exam by the dermatologist on staff. While he wasn’t going to make a diagnosis on the spot, he did say I should make an appointment to see a doctor when I got back into town.

A couple weeks later I was at the dermatologist’s office, and the doctor felt the spot needed to be looked at closer, so he did a biopsy. A few days later I got the call from their office that indeed it was skin cancer — malignant melanoma. I took the diagnosis in stride. I think the nurse was surprised at how matter-of-fact I was about the whole thing. As a person with fair skin, I’ve never been a sun worshiper. But I’ve had my share of burns in my life, so, between that and the family history, I wasn’t surprised.

Besides that, God was in control. I’ve always believed that He wouldn’t give me any more than I could handle, so I approached the whole ordeal with a positive attitude. What didn’t kill me would make me stronger.

I scheduled the surgery for my birthday, July 23. It was an in-patient procedure, so John got to be at my side. He loves learning, so he was asking more questions than I was. He took plenty of pictures and even a short video of the surgery.

Everything went smoothly. My follow-up visits have all been clear. If I didn’t have the Frankenstein scar, I’d hardly remember the whole event. But, trust me, it won’t be forgotten. Since the procedure, I’ve taken care to avoid getting burned, whether it’s staying out of the sun during the peak burning hours, hiding out in shady spots, or trading in my swim suit top for a long-sleeved swim shirt. It’s not worth taking the chance again.

My public service announcement: When in doubt, check it out! I could have had this spot looked at years earlier before it got to the point it did, but I didn’t want to believe that it was actually as bad as it was. Don’t make the same mistake I did. I want all my friends and acquaintances to stay safe!

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