Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Hey all, I have decided to take to my blog to discuss my recent encounter with melanoma. I think the best thing that has come out of this situation is that now all my friends and family are much more aware that it is a very real possibility for people of any age!

A couple weeks ago, I got a mole removed at the dermatologist's office. He thought it would turn out to be nothing, but unfortunately he was wrong. The derm called me a week later to say that to everyone's surprise, it was melanoma. Of course I had heard of melanoma - I knew it was skin cancer of a pretty serious variety. So naturally I went to Google to learn more about it. Let me just tell anyone facing a health scare that Google is NOT the is a terrible idea that will only freak you out even more! What pops up is always the worst case scenario stories and articles written with dramatic proclamations. Eventually I found a more sane government-related health website discussing melanoma. I found out that it is the most severe form of skin cancer. It is also an incurable cancer because radiation and chemo do not work on it. As scary as that initially sounds, it is not a death sentence. In an early stage, it is simply removed surgically , and typically there are no future problems. If it grows undetected for a long time and advances to a higher stage, that is when the prognosis is poor. While that is scary stuff, it just highlights the importance of awareness and regular check-ups. Like my derm said, my check-up that led to the removal of the mole was a life-saving event.

Luckily my melanoma was very thin and at an early Stage 1, which carries a great prognosis. I had an excision surgery (photo below of the incision) to remove a wider margin around the area. I'll have a scar, but who in the world cares about a scar when you're dealing with a potentially deadly disease?! A plastic surgeon who frequently does these surgeries for my dermatologist performed the operation to minimize scarring. It was a disgusting process, mostly because I am such a wuss when it comes to icky stuff like needles and blood. I had local anesthesia, so I didn't feel any pain. It would be inaccurate to say I didn't feel a thing, though - I could clearly feel the tugging during stitching and a pressure as the skin was cut away. It didn't hurt at all, but it was a surreal feeling that made my skin crawl! I had my head turned so far in the other direction that I actually got a crick in my neck! But, I didn't want to see ANYTHING that was going on during the surgery. Jeff was in there with me, and he was a huge comfort. Jeff and the doctor and I talked the whole time to keep my mind off it, and I made faces at Jeff whenever anything felt gross.

Anyway, the doctor called me the next day after surgery to let me know that the first round of pathology tests had gone well. For the second round of tests, which take an additional day and are ordered if the pathologist thinks they're needed, the tissue is dyed so that any worrisome cells will be highlighted. The doctor called me today and told me that the pathologist had examined the results and decided not to order the additional dye-tests because he could confidently say the margins were clear. So, now I am officially a melanoma survivor! Yay!

Everyone reading this, please tell your friends and family how important it is to get regular skin checks at a dermatologist's office. You may think that you're too young and healthy to be susceptible to something like this, but I am proof that it can happen to anyone. The doctor said I have great skin and that I should NOT have had this melanoma; he couldn't understand why it had happened to me. It is no big deal to get a mole removed and tested (it takes like 5 minutes and doesn't hurt at all), but it could literally be a life-saver! From now on, I'll have to be more careful in the sun, which is something that everyone should do anyway. I'll stay out of direct sun during the day's hottest hours and make sure to wear adequate sunscreen. It goes without saying that I will never ever enter a tanning bed again (and will always encourage my friends to avoid them as well). I don't have to make drastic changes; I just have to be aware of my skin and monitor any changes from now on.

Thanks to everyone who sent me good vibes, prayers, and thoughts during the past couple weeks! It was a scary experience, but once I got over the initial shock, I realized that it takes way more than this to slow me down!

Here are a couple pics of my stitches - let this be a warning: wear sunscreen!