I always told myself “it’ll never happen to me”. Until it did on October 14, 2019, I received the call that totally turned my world upside down “you have stage IA melanoma”. I remember my heart and stomach sinking at the same time, all of my unhealthy skin and sun habits flashing before my eyes and feeling completely lost. One routine skin check revealed more than I ever thought I had to face at 26 years old. I felt a heavy fear that I’ve never had before take over my body for weeks. After 4 appointments, 1 surgery & 1 sentinel lymph node biopsy, I found out the melanoma was removed from my chest and the test indicated the cancer didn’t spread to my organs. I am one of the lucky ones who received good news and the cancer was caught through early detection. However, my life is forever changed from this diagnosis.
Learning I had melanoma was difficult to hear but even more difficult to think of all the things I could have done to prevent it. I can say I’m a melanoma survivor for now but I still have & will have the anxiety about it coming back because there is a chance of skin cancer recurrence for the rest of my life. I don’t think there’s anything to gain keeping this experience to myself. We all had or will have seasons of life like this. Times that feel impossible, unbearable or unfair. But they pass & then you’re left with a battle scar that will tell a story. No matter what kind you have, any type of cancer diagnosis takes both a physical and emotional toll on one’s body. From this experience, my perspective on health & beauty is forever shifted and my heart is forever thankful for all the people that have been with me through this providing constant support, prayers & encouragement every step of the way.
I share my story to (1) raise awareness (2) encourage everyone who hears it to go get an annual skin check. Unfortunately after doing genetic testing and knowing that both my father and grandfather have also had skin cancer, there is a chance of skin cancer recurrence for the rest of my life. Since my diagnosis in 2019, I have to go to a routine skin check every 3 months. At every 3 month check there has been at least 1 mole removed off my body for additional testing. These skin checks are anxiety inducing and I relive the fear and worry from October 2019 every single time. Besides my melanoma treatment, in 2020 I had another scare of a Spitz Nevus on my leg which resembled melanoma under a microscope and I had another surgery to remove that. I never thought I would have to go through this journey but skin cancer doesn’t discriminate. So moving forward, I use my story and my journey to make others aware of their most important organ; their skin. As of today, I may be cancer free but I am not free from it. The moles on your body are unique. Learning about them will help to increase early detection rates of skin cancer. We’ve been given lots of guidelines and rules to live by at the moment. But checking ourselves regularly, learning about our bodies and taking steps to prevent skin cancer has never been more important. Always make sure you advocate for yourself, it can save your life; my skin check in 2019 saved mine.