Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Two years ago today, on Cinco de Mayo 2021, I was diagnosed with melanoma. Coincidentally (maybe ironically), May is also Skin Cancer Awareness Month. So here’s my annual awareness blog.

Thankfully, melanoma has a high cure rate when caught in time. But, it can spread and metastasize quickly if it’s not caught. While there are actually several different forms of skin cancer, melanoma is the most aggressive. And let me tell you, it’s scary.

I’ll never forget that day my dermatologist called with the results of my biopsy. Time stood still. And I was gripped by panic and fear when she said the words, “It’s cancer.”

Two weeks later, I was lying on an operating table while a surgeon performed a wide excision procedure on the back of my arm, to remove my melanoma and all surrounding tissue. I’m incredibly thankful that when the pathology came back, it showed clear margins.

Now, I slather myself in SPF 70, I wear long sleeves on days when it’s entirely too hot for long sleeves, and I’m a frequent flyer at my dermatologist’s office. I haven’t had any reoccurences in these last two years, and I’m so grateful.

What I’m left with though, is a large physical scar on my arm from where the surgeon had to cut about an inch deep, along with an emotional scar from the trauma and the fear (yes, even 2 years later) that it could happen again.

My scar

I recently heard someone say, “Don’t waste your pain.” So, here’s the takeaway:

It happened to me, and it could happen to anyone. Take the sun seriously.

The ABCDEs of melanoma

Wear sunscreen (with a high SPF), sunglasses, hats, and protective clothing. Get regular skin checks at your dermatologist’s office. If you see anything unusual or suspicious, get it checked out…don’t wait! And for the LOVE, please don’t use tanning beds.

Stay safe out there, friends! ☀️😎

I’m a Survivor!

Trigger warnings: cancer, scar pics

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. And it just so happens, it’s also when I was diagnosed with melanoma myself, one year ago today.

Which means, I’m officially a ONE YEAR SURVIVOR!!

I know, you may be thinking, what’s the big deal? It’s just skin cancer; it’s not REAL cancer. And it’s true that I did not have to endure chemo, radiation, or many of the other horrible side effects that so many cancer patients face. For that, I’m thankful. But, let me assure you, when you hear a doctor tell you that you have cancer (no matter what kind), the fear and distress are real. Even with skin cancer.

My diagnosis affected my mental health more than anything. Am I going to die? I can’t leave my son without a mother. Did we catch this soon enough? What if it has already spread? Why is my body turning against me? Does this mean I’ll be more susceptible to other cancers down the road too?

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. If it’s not detected and treated early, things can go south quickly. A year ago, I spent many restless nights worrying whether I would even be here today.

But fortunately, my skin cancer was able to be treated. A surgeon performed a wide excision procedure on the back of my left arm to remove the entire melanoma and all surrounding tissue. My pathology afterward showed clear margins. And one year later, here I am.

My scar is huge. (My melanoma was relatively small, by the way. You can read the full story here.) But I’ll gladly take a large scar, if it means I’m cancer free.

My incision, one day after surgery. May 2021
My scar, one year later. May 2022

I’ve learned a couple things from this experience. Things that I already knew, but they’ve hit home more deeply after going through this.

1. Take the sun seriously. Wear sunscreen. Wear protective clothing. Find shady spots outside. Use hats, umbrellas, tents, etc. And for the love, stay away from tanning beds. While you’re at it, check your skin and see your dermatologist on the regular.

The ABCDEs of melanoma

2. Trust God. That doesn’t mean everything will be easy. God didn’t promise a problem-free life. But He will carry us through the tough times. I said it last year and it’s still true today—when I was faced with such fear and panic, I was left with no choice but to surrender my entire life to a loving God who invites us to cast our cares on Him. “Cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you.” -1 Peter 5:7

There’s freedom in that surrender, friends. There’s peace in accepting that God is holding me in the palm of His hand. I can choose to live my life in fear, or I can choose to breathe easy and put my trust in God. “Who of you by worrying, can add a single hour to your life?” -Matthew 6:27

One year post diagnosis, the fear has subsided some, but it still creeps up more than I’d like. I’m a work in progress. But I’m trying to rest in the knowledge that God created my inmost being, He ordained all my days before one of them came to be, and He’s not finished with me yet.

Thanks for the love, prayers, and support, friends. Love y’all! ❤️

Skin Cancer Awareness Month—My Melanoma Story

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s now personal for me. I’d like to share my experience in an effort to help raise awareness around this issue.

Earlier this month, I was diagnosed with melanoma.

CANCER. It’s true what they say—this word rattles you. I’m fortunate in the sense that melanoma has a high cure rate when caught early. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still CANCER. Cancer cells have been circulating in my body, entirely unbeknownst to me. If undetected, melanoma can spread and metastasize rapidly. It’s the most aggressive and deadly skin cancer. It’s frightening.

In my case, I’d had a small dark mole on the back of my arm for years. As long as I can remember actually. Maybe my whole life. I’d had dermatologists look at it in the past and no one seemed concerned. It didn’t look like a typical melanoma. Just a flat dark mole, about the color of black coffee. It stood out to me because most of my other freckles and moles are a tan color.

I was outside playing with my son in April and just happened to look at the back of my arm. Does this look different? I wondered to myself. I thought it might’ve looked slightly darker, with maybe a tinge of red around the edges, and I thought I saw a speck of white in the center. It was such a subtle change that I thought I might just be paranoid.

But I called the dermatologist and scheduled an appointment, just to be safe. The dermatologist herself wasn’t even entirely convinced that we should do a biopsy, but we did anyway, just to be safe.

I got a call a few days later, letting me know that the pathology had come back and I had melanoma. I was shocked. Unfortunately, the biopsy didn’t remove the entire melanoma, so about 2.5 weeks later, a surgeon performed a procedure called a wide excision on my arm. My stats:

  • Small 3mm mole removed for biopsy
  • Even smaller 0.7mm melanoma Dx
  • The result was a huge 10cm wide excision (an inch deep) in order to remove the entire melanoma and all surrounding tissue.

I’m thankful that my pathology after surgery showed clear margins. I can handle a large scar, if it means I’m cancer free.

But skin cancer is serious, friends. I’m sharing openly about my experience in an effort to raise awareness. Please be vigilant. Wear sunscreen. Do self-exams. See your dermatologist.

This experience has messed with my mind more than anything. It has caused me a lot of anxiety and fear. Fear about recurrences in the future. Fear about being more susceptible to other cancers down the road. Fear about leaving my toddler without a mother.

But, my trust is in a loving God who invites us to cast our cares on Him.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you.”-1 Peter 5:7

Isn’t it a comforting thought that none of this surprised or rattled God? He intended for me to walk this journey for some reason. And feeling such fear and panic leaves me no choice but to surrender my entire life to His control.

“Who of you by worrying, can add a single hour to your life?”-Matthew 6:27

He is holding me in the palm of His hand. And I’m so very thankful for that.