I pay attention to my health and am very active. I walk at least 10,000 steps every day, and sometimes twice that. I work in the yard, bike, and play in a tennis league. All my life I have spent as much time as possible outside. I have not had any big health issues. There is no known history of Melanoma in my family.
Because I have Irish skin (very fair, with freckles), and because I had my share of sunburns growing up, I get annual skin exams from a nurse practitioner. I have been doing that for at least 20 years.
In October 2021, the NP noted, but was not concerned about, a patch of skin that was thin, like saran wrap, about the size of a quarter, on my back, left shoulder area. It was in a hard place for me to see. She told me if it didn’t go away in a couple of weeks, I should go back to see her.
Remarkably (smiley face), I did that when it didn’t disappear after three weeks. She numbed the area and removed what she saw in the office, thinking it was basal cell carcinoma and sent it to the lab to confirm. I thought it was all resolved as I left the office.
One week later, the NP called and told me I had Melanoma. She was very surprised. Within 10 days I had surgery and was told “time is of the essence” in removal given the reproductive rate of the tumor. I was fortunate that the lymph nodes were clear and surgery was the only treatment I needed.
Now I will go for skin exams every three months and the emphasis is on reducing risk going forward. I will be careful to cover up in the sun and wear good sunscreen to minimize my exposure.
My advice to others is not to forget about your skin when you think about your wellbeing. And if you see something, say something. It’s tempting to ignore funky things and changes and it’s very difficult to navigate health systems, especially during COVID times, but no one is exempt from cancer. Get in the habit of getting annual skin checks. If you do end up with something, catching it early means less involved treatment and allows you to get back to doing the things you love sooner.
- a thin patch of skin, approximately the size of a quarter, with the appearance of saran wrap; noticed at annual skin screening
Survival rates for Melanoma
Stage 1 diagnosis = 99% | Stage 4 diagnosis = 27%
Paying It Forward
Diego Chamberlain was so grateful that his mother’s cancer was caught early, before it had spread.
As an avid golfer, he raised his hand to help raise funds so that others can learn to seize the power of early detection through DetecTogether.
Diego wants to help others beat cancer. Please support him as he plays 100 holes of golf in the GFC Million Dollar Golf Marathon. Gifts of any size are deeply appreciated.