As a teenager, I loved the sun. I spent summers at Cape Cod and never wore sunscreen in pursuit of the perfect tan. I could never be tan enough, using tanning beds as well, particularly for events like my high school prom.
My father had skin cancer, but that knowledge of my family history didn’t stop me. I fully knew the risk, but thought I was young, invincible and couldn’t possibly get cancer.
At 26, I was married and pregnant with my first child. I had never been to a dermatologist. During an annual physical, my primary care physician noticed an irregular freckle on my leg. The doctor made a dermatologist appointment for me. If she had not, I most likely would not have gone to the dermatologist. I was busy with a graduate school class, was 7 months pregnant and figured the irregular freckle was just a skin change because of my pregnancy. Had she not made that appointment, my story would be much different.
After the visit to the dermatologist, I was diagnosed with melanoma. It was removed immediately, they got all of the margins, and I am now over 20 years cancer-free. I see my dermatologist for a full skin check every 6 months, and wear sunscreen, hats, and long sleeves. I now have 3 children who all know the importance of protecting themselves from the sun. Even my daughter, who is a lifeguard, knows that she can be in the sun but can do so safely.
Because of early detection, my story has a good ending. I have thought often about what would have happened if I ignored the change in my skin and skipped that dermatology appointment. I now urge others to know your body, pay attention to changes, see your doctor and protect yourself in the sun. A perfect tan is not worth your life.