It’s a warm 74 degrees here today, a nice change of pace from the usual slush and sludge of snow and ice. The kids and I played outside and went for a walk to the lake, enjoying the warmth of the sun on our skin. It’s been way too long. After only 20 minutes of this, the baby’s face was getting red and I realized I had broken the golden rule; ALWAYS wear sunscreen. Luckily, I have sunscreen in my face lotion, foundation, and BB cream, but the rest of me tends to get neglected, especially on unexpectedly nice days when all we want to do is get outside.
We tend to get the skin cancer lecture whenever the seasons change, and I used to ignore it myself. Alright, we get it, use sunscreen, stay in the shade, blah, blah, blah. But now I speak with experience. Eight years ago I spotted a funny little black mole on the back of my calf. I had a bad feeling about it, but I ignored it and hoped it would go away. That nagging feeling continued, pushing me to finally get it checked. How naïve I was! Not only did I have skin cancer, I had the worst kind – melanoma. And it was deep. I was scared, especially when my dermatologist broke the news that I would have to see a specialist. It was out her hands. When the surgeon started talking about stages and thickness and biopsies, I froze up with fear. He must have sensed my terror and proceeded to pull out a pencil and paper to draw out what he was saying. This was real and it was serious.
I berated myself for waiting. What if I’d never gone to the doctor? Would I still be alive today? I’ll never know. I’m thankful now for all the warnings and advice for skin cancer prevention. Protect yourself and your family. Always use sunscreen on exposed skin, cover up when you can and try to stay in the shade as much as possible. With little ones this advice can be hard to swallow. I loathe putting sunscreen on three wiggly bodies, squirming to get outside, but it must be done. It takes forever, it can be annoying, but what is the alternative? You do not want to end up on the surgeon’s table like I did.
I opted for local anesthetic and it was awful. I felt every tug and pull and was forced to stomach the surgeon telling me my leg looked like I had a shark bite. Thanks for the visual there Doc. Not helping. My recovery was painful and arduous. I am still fearful the cancer could return and take me from my family just like that. But I’m vigilant with self-care, like doing my own skin checks and visiting my dermatologist religiously every six months. I take care of myself and my children better because of the melanoma. If you take nothing else away from my experience, let it be this; learn from my mistake. If you spot a weird mole, if you have a funny feeling or if you’ve never been checked by a doctor, do it immediately. Don’t wait. As a mother you have so much more at risk than just yourself these days.