March 11, 2021

Melanoma Monday

Today is #MelanomaMonday! 

And not featured in this picture is the mole that I had that was in fact, malignant melanoma. But if you zoom in (please don’t) real close, you might just see the two-inch scar in its place.

In 2014, I was waitressing and a customer stopped me and asked if I ever had the mole in my hairline checked out. 

My response was “No, it’s just a birthmark, it’s been there forever.” 

She asked if she could take a closer look and ensured me it was a not birthmark and that I should go get it checked right away. 

I didn’t think much of it after that. 

A few months later, I got strep throat and was in the college clinic and that doctor also noticed my mole and asked if I have ever had it looked at and was floored by my response.  He pointed out that the once skin-coloured mole, was almost black and oddly shaped, which I now know is a tell-tale sign of skin cancer. 

Only weeks after that, I was sent to an oncologist in Barrie who took samples from the mole. The samples were sent all over the country and even to the States because the doctors were all confused by the cell count in a young, sort of healthy, 20 year old, that only been in a tanning bed once in her life.

The results came in, they called me with a bunch of big words that had no meaning to me and scheduled me almost instantly for surgery. 


I was young, dumb and in my last year of college so I ended postponing my initial surgery to go to a concert in Toronto (sorry, Mom). 

 

A week or two later, I went for the surgery and unfortunately, I remember it quite well. 


My parents were in the waiting room, I was alone in the surgery room for what felt like hours until the doctor came in, the room was cold, my face was strapped to the table, and I was crying and shaking with so much anxiety and fear that I was literally vibrating the table. The surgeon had to give me a sedative to calm down so he could actually cut my head open and remove this thing. 

They gave me a local anesthetic so I couldn’t feel anything above my eyes but I distinctly remember feeling blood drip down my face and then it was done, in minutes. The surgeon was out of the room before I sat up and I remember seeing all the bloody gauze and surgical tools on the little table beside me (sorry for the visual).

 

Also on the table was a small plastic cup filled with clear liquid and this DISGUSTING looking black thing inside. The only way I can describe it, and again I apologize for the visual, was it looked like a leech. 

 

 And THAT is what they cut from my head. 

A month or so later, the doctor called me again and said I needed to come back in to discuss results. They informed me that the malignant cells had spread past the original incision and that they needed to remove more. 

 

This is what I get for not listening to my customer and for going to that concert, right? 


So back to surgery and thankfully, those results came back negative. 


Despite all of the above, I consider myself very, very lucky that I didn’t have to go through any painful cancer treatments or worse. 


But it could have easily gone another way. 


Just because skin cancers are on the surface, doesn’t mean they can’t affect you internally or spread. But the “good” part about skin cancers is that they can be seen and treated early on. 


Now I go to a dermatologist once a year to get a full-body exam and ensure I have no new or different-looking moles. They check my scalp, my ears, in between my fingers and toes and every inch of my body because cancer can live anywhere. 


I wear 110 sunscreen on my face every single day, don't leave the house in the summer without it on my entire body, I preach to my friends and family that they should do the same and get SO mad at them when I see a sunburn. 


So with ALL of that being said, let this be your reminder ...

AND lastly, remind your friends and family to do the same!