19 and Diagnosed: Anna Keyes Story

If I've learned anything, it's that timing truly is everything. My roommate sophomore year of college was in charge of our campus Relay for Life, so to show support, my friends and I went. A volunteer for the food line asked if I had a chocolate chip on my face. I laughed, "No, that's just a mole I've had my whole life." Later that week I learned I had melanoma as a young adult.

Removing my "chocolate chip"

That following week, I coincidentally had my dermatologist appointment, however she said it looked just fine. Her confidence did not give me the peace of mind I was hoping for so I saw a plastic surgeon who removed it.

Showing before and after pictures of a woman with melanoma on her face

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Melanoma at age 19

2 weeks later, I hadn't heard back about my biopsy so I started to question what was happening. It took 2 more weeks of playing phone tag and messages before I finally got an answer. I had just left for class and I stopped in a parking lot to pick up the phone to a nurse telling me my biopsy came back positive for melanoma and that they didn't get it all. With tunnel vision, I hung up, called my mom, told her the news, and went to class.

Another surgery left me in stitches

As spring break was coming, I returned to this surgeon to undergo another surgery that left me with a caterpillar of stitches down my cheek. Still, they didn't get it all and were ready to return to my face and remove another centimeter around the diameter.

My mom and I both were worried that I was having surgery to remove melanoma as a young adult How many more times would they have to reopen me to remove more? What happens when they physically can not take any more from my face to be able to stitch it up? The next thing I knew, I was heading to Northwestern Hospital in Chicago to undergo Mohs surgery. After a week of being open to wait for the final results, I welcomed the No Evidence of Disease (NED) diagnosis I was losing sleep for. I then started my 6 months of reconstructive surgeries with 75 stitches.

I will always say timing is everything. The last two years have taught me how to have patience, understand humility, and truly enjoy every sunrise and sunset.

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