A Timeline: My Diagnosis and Treatment
My melanoma diagnosis came as a complete surprise to me. My family has no history of skin cancer and I’ve always been fairly responsible with protecting my skin when out in the sun. For some reason, I had thought that melanoma can’t appear until later in life, so at the age of 32, I had assumed I had nothing to worry about. I was wrong, but I was also lucky to catch it so early.
My skin cancer diagnosis & treatment story
Here’s my story:
March 25, 2019: Spotting my melanoma
I had gone in to see the dermatologist for a routine skin exam. I’ve done this occasionally in the past but was not as consistent as I should have been. About halfway through the exam, my nurse practitioner showed a look of concern and immediately brought other doctors into the room to look at one specific spot on my back. It was then that one of the doctors told me I had melanoma, but only a biopsy would tell the whole story. She reiterated that she could be wrong, but given the way my mole looked she had no doubts that it was melanoma and unfortunately, she was correct. They took a picture of the spot and explained what they saw.
The major concerns she had were in regards to its color. Not only was the mole darker than most of the other spots on my body, but it had a trailing discoloration going to the top left, looking almost like a bruise starting above the mole. She said this was the clear indicator of melanoma, but they did a punch biopsy to get full confirmation and scheduled a follow-up appointment for two weeks later to review the biopsy results.
April 3, 2019: Confirming stage 1A
After the two longest and most stressful weeks of my life, I returned to the doctor to review my biopsy results. The bad news – they confirmed it was melanoma. The good news – they caught it early at stage 1A. So we scheduled a Mohs procedure to remove a wider margin and make sure it hadn’t spread.
April 25, 2019: Meeting with the Mohs surgeon
I arrived at my consultation with my Mohs surgeon. He introduced himself, explained the procedure, and we scheduled a date to have everything removed about a month later.
May 20, 2019: Mohs surgery day
My Mohs procedure was complete! It ended up being a much quicker and easier procedure than I had anticipated. I was in and out of the hospital in about an hour and it was a completely painless experience. All went well, but they ran another biopsy on the removed skin to further confirm clear margins and scheduled another appointment for a couple of weeks out to check on my recovery and review the biopsy again. Below is what the surgical site looked like after getting home that afternoon.
The back selfie against the mirror was a difficult photo to take, so I apologize for the poor quality/angle of the shot.
June 4, 2019: Good results
I returned two weeks later to see the surgeon again and received more good news. The incision was healing well and the biopsy showed no signs of cancer.
I’m way closer with my dermatologist than I ever anticipated. I see her often for regular checks, 7 times in just the last 1.5 years - better safe than sorry. I've had a few more questionable spots removed, but none that were cancerous. I’m now a HUGE advocate for skin protection. I started an apparel business focused on skin cancer prevention and I’m doing everything possible to remain cancer-free for the rest of my life.
Do you check the UV index before leaving the house?