Lights, Camera...Mole Check?
"Ok, Scott, you can go to hair and makeup now." With that I was off to get primped and ready for my scene. I was fully dressed in 1940's garb, complete with high-waisted slacks, short tie, and vintage shirt, coat and shoes. It was May 2016 and I was on the set of the movie, Marshall (which was largely filmed in Buffalo, NY), and this was my first experience in the film industry. When I got to hair and makeup, there were a number of stylists working on other actors and I hopped up on to the chair and a huge tunic covered my wardrobe. I was ready for my trim and "product" in my hair. What I didn't expect was what came next.
The hair stylist who checks for skin cancer
The stylist began probing my scalp, moving my hair to one side and then to the other. At first, I thought she was simply trying to figure out which side to part my hair. But, then I thought to myself that she hadn't cut it, yet. After a couple of minutes she fessed up, "In case you are wondering what I am doing first, I am looking for signs of skin cancer, melanoma." It turns out that all of the stylists were from Hollywood and they routinely check the scalps and face of everyone that they work with. How curious I thought! I had skin cancer thirty years previously and had never given thought that stylists were able to check for skin cancer in places that I could not.
Realizing others can detect potential skin cancer signs
We talked a while and she said that I looked good. Did she mean that she liked my wardrobe, my debonair looks, etc.? Or did she mean that she saw no signs of skin cancer? She said that she meant both. Phew! That began a great day for me and got me to thinking about skin cancer prevention and those people in the service industry that interact with us on a daily basis. Who better to see our scalp than a hairdresser? Who better to detect signs of skin cancer under nail beds than nail techs? And what about martial arts instructors, coaches, and athletic trainers? Many people see us in ways that we don't see ourselves.
Educating others about ABCDE of melanoma
This began the education process for those who cut my hair on a regular basis. I started asking my barbers if they were familiar with signs of skin cancer on the heads that they see every day. Many were not but were happy to learn. I showed them online photos and descriptions. Some had learned about the ABC's (Asymmetry, Border, Color) of melanoma detection in school, but needed a refresher course. Others weren't sure. Any most were all too happy to talk about it.
Saving lives, one story at a time
This type of information is very strategic. Think about how many people these types of service industry wage earners see on a yearly basis. Think about how many lives that they can save. I can reach one person at a time face-to-face. They can reach multitudes. It became a no-brainer for me to take my skin cancer prevention roadshow to my beauty people (haircutter) You can do this, too. Not only educate your stylist for your sake, but for the sake of everyone who sees him or her.
Back to the set. After about three hours of filming the same scene from two different angles, the same stylist came through the set for make-up touch ups. As she was dabbing my forehead, the star of the scene (and movie), actor Chadwick Boseman walked over to me and said, "I bet you get don't this type of treatment every day." I said, "No, but I could get used to it." As we finished the shoot, I checked off my happy, mental checklist: scene finished, check, paycheck coming, check, Union voucher coming, check, mole check, check. A beautiful day.
How well have your skin cancer diagnoses been explained to you?