My Melanoma Nightmare Part One: A Bump on My Head
It all started with a little bump on my scalp that I found in 2015 while my husband and I were in Colorado celebrating our ten-year anniversary. I asked him to take a picture of it and we decided it looked like a wart. It was the same color as my scalp and was slightly raised and scaly, but other than that, it was unremarkable. However, it turned out to be scalp melanoma.
After we returned home to Florida, we resumed daily life as parents to our then, three-year-old daughter. My husband was a foreman for a construction company, and I owned a cheerleading and gymnastics gym. All in all, I felt like life was pretty perfect, so when we learned we were pregnant with our second child, I was elated!
My skin cancer diagnosis: melanoma on my scalp
One day while combing my hair, my mom pointed out the "wart" on my head. She took a picture of it and I could immediately tell it looked bigger and had more of a pink color to it than when I first discovered it. Nothing jumped out at us as being worrisome though. Nevertheless, I didn't like it so I scheduled a dermatology appointment.
The growing "wart" on my head
Once there, my dermatologist said she also thought the bump looked like a wart. We discussed performing a biopsy, but when she learned I was pregnant, she wasn't comfortable using anesthesia since my pregnancy was labeled high-risk. We agreed the best plan of action was to monitor the bump and wait until we got the all-clear from my OB to perform the biopsy.
My doctor ordered a biopsy on my scalp
About one month later, our happy world came to a screeching halt on my 36th birthday when I was rushed to the hospital with excruciating abdominal pain. There, we learned we'd lost the baby. This sad event threw me into a terrible depression for most of the holidays.
The spot on my scalp kept changing
During this time, the bump on my head was showing all sorts of odd characteristics. It would sometimes turn bright pink. It would scale up like a scab, then break off and ooze small amounts of pus. It was about as big around as a pencil eraser and it had nearly tripled in size since I first discovered it six months earlier. Because I was no longer at risk of harming our baby, I decided to schedule an appointment to finally have the biopsy done.
At my appointment, my dermatologist expressed that she still felt my bump looked wart-like and attributed its rapid growth to the influx of pregnancy hormones. She took pictures and performed a punch biopsy. Then she stitched me up and I left that same day-- carrying on with life as usual.
It was official: I had melanoma on my scalp
I remember never feeling nervous about what my biopsy would reveal. Looking back though, I should have been panicked. For someone who felt so confident about life, one cannot imagine how surprised I was to learn two weeks later that I had stage 2 advanced nodular melanoma on my scalp.
Although I had a million questions at the time, I still wasn't concerned. In fact, I remember telling my mom, "No need to cry. It was just a tiny spot on my head. Don't worry so much." The next day, everything changed.
Rachel's journey continues in Part Two here.
Are you concerned about skin cancer when the weather gets colder?