It’s Only a Mole

As a young kid I visited the beach every summer. I never really wore sunblock because I usually tanned. One year I actually got so burnt though, that I was covered in hard blisters. I started wearing sunblock after that. Fast forward to my teen years and I started using tanning beds about 3 days a week. I did this for about 4 years and finally stopped. I only stopped because I got tired of paying for membership.

Just a mole

I had a mole on my calf that was smaller, flat, brown and kind of looked like a splotch. I thought it was weird but my friends and Google said it was normal. A year went by and it continued to grow. It got to the point where I couldn’t shave my legs because I had this risen bump on my leg. It was black and super misshapen. I went to my primary doctor who said it was just a mole and I had nothing to worry about. They decided to give me a referral to a dermatologist a month later. As soon as I saw the dermatologist he wanted to remove it right away. It took two weeks but I was finally able to get it cut off. The doctor took some extra tissue too because he felt it was more than a mole.

How did this happen?

Two weeks after that my doctor informed me I had melanoma. I had no idea what that was or what it meant. When he told me it was malignant cancer I cried. I couldn’t believe I had cancer! How did this happen?

A few weeks after this I was scheduled for a lymph node dissection and removal of more tissue in my leg. The surgery left me with a gaping hole that had to be covered with a graft. The lymph node had cancer in it so I was officially stage IIIa melanoma. The doctor removed the rest of the lymph nodes from my leg which was painful and miserable.

It doesn't define me but it changed my life

I get checked every six months now by a surgeon, a dermatologist and an oncologist. I wear sunblock, use sun hats, and basically pretend to be a hermit when it’s super hot and sunny. I try to explain to others the dangers of tanning beds.

Melanoma is a part of me now. It doesn’t define me but it changed my life. I’m more educated now and I can try to educate others. I hope it never comes back.

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