Travel Often

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” — Rosalia de Castro

Love Deeply, but Laugh Along the Way

"Happiness is only real when shared." - Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

View Marriage as an Adventure

"Love is a flower which turns into fruit at marriage." ~Finnish Proverb

Fuel your body with GOOD (It's the only one you get)

He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything. - Arabian Proverb

Open your Soul to Motherhood

A Grand Adventure is About to Begin - Winnie the Pooh

A New Kind of Love is Born

Mothers hold their children's hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Skin Check - You Are Your Best Advocate for Your Health

Don't Ignore Your Moles

For the past four years I’ve been getting my skin looked over. Why? Well, I think it all started when I read an article in Glamour about a 26 year old who faced melanoma. Her story shook me to my core. 

She died.

She never experienced love, marriage, being a mom or traveling the world. She wasn’t going to Happy Hours or running outside or joining volleyball leagues. Instead she was trying to survive another day. All because of one annoying mole that she ignored for years and many summers spent in the sun.
The mole on my foot that I pointed out to the skin doctor last Saturday. It's gone now.

Sounded very much like me. She was fair skinned. She had blonde hair. She had blue eyes. She fake-baked in her younger years (Dumb! Dumb! Dumb!). She ran outside as often as she could. She rarely used sunscreen…

I don’t think I slept for two nights. What if that was me??? Her story could have been mine.

The only way I felt better about things was making an appointment to see a skin doctor. Though I was scared half to death to go in. What if? What if? What if? And I was so worried I’d get lectured. No, I didn't wear sunscreen every single time I went outside. Yes, sometimes I tanned so much I looked like a dried up prune. I sucked it up though. I had to take care of me. I mean, I survived my parents lecturing me all the time. I could handle a doctor yelling at me.
My first appointment I was paired with a male doctor who was rather old. He did a full body scan with only his eyes. All the moles I pointed out he waved off. “Just keep an eye on them.”

Wasn’t I doing that though?

He never yelled at me either for being tan from my recent trip to Arizona, or our honeymoon to St. Lucia, or the trip to South Africa....

I was sent home with a clean bill of health. I relaxed a bit. Then mid-way through the year I was sent a letter that my skin doctor had retired and I’d have to find a new doctor. I’d take care of this when I had time, I thought. I was much too busy.

The letter gathered dust.

The next May rolled around (skin awareness month) and there were more articles in my health magazines about suspicious moles. They sure looked like the ones on my stomach—all jagged, dark and big—but the old-man doctor said they were fine. I was fine. I took a deep breath. Tossed the magazines to the side and told myself I was being a worry wart.  I went to Mexico with my in-laws and got all tan.

(Here are some pics of my moles on my stomach while vacationing on our Mexico trip.)

Then my brother called. Our good friend and travel partner, Erin, was diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma. What? How? She was never tan!!! There was a mole on her upper back that itched and bled on her backpacking trip to Australia. She had gone in and the doctors told her she was fine, but she told them to test it anyway. BAM. Stage IV Melanoma. Erin shares her story on her blog: Melanoma in the City.

I couldn’t sleep for days. I called Park Nicollet and asked to see someone new as soon as possible. Usually it takes months to get in, but they were able to get me in the NEXT DAY.

This particular doctor doesn’t mess around with melanoma. Her nurse’s husband passed away from it. A mole was found UNDERNEATH his fingernail. But they found it too late. UGH!!

The doctor never screamed at me for being tan from my trip to Mexico. Phew. But those worrisome moles on my stomach? GONE. One big one was removed THAT DAY. I had stitches coming out of my stomach like spider legs. (My husband gladly removed them two weeks later.)
I freaked out waiting for the results. It came back as atypical nevus. Basically these types of moles have an 80% chance of EVENTUALLY turning into melanoma because there are atypical cells swimming around the area. To ease my fears, the mole was dug out deep enough so I would never have to worry about it again. The drill freaked me out. The smell of burning skin, kind of gross. And yes, I have a scar, but I’ll take that over worrying. I was instructed to come back again in a year.

Soon I became pregnant. Moles have a way of changing during pregnancy, but I kept an eye on them. Though I was doggone tired that first month after Jackson was born and clueless as to what I was doing, I still went in for my yearly appointment. Yes, I was leaking all over but I now take my skin seriously. I'm a mom and I need to be here for my son. I don't mess around.

TWO more moles were removed. Two more sets of spider legs coming out of my stomach (try nursing a newborn with your tummy cut up.) A total of three scars on my stomach. Same results: atypical nevus. Then I was told my skin doctor was moving to a different clinical. NO! I’d have to find someone else!!

A year blinked by and it was May again and I didn’t have a skin doctor. Shoot. Time slipped away. My great friend Jenna told me about a FREE skin clinic Park Nicollet was having at Methodist hospital. I dragged Karl with and the three of us went. We had to fill out paperwork before we undressed and met with a dermatologist. Again, they asked if I ever fake-baked. Why did I ever think fake-baking was cool???

Two more suspicious moles caught the attention of the dermatologist, but one of them I pointed out. I noticed a mole on my foot growing in size (see pic above). To her, a mole on the foot is unusual and the fact it was getting bigger is a huge red flag. The second one was on my upper back and looked similar to the ones that were removed from my stomach.

This time it took almost two months to get in to get them removed. They couldn't remove them at the clinic. I went in last Saturday morning. And instead of drilling into my skin and stitching me up, they numbed the spots and took razor blades to a large area around the moles. Let me tell you, it’s something weird looking at a dish and seeing your mole chilling in it.

I also had THREE separate doctors look me over, AND a nurse. WHOA. All asked me if I was feeling OK. Maybe I should have put makeup on that morning. I did look a little rough.
The head doctor stopped on a mole on my leg. She questioned me right away about it. It was tiny, but DARK and a little raised on one side. She wanted it gone. There are three similar ones on my leg so I took a picture of those so I could compare.
Similar mole on my leg of the one that was sliced off and tested.

I get the results on Friday. All the doctors told me I should go home with a clear mind versus an anxious one. They weren’t too alarmed about any of them, though the one on my leg seemed odd. So we will see. I couldn’t help but think of my friend Erin because the doctors told her the same thing…

As I wait, this is me encouraging all you readers of my blog to GO in and get looked over. PLEASE. Why? Skin cancer is the MOST COMMON CANCER in the UNITED STATES. And it doesn't matter if you have darker skin, lighter skin, blonde hair, brown hair...etc. 

I asked the doctor who his most frequent patients are. Most right now: teenage girls. All who fake-bake. All skin types. But a lot of his patients are twenty/thirty something people too. All skin types. Most skin cancers (even melanoma) are treatable if you get to it early enough.