Last week, I was perusing Twitter as I am wont to do and I saw someone tweet their condolences out to someone else. The nosy neighbor in me did a few clickity clicks to see what happened and I soon found myself down a rabbit hole of my worst nightmare: Cancer. Melanoma. Chemotherapy. Death.
Just that morning, I was thinking about how awfully pale I am right now. I remember a couple of years ago, the last time I went to a tanning bed, right before our trip to Maui. I had convinced myself that I a) needed to look good for our trip and b) more importantly, needed to tan so that I wouldn’t burn to a crisp so easily on the beach. It all made sense in my head, despite everything I knew about the risks. I’ve been tanning lots of times. In college. Before my wedding. And before most big beach vacations. So of course I was considering it again. I wanted to look good and I wanted to be able to have a good base tan going so I wouldn’t burn. Boy, was I stupid.
So when I saw blogs of young women suffering with this most deadly form of skin cancer (and one whose new husband died shortly after they got married), I didn’t just rethink my tanning bed idea. I squashed it and made an appointment with a dermatologist.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a really mole-y person. Despite my dark/ethnic features, I don’t tan well. It takes hours for me to burn, and when I do, SOMETIMES it turns to a nice tan color. Actually, without the help of a tanning bed, I pretty much never truly get tan. I burn and freckle, but it takes awhile. I’ve tried a few tan-in-a-bottle sprays and lotions but let’s be honest, they have a long way to go in that department. I always mess up the application or it just looks too orange. I’d rather just be pasty pale, thankyouverymuch.
When I was about 13, I had a birthmark mole removed from my left arm. It wasn’t cancerous, but it was ugly and I was ashamed of it so I had it removed. The plastic surgeon completely botched the surgery and left me with a scar that looks like one of those vaccine scars people born in the early 60’s have. It’s much larger than the mole that it replaced, but I don’t regret for one second having that mole removed. In December, before my health insurance changed, I made an appointment with a dermatologist to look over my moles. She spent roughly 2 minutes with me before she coldly said she didn’t see any issues and walked out. I was satisfied at the time, but when I started to think about it, would I bet my life on that one, brief examination? Because that’s essentially what I was doing. I decided that no, I wanted a second opinion. So I made an appointment with a friend’s brother-in-law. (Dr. Jason Amato for anyone in St. Louis looking for a good dermatologist.) They were able to fit me in within a week, which is completely unheard of with dermatologists, it seems. I’ve heard of 8+ week waits at some places!
I also hopped on over to The Honest Company’s website and bought two tubes of sunscreen, since they’re baby-safe. It’s only 30 SPF but it’s also water-resistant for up to 40 minutes. I’ve seen some sunscreens out there that are 60 SPF! The higher SPF, the better. And you know I’ll be lathering up my kid in this stuff all summer long.
My appointment was today. I scheduled an appointment with his assistant, Jennifer, since she can basically do all the same things and procedures. I showed her the moles I was most concerned about – one on the back of my left arm and a new, rapid growing one on the bottom of my left foot, in the arch, that wasn’t there two years ago and is now the size of a pencil eraser. (If you really want the shit scared out of you, just Google “moles on the bottom of feet” and see what comes up. The Internet will tell you it’s a sure-fire death sentence. But this isn’t actually true. What IS true is that if the mole is Melanoma, and it’s on the palms/soles of your hands and feet, then it’s typically more aggressive, so the Internet is sort-of right.) Anyway, she didn’t think either one looked terribly menacing, but agreed they were abnormal enough to have removed and tested, if for no other reason than peace of mind. I full expected to start talking about timelines for rescheduling a removal appointment but she said she could do it right there, right now. I panicked for a moment because I wasn’t expecting to get Novacaine shots so soon, but I wanted it done and over with so I agreed to go ahead. Ten minutes later, I have two less moles to worry about now. And in about a week or two, I’ll have the test results back. (Assume no news from me is good news, if I don’t mention it again.) The procedure was simple and relatively painless. (Shots are never fun, but that was seriously the worst of it. Never felt a thing with the removal and I’m walking just fine, though I won’t be doing any running or extensive activity anytime soon.)
So this is my plea from me to you. Wear sunscreen. Stay out of tanning beds. And check your skin. The last words on the last blog post of the woman that had died that I saw on Twitter was to “Check your skin, people. Check your skin.”
You’re only given one body. Take care of it.