Some of my best times as a child and teen were spent in the sun.
We would come back to middle school sun-kissed after two weeks in Florida during the December holiday vacation. Teachers and friends would tell me how beautiful my 13-year-old skin looked. Summers were spent in Hilton Head riding bikes around town and playing for hours on the beach. College spring breaks were rebelliously sunscreen-less in Mexico where I thought I was doing my body a favor by getting tan in the shortest amount of time possible. In the sun was where I was happiest, and I felt healthier than ever with my bronze glow. Even those temporary sun blisters and burns on the really strong days couldn’t change my habits.
A few weeks before my November 2011 wedding, I saw a dermatologist in NYC just to be sure my moles were nothing to worry about before embarking on a long sun-filled honeymoon. I remembered from a high school health class that if a mole changed in any way, had irregular borders or changed color, you should see a doctor and one mole on my chest had actually gotten slightly larger even though it was only half the size of a pencil eraser.
After checking me out, the dermatologist told me that it was totally normal and threw in that, should I need any Botox for my wedding (I’m 27 and my forehead shockingly doesn’t move), he was my guy. Slightly miffed, I left and went on my merry way to get married.
After returning from my honeymoon spent Down Under in Australia and New Zealand, I realized part of my tiny mole changed color since I spent time in the sun. I immediately knew that I needed a second opinion. My new dermatologist removed the mole to get it tested…“just to be safe”, he said.
Now my days in the sun are now 100% over.
The biopsy confirmed that I had Stage I Melanoma and that I needed to have a larger margin of skin around the cancerous mole removed. And, for good measure, the doctor told me I should consider having nearby lymph nodes removed as well. Hearing my doctor utter the words “we just want to be sure the cancer hasn’t spread” was the most horrifying moment in my life, let alone as a 27-year old newlywed with an entire life ahead of me.
This time, I was one of the lucky ones. Caught early, my lymph node biopsy confirmed that I’m now cancer-free. If I had just listened to that first dermatologist and not been in touch with my body, I may not have had the opportunity to write this post. Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of cancer and once it spreads beyond the skin, it is hard to stop.
I have urged all of my friends and colleagues to go see a dermatologist every year just to keep an eye on their moles. I urge you to do the same. Be smart and wear sunscreen in your daily moisturizer if that’s what it takes to protect yourself from the sun. This video is one of the most moving videos I’ve ever seen, and I highly encourage you to share it and educate your friends and family about the dangers of melanoma. I just want everyone to be one of the lucky ones like me.
And besides, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being pale. Pale is beautiful.