Melanoma Update and what Melanoma looks like

Tuesday, July 16, 2019
This post is an update from one I did in January regarding Skin Cancer and what I am currently going through. Over the past few months, I have been diagnosed with multiple location Melanoma and want to share my story (which is no where close to being over). Let's just say I won't be running for wine anytime soon (but will continue to drink it)! This is a long read, but I hope it will help educate others about Skin Cancer and what to look for.

Seven months ago, I received my first phone call from Pathology regarding a few biopsies I had taken in early December. I was told one of my 3 biopsies came back as Basal Cell Carcinoma Skin Cancer and I needed to come in for an excision. I was really upset and most people said "at least it's not Melanoma"...
The day after Christmas I had the Basal Cell removed by a different APRN than I originally saw in early December. The guy who did my first round of biopsies had a family emergency so I went to the next available location as I wanted the Basal Cell excision done prior to January 1st for insurance reasons. Prior to removing the Basal Cell, my new APRN did a routine skin check and made a statement that will be eternally burned in my memory "I don't like the look of that spot at all, I want to take it now" and proceeded to take 3 more biopsies. I was thrown off as I just had biopsies done 2 weeks prior and these were not new spots.
Basal Cell Carcinoma right thigh - before, healing and scar
Two weeks later, I received my second call from Pathology. This call happened a few days before I was going on my annual girls cruise with my best friend Keri. The results made my world stand still. Two of the spots removed on December 26th came back as Melanoma, Stage 1 and atypical severe and was told they both needed to be surgically removed. Hearing those words crushed me. I sat and stared at the wall in my living room for over an hour. How could I go from being petrified of Basal Cell to having Stage 1 Melanoma within a matter of 2 weeks? I thank god everyday that my APRN was switched.
The last time I wore a short dress
Being I was about to leave for a cruise to the Caribbean, my Melanoma excision was scheduled for when I returned home. I stressed out the entire cruise but made sure all of my spots were covered from the sun by wearing waterproof bandages and wearing SPF 50. In the photo above, you can see a white bandage peeking out on my right thigh, covering the Basal Cell removal. If you look closely at my left shin, you can see the small bandage which was where one of my yet to be removed Melanomas were. On the cruise, a few strangers made comments about my bandages, one even asked if I recently learned how to shave. That was the start of me becoming very self conscious about all my marks. Little did I know what was in store for me. My stage 1 Melanoma looked like a freckle. It wasn't raised so I never thought anything about it - but looking back at the before picture, you can see discoloration. Here are a before and after of the stage 1.
Stage 1 Melanoma left shin - before, healing and scar
It was decided I would start coming in for full body scans every 2-3 months. I went back on Valentines Day and they took 10 more biopsies. Two weeks later, pathology called to report 1 of the 10 was early stage Melanoma on my left abdomen. It had positive cancer cells but was caught early enough that we could wait to have it re-scooped during my next body scan. I needed to heal from the other excisions and biopsies. If you catch Melanoma early enough, you may not need a full excision - they will scoop out more skin, removing the surrounding areas. This is why it is very important to get checked annually (or more often if you have a family history of skin cancer).
10 biopsies, February 14th
My next body scan was scheduled for May 1st. Along with my Melanoma re-scoop, I had 13 additional biopsies taken. That's 14 spots I had to take care of. I will tell you, if you know anyone going through this, skin biopsies are awful. They're painful open wounds that take forever to heal. Also, I am allergic to adhesive, latex and most medicated ointments - It's been a fun 7 months 😔.
13 biopsies + 1 melanoma re-scoop, May 1st
I went to Scottsdale on May 16th for a work trip. That date put me slightly over the 2 week mark of the 13 biopsies. Pathology calls with bad results within 2 weeks and for once, I was feeling positive that I was clear. When we landed I saw a voicemail pop up from Pathology. I didn't want to call them back until I got off the plane and we were stuck on the tarmac for an hour.  It was the longest hour of my life. Finally, I found a quite place in the Phoenix Airport and returned the call to learn I had 4 new Melanoma's. FOUR. I had to sit down because everything started spinning. Being I was on a work trip, I was alone in a strange place with no family or friends. However, I met the most fantastic group of women who gave me strength. One gave me a bracelet - which has a hidden scripture on the underside (now my motto). Receiving that phone call in Scottsdale was meant to be. I was in a situation where I couldn't dwell and I had to do as the bracelet says...
The 4 results were: Stage 1 Melanoma on my right thigh along with 3 positive Melanoma cells: right abdomen, left thigh and right inner thigh. I made an appt to have the stage 1 removed and abruptly cancelled our Memorial Day plans as we were supposed to go to our friends Lake House.
Stage 1 Melanoma right upper thigh - before, healing and scar
July 2nd was my next full body scan, 2 months following May's scan. I went in thinking that I would have less taken this time, being I just had 13 removed 2 months prior. Not the case... 12 biopsies were taken and I was left dumbfounded, angry, sad and oddly - somewhat amused. I was not expecting 12 more. My APRN didn't want to take more than 10. Her medical assistant alerted her when she hit 10, but there were 2 more she wanted. I clearly remember when she circled the 12th spot, a freckle I have been closely watching on my right inner shin. Over the last few weeks it started growing and changing color.
12 Biopsies, July 2nd
For the past 2 weeks, I have been waiting for Pathology to call. Unfortunately, I've become far too accustom and I've come to a point where I expect a call.  Well, they called me yesterday. One of those 12 biopsies came back as Melanoma and I go in next week to have it removed.  Guess which one - the right shin. I don't have a photo of it yet but will add a before during and after to this post once I've healed.

I am using my blog and social media as a platform to educate others and as an outlet for myself. I've learned one thing through all this - Melanoma is not text book. It can look like anything. It can be a discolored mole or an innocent spot the size of a freckle. It can kill you. If you told me a few months ago that I would have 40 biopsies taken within 7 months, I would have never believed you. If you told me of those 40, 9 would come back cancerous, I would have thought you were crazy.

I get a lot of questions and comments from people around Melanoma causes and risk factors. Most assume I am going through this because I am a redheaded native Floridian. That isn't the case. Melanoma is genetic and my Mom had Melanoma once in 1999. Hers was successfully removed and she never had it again. My cousin who is the same age as me also had Melanoma in the same spot as one of mine, hers also successfully removed and never returned. I have a few uncles on my Mom's side who had Melanoma as well. While UV exposure is a major factor to Melanoma, it's not my main issue as I tested positive for the genetic mutation. I can stay out of the sun for the rest of my life and still end up with positive cells. Like any other chronic illness, I will have to deal with this the rest of my life.

I urge everyone who reads this to please make an appointment to get your skin check and keep up with it annually. If I was more pro-active with mine, I may not be going through this right now but I will say how thankful I am that we caught this at Stage 1.

The ABCDE's of Melanoma and what to look for

A: Asymmetry
The benign mole, left, is not asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle, the two sides will match, meaning it is symmetrical. If you draw a line through the mole on the right, the two halves will not match, meaning it is asymmetrical, a warning sign for melanoma.

B: Border
A benign mole has smooth, even borders, unlike melanomas. The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched.

C: Color
Most benign moles are all one color — often a single shade of brown. Having a variety of colors is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, white or blue.

D: Diameter
Benign moles usually have a smaller diameter than malignant ones. Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the eraser on your pencil tip (¼ inch or 6mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.

E: Evolving
Common, benign moles look the same over time. Be on the alert when a mole starts to evolve or change in any way. When a mole is evolving, see a doctor. Any change — in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting — points to danger.

1 comment

  1. oh my goodness! I'm so sorry this is happening to you, but so relieved everything is being caught early. Thank you for sharing. I'm a native Floridian ginger too, and I just started getting skin checks about 3 years ago. I've had 3-4 cryo removals and then one excision. Only one basal cell, so I feel very blessed. But your story certainly brings more gravity than I've given it. So thank you again, and I'll stay tuned for good news!


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