I was a chronic tanning bed user for five years. It started in high school, with the need to be tan before prom or trips to the beach with family and friends. Once I went off to college, it became an everyday habit, every other day at the bare minimum. My friends and I felt that we looked much better with tans and told ourselves it was healthy for us getting all of that vitamin D. I always have had quite a few moles and after college, I decided that it was time to get checked out by a dermatologist. I received several dysplastic nevi diagnoses, but never anything serious until 2011. I noticed a mole on my shin that I did not remember seeing before and I did not like the looks of it. I went to see my dermatologist and she was just as concerned. Getting such a life-changing diagnosis has really opened my eyes to the fact that this disease is 100 percent preventable.
I received my melanoma diagnosis in November of 2011. I will always remember what I was doing and how I felt when my doctor delivered the words "Your results came back as malignant melanoma, we need to get this removed as soon as possible." I went through two surgeries, the first to remove the lesion and the sentinel lymph node. After waiting a month and a half for the results, I was told that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and another surgery was required. I went back for a lymph node dissection, and a week after surgery I was called with the news that there were no other lymph nodes affected by the cancer at this time.
Getting such a life-changing diagnosis has opened my eyes to the fact that this disease is 100 percent preventable. I regret all of my tanning bed usage, and wish I had heeded my parents' warnings that it was not a healthy habit to have. I do not leave the house without my SPF 50 on anymore.
This was a big setback in my life's plans. It was not something I ever expected, but I am not dwelling on my diagnosis. My doctor told me that those who are most successful with this diagnosis are the ones who stay vigilant and continue to live their lives as they always had. As difficult as this diagnosis has been, not only for me, but for my husband, family, and friends, I am extremely blessed to have caught it as early as we did. If I can help at least one person by sharing my story, then it will have been worth it.