I have been a lifelong farmer and never used sunscreen, actually never gave it a thought. I spent many hours out in the sun and got serious sunburns. Unfortunately, I paid the price when I was diagnosed with nodular melanoma four years ago. A year and a half after my initial surgery and diagnosis, the melanoma came back in the lymph nodes under my arm. I had surgery to remove 32 nodes and then high-dose radiation and a year of treatment with leukine shots to help bolster my immune system to fight off any remaining cancer cells. A year ago they thought the cancer had gone to the bone in my shoulder blade. After close observation and many scans, it was determined that because the lesion had shown no growth that it was not more melanoma.
I am fortunate that I appear to be melanoma free. I continue to have follow-up exams and am now very careful with sun protection because I still spend most of my time outdoors. I also have developed a condition called lymphomatoid papulosis, which is a form of benign skin lymphoma. I understand that melanoma could come back at any time, but for right now I am doing well and am living life fully."I just thought it could be removed and that would be the end of it."
My wife works with teens every day. She shares my story with them and encourages them to use sunscreen and avoid tanning beds. Unfortunately, they do not listen, for the most part. They think they are young and invincible, as I once did. Melanoma is a very serious cancer, as I now know. Before my diagnosis I just thought it could be removed and that would be the end of it as was the basal cell carcinoma that I had had several years prior to the melanoma. I now am living proof of what melanoma does not only to your health but to those who love you.