I have lived in Florida all of my life, and like many, spent too much time in the sun tanning, playing tennis, and not wearing sunscreen. All through high school and college it was my goal to get as dark as possible. Later in my life when my work schedule did not leave much time for tanning, I began using tanning beds. My grandmother and my mother were both diagnosed with melanoma years ago and based on that I went yearly to the dermatologist for skin checks. Everything was good each visit, so I continued to tan and not wear sunscreen. In the summer of 2012, I went for my yearly skin check and the doctor asked me if there were any areas I was concerned about. I pointed to a spot on my neck; it was light brown about the size if a pencil eraser. The doctor was not initially concerned, but once I indicated it seemed that it was getting larger in a short period of time, she decided to do a biopsy. My annual skin check was truly a lifesaver for me!
After a few weeks, the doctor called with the results, it was melanoma. I was shocked, but also in denial. The doctor indicated it was an aggressive form and I needed to see an oncology surgeon immediately. A few weeks after the appointment, I was taken into surgery. I have a four inch incision across my neck as a reminder of all of those years in the sun. However, I do feel very fortunate it was caught early and did not have any lymph node involvement. I have been cancer free for one year and go for my regular skin checks. When speaking to people about my experience, I am always surprised at how many people have never had a skin check and how little they know about how serious skin cancer can be if not caught early. My annual skin check was truly a lifesaver for me!