I vividly remember calling my mom from the dermatologist’s office as I was told there was a lapse in my insurance as I contemplated rescheduling. My mom said it didn't matter the cost, I NEEDED to get a body check that day. I argued with her about cost, even after she offered to pay, as I just wanted to wait until my new insurance kicked in. (I had previously showed my family doctor a freckle that evolved - turned brown to black - and although he was not concerned my mom made me an appointment at our dermatologist).
Reluctantly, I went ahead with it and during my body check exam, Dr. Cavalier listened to my concern and removed my suspicious freckle. Approximately one week later, and while on a road-trip in California, I received a phone call from Dr. Cavalier who informed me I had stage 2 melanoma. At that point I knew very little about it, besides the fact that it was caused by harmful UV rays.
Flashbacks of tanning beds before proms, during college to "feel good" about myself, and all those baby oil applications filled my head. All those times I rolled my eyes and went against my mother's wishes (not to tan, cover up, wear sunscreen, etc.) I now found myself thanking her for making me get that body check and admitted I should have listened then.
I cannot undo the damage I did at a young age, but I can share my story and educate those who think they are unstoppable, as I once did.When I was diagnosed, I felt as though no one, besides my parents, understood the severity of skin cancer. Many still don't. In the past ten years since my diagnosis I've had 20+ biopsies, many atypical precancerous cells, 50+ stitches due to skin surgery, and so on. I cannot undo the damage I did at a young age, but I can share my story and educate those who think they are unstoppable, as I once did.
Next month I'll have surgery yet again, but this time it's different for me because it will be on my face. I've always been able to cover my other surgeries or biopsy spots, but soon I will have no choice. I won't be able to hide this scar. Ten years later, I'm finally realizing the extent of my bad habits and dangers of UV rays. Being a mom has also changed me. Now I understand my mother's intentions and can only hope that my children learn from my story and listen to my skin health advice.