I graduated high school and went off to college at 16. I was a smart girl, but still made poor choices. While in college I began buying monthly unlimited packages to the local tanning bed and would drop in a few times a week to get some color. I also bought expensive lotions to allow me to get darker.
People always commented on how tan I was and I stupidly took pride in that. I continued to visit the tanning salons off and on until I was about 21. Even though the trips to the tanning bed stopped, I would still look forward to summer so I could lie by the pool every chance I had. "I wish at this point I would have immediately gone to my primary care doctor, but I didn't; I simply waited."
In November 2010, I noticed a new mole, light in color; it was mostly flat with a small raised area. By January, I noticed that the mole had grown and darkened significantly, and the entire mole was raised by this time.
I had never been to a dermatologist, so I asked around and called to make an appointment to have the spot checked. The earliest they could get me in was the last week of May. I wish at this point I would have immediately gone to my primary care doctor, but I didn't; I simply waited.
When I saw the doctor, she took one look at the spot and told me it needed to be removed. I still told myself it was probably nothing because it didn't look like the pictures of melanoma I'd seen online.
One week later, I received the call that changed my life. I had melanoma and would need to have surgery — my first ever! All I could do was think of my daughters who were only 2 and 4 at the time.
Thankfully my sentinel node biopsy came back negative and I was staged at 1b. My scars are a daily reminder to wear sunscreen, hats and protective clothing. Whenever I hear someone talking about going to the tanning bed or getting sunburned, I share my story.