Donate For AAD Members Search

Go to AAD Home

Kim’s personal story

Kim Ree
I vividly remember calling my mom from the dermatologist’s office, in 2002, as I was told there was a lapse in my medical insurance upon checking in, so 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 small freckle that evolved—turned brown to black—and although he was not concerned, my mom made me an appointment at our dermatologist to follow up).

Reluctantly, I went ahead with my appointment that day and during my body check exam, Dr. Cavalier at Bryn Mawr Skin & Cancer Institute, 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 understand. In the past 12 years since my diagnosis I've had 20+ biopsies, many atypical precancerous cells, 50+ stitches due to skin surgery, and so on. My last surgery, two years ago, was different for me because it was on my face. I've always been able to cover my other surgeries or biopsy spots, but now I have no choice. I'm not able to hide this scar or the two large ones on my arms. Twelve years later, I'm still experiencing effects of my bad habits as a teenager and dangerous UV ray exposure but as a teacher and independent skincare business owner, I am able to share my story and hope to positively impact others' lives through spreading awareness and education. No one is safe from the sun, daily SPF and clothing protection (whether it be winter or summer, sunny or cloudy) and annual body checks at your dermatologist are key. Being a mom has also changed me. Now I understand my mother's intentions and can only hope that my children and friends learn from my story and listen to my skin health advice.