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Melissa’s personal story

Michelle Padgett
I love the outdoors. I love the sand and surf and could layout at the beach with a good book all day.

As a young kid, we lived near the beach in south Florida. During that time, you really didn't use sunscreen except maybe a little zinc oxide on your nose that your mom applied by force. Then you would get in the water and try to wash that white stuff off as fast as you could!

We eventually moved, but low and behold, I found the lake life! At 16, I discovered tanning beds.  Being a fair skinned, freckled teen that didn't tan easily, I thought this was the way to go. And go I did. I could finally obtain that nice tan complexion without burning. I was tanning out the ying-yang without a worry to be had.

I got a job in a salon with a tanning bed and was so excited—I could tan for free! Year round tanning! I was fooled into thinking tanning beds were so much safer than the sun. After all, that’s what I was told. Young and dumb! I thought I looked so much better with a tan.

In 2011, I noticed a few spots on my back would sting when I took a shower. I had them checked out by a dermatologist and she gave me the news. I was diagnosed with my first basal cell carcinoma or should I say basal cell carcinomas since I had three of them. I remember thinking, “What the heck? I’m freaking 42 years old! How in the world could I possibly have skin cancer?”

Over the last three years, I have had seven Mohs micrographic surgeries for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Two of the surgeries included skin grafts.

The worst part is knowing there are more to come. I just have to be diligent about checking my skin. Most of my cancers are from damage done 20 years ago. I’m still mad at myself for not taking care of skin, but it is what it is. The damage is done and now I have to take steps to prevent additional skin cancer in the future.

I've made changes all while trying to maintain my quality of life. If one person goes for a skin cancer check after reading this I will know I've made a difference.