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Norma’s personal story

Norma Gainers
I was a person who never thought that I needed a dermatologist because my skin was clear and no more than a bump here and there. Also, I did not spend a lot of time in the sun. Perhaps, as an African American, the message about skin cancer never reached me.

After my daughter completed her dermatology residency, I told her that I will be one of her first patients. I had a small bump on my head that I would pick at and get the scab off repeatedly.

One day my daughter was visiting, and I asked her to look at the bump on my head. I could feel it but not see it. She examined the bump and told me to come into her office for further evaluation. I thought she would look at it and give me a cream, and the ordeal will be over.

Instead, she had me sign forms for a biopsy in which I did. Much to my surprise, I received a call from her office to come back in. I returned, and my daughter said "Mom, I don’t have good news for you. Your results came back, and you have squamous cell carcinoma."

She proceeded with a surgery. This time when I returned to her office, she told me the news still was not good. The cancer was deeper than expected and was not completely removed. She gave me my options. I chose the Mohs surgeon option.

They set me up for the surgical procedure. I was treated in the same clinic that my daughter worked. After several cut outs, they said they had gotten it all, and I was allowed to go home.

This was definitely a wake-up call, because I thought skin cancer would happen only if I did a lot of sun bathing. But it happened in the scalp, which I thought my hair protected.