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Sandra's personal story

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I was diagnosed with my first benign basal cell carcinoma about seven years ago. Since then, I visited my dermatologist’s office every six months. Because I have moles all over my body, I had anywhere from two to five moles removed at every visit. After about four years of mild to severe dysplastic moles, my dermatologist felt she had my skin "under control," and I started visiting her once a year.

Fast forward to 2015: Unfortunately I had not been to the dermatologist in 18 months because of an overseas move and other family commitments. I noticed a very dark mole that was growing rapidly on my upper left back. Because it was on my back, I didn't really notice it right away. After a biopsy it was diagnosed as melanoma, and a lymph node removal during surgery (to remove the mole) revealed an infected node and upgraded the diagnosis to melanoma Stage IIIB.

The same week as my melanoma diagnosis—and totally unrelated—I went for a routine mammogram (which I have had every year for 10 years) and was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. First thing I did was to conduct all the genetics testing done to see if one cancer could be connected or correlated with the other. The answer I got was no, just bad luck and bad timing.

On November 16, 2015, I had a double mastectomy and a full node dissection, and, thankfully, all other nodes came back clean.

I don't spend time dwelling on what would have happened had I not skipped my derm visit that one year—now I focus on making sure others know that it's not an option and encourage everyone to visit their dermatologist on a regular basis.