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Tracy’s personal story

Tracy Callahan
It has taken me a few days to digest the news.

Last week, I had a biopsy of a changing mole on my cheek. I was told that I wouldn’t be given the results until a week later at my suture removal visit. This gave me the freedom not to worry about the results for a week. I headed to Chicago, where I gathered with an incredible group of melanoma advocates, researchers, and physicians all working so hard in this fight against melanoma. I left the meeting completely energized and had a chance to enjoy Chicago for two more days with my oldest son. It is a trip I will cherish for a long time, and I realize now more then ever how lucky I was to have that experience.

Less than 24 hours after getting back in town, I headed to the surgeon’s on Tuesday to have my sutures removed. My husband insisted on coming to this appointment with me, and I insisted it wasn’t necessary. Fortunately, he didn’t listen. It turns out the mole on my face was a melanoma (caught early) arising from a dysplastic (atypical) mole.

I have received this diagnosis three other times. I should be an old pro at this, but I am going to admit it still caught me by surprise. I felt like someone punched me in the gut, and then tears just started streaming down my face. I tried hard to stop because the nurse was removing the sutures, but the tears just kept rolling down my face despite my best effort to hold it together.

Here’s the deal: I am lucky. I am lucky that I have an incredible dermatologist who keeps such a watchful eye on me. I am lucky to have access to such great medical care. I know the statistics; I know that I am one of the lucky ones whose melanoma will be cured with surgery. I know that early detection saves lives. I am living, breathing proof of our foundation’s mission. It still doesn’t make it easy.

The face is hard because it’s the first thing people see when they look at you. Unlike the other ones that could be concealed under clothing, this one cannot. I know that in the end the scar will add to my story and will give me character. Hearing my husband ask the surgeon if the next surgery/scar will affect my smile broke my heart. I see the worry and hurt in my husband’s eyes when he looks at me, I see my sweet boys staring at my cheek trying their best to maintain "normal."

I am gearing up for the next step, the next surgery. I am gathering my strength, and thanks to my amazing support system, I am going to hit this head-on with humor and positivity. This will be my ninth wide excision.

Remember: Early detection saves lives. Get yourself checked. If you don’t know where to get yourself checked, visit SPOTme.org for a screening near you.