1.12.2017

Thoughts for Thursday: A Wake Up Call

Last April I noticed spot on my forehead really close to my hairline that I was convinced was skin cancer.   I hadn't been the dermatologist in at least two years and I was convinced this is what I got for not being diligent enough with keeping up with my skin checks.  I'm fair skinned with lots of freckles and moles, and I'm a former sun worshiper.   As a teenager in the late 90s and early 2000s being super tan was the way to be.  Spray tans didn't exist yet and self tanner was guaranteed to make you orange so we did what pretty much every other girl did at this point, we used tanning beds.   Am I proud of that fact, no not at all but you can't really make a 17 year old girl who's worried about looking good in that moment think about what the impact might be 17 years later.

I dragged myself to the dermatologist, knowing I needed to get this spot looked at even though I was nervous of the outcome.  Turns out that spot was nothing, just a little bump, she froze it off telling me to come back in 4 weeks for a follow up and re-freeze if needed.  At that time she looked at me and said, "look you're in the clear now but you need to realize you're coloring makes you more prone to skin cancer and you need to wear a hat and sunscreen all the time, not spray sunscreen real rub in sunscreen"  That advice stuck with me and I did a pretty good job for the next month that I was outside being diligent with my sunscreen.  I had my follow up in late May where she had to re-freeze the first spot, she checked my face again, no new changes and sent me on my way for a follow up in July.

The summer came and I got busy with the kids and vacations. I kept moving my appointment back since the spot looked good and I didn't have anything to worry about.  I finally went back in mid-September.  I remember it was right before my mom's club fall kick off party but I wasn't worried since everything had healed up.  As my dermatologist was looking at the spot she agreed it had healed well and looked good needing no further treatment.  She then glanced down at a spot just a few centimeters below and said "Is this new and I said oh I don't think so, I think it's been there but it just seems to be a zit that won't go away and she was like no I don't think that's it.  It looks very suspicious to me we need to biopsy it today."  I've had a few spots biopsied before that turned out to be nothing.  I was honestly most upset for the cosmetic aspects of having to have a biopsy on my forehead right before a party.   It was quick and painless and she told me if it was anything I would receive a call in two weeks time, if it was nothing then I wouldn't hear anything.  No news was good news.

I went about life trying not stress too much about it.  Two weeks came and went with no call from the doctor.  I felt so relived knowing I was in the clear.  Then a week later I received a phone call.   The spot on my skin was in fact skin cancer, it was a non-melanoma, basal cell carcinoma. I was shocked and upset at first.  I had been so good for so many years.  I was only 34 and I had stopped tanning beds and baking in the sun with spf 8 many many years ago.  I was being so good lately, how could I have gotten this.  I felt mad at myself to letting myself burn so many times, or only wearing low sunscreen or no sunscreen back when I was younger or all the times I went for long runs and never ever thought to wear sunscreen.  The one comforting part of all this is that it is a non-melanoma.

Basal cell carcinoma is one of the "best" skin cancers you can get if you have to get a skin cancer. It's very slow growing and easily treatable with Mohs surgery.   Shortly after getting my diagnosis in November I met with a surgeon and scheduled my surgery for January 10, 2017.   The surgeon explained to me that we had caught it early so it was small and shallow meaning it might only take one try to get it out.

I'm not going to lie cosmetically I was dreading this surgery.  I really didn't want a scar on my face. Thankfully it's on the upper left hand corner of my forehead but it's still on my face.  The mohs surgery was quick and easy.  You don't even have to go asleep for it and I only had to go in once and they were able to get it all.  The scariest part about the whole surgery is that I was the youngest person in the waiting room by at least 30 years.  See for mohs surgery they do the procedure and then you have to wait an hour to a hour and a half for them to run the tissue and make sure they scraped all the cancer.  They have you sit in a waiting room while they process. It was very weird to realize that I was the youngest one in there by so many years.  My dermatologist explained to me that in some ways I'm lucky I got this skin cancer so young.  It means I will be more diligent and thorough with my sunscreen, wearing hats, and rash guards than my peers who still see cancer as something older people get.  The down side is that I'm now at 30% increased risk of developing melanoma since I'm so young so I need to take this seriously.   I can still wear biknis and bathing suits as long as I'm wearing a strong SPF and limit my direct sunlight exposure.  I see lots of sunscreen, hats, rash guards, and umbrellas in my future.

 I'm on day two of recovery and today will be the first day I do a bandage change.  I'm very nervous about seeing the scar.  They warned me it will not be pretty at first and I keep reminding myself I have so much to be thankful for.  It's not a melanoma.  They were able to get it all in one time so my scar isn't as big or deep as it could be.  It's not something I need to stress about coming back. Yes I could get more over the years but it's nothing like getting melanoma.   Today is my last day of the big bandage below, then I move to a small bandage for 7 days until I can finally go to the thin clear silicone strips until my follow up in February.

I urge all of you to get your skin check regularly by the dermatologist!  Especially if you have fair skin like me or have a spot that is worrying you.  It took 3 trips to the dermatologist over 5 months for us to notice the spot that was cancer.   It wasn't something that looked like all the this is skin cancer pictures you see on the internet.  It was just a flat reddish pink spot on my head, that looked like a zit that was healing.





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21 comments :

  1. Goodness girl! Glad they caught it, and it wasn't any MORE serious. That's so scary - and SO many of us in our 30s WERE sun worshippers for so long. I mean, sure, not as bad as the baby oil generation, but tan was the way to be. Scary.

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  2. I needed to stop by and read this post !!! I'm fair skinned and always had a glamorous tan as a teenager ! Now I'm dreading what might be on my skin. I have several horribly looking moles, they scream skin cancer. I've procrastinated getting myself to a dermatologist and I'm honestly scared ! This post reminds me that I NEED to get my skin looked at NOW it could save my life. Thank you for sharing !!!!

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  3. Oh goodness, glad that they caught it, but so scary! I just had my skin checked after this mole on my face kept getting bigger, I was so nervous to go in! Luckily it was nothing and she wasn't worried about it. You better believe I'll be doing my yearly skin checks now!

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  4. I saw your instagram and was thinking about you! So glad that they caught it early. I'm sure everything will be great and your scar will reduce immediately! (Maderma is supposed to work wonders!) Thanks for posting this to give the push to everyone else.... like me.
    I have been putting this off for YEARS, and like you, I was a tanning bed lover end of high school and early college. I am terrified. My face didn't see the sun once our entire Cayman vacation with hats and 50+ SPF but for YEARS I fried it. I will schedule my appointment this week thanks to you!

    The Sarcastic Blonde

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  5. So glad your dermatologist caught that spot and that it was the "good" skin cancer! I just got off the phone with scheduling an appointment with my derm since I haven't had a skin check in 3+ years (did not realize it had been that long until really stopped to think) and I have a spot that I've been wondering about.
    Thank you so much for sharing!!

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  6. So glad you caught it so early!

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  7. wait? maybe I just saw the pic in my blog reader? sorry, you know what I mean :)

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  8. Oh man, how scary! I'm so glad it was melanoma! Thank you for sharing and being a reminder we should all be more careful in the sun!

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  9. Glad they caught it early, my issue is how does one not panic over every new spot and fleck on their body, especially if they are someone who is prone to get a lot of moles? Also, I'm in my fifties and starting to get age spots and how do I know when it's cancerous or not. I can't run to the doctor every time I get a new spot. It's very frustrating.

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  10. You are a smart girl! Glad they found it early. And thanks for the reminder...I typically go every year but slam six months behind. So far everything I've had removed has been pre-cancerous.

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  11. Oh my! What a scare! I'm glad you were able to catch it so early on. I need to get to the dermatologist soon! It's been on my to do list for so long. I went a few years back and they found nothing, but I also have fair skin with lots of little moles so I know I need to go at least once per year. I hope your healing process is quick! Keep us posted! Thinking about you!!

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  12. So glad you caught it early and it was basal cell! I'm super fair and freckly - with strawberry blonde to red hair to boot so I'm ALL about that sunscreen. I was diagnosed with a melanoma on my right arm last year. What a freaking wake up call to someone who even thinks they've been diligent. Even less fun because we LIVE at the beach - but life is what it is! I have a small crater scar on my forearm now which is easily disguised, but I catch a glimpse of it enough to be duly cautious on reapplying sunscreen ALL the time! Especially in the summer - I'm sure my family hates me, but I put it on for EVERY outdoor activity - even a short walk around the block. So glad you shared your experience! It's surprising how many people are still naive in believing because they are not necessarily fair skinned that they limit their protections so much.

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  13. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm so glad to hear they got it all and you are in the clear for now. I'm constantly worried about this also being 34 and sun worshipper who grew up at the beach. I'm trying very hard to diligent now, but I'm so afraid my poor choices (bad burns) will catch up to me one day.

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  14. I need to get myself to the dermatologist. I think I am more fair skinned then you...So glad it wasn't too serious. I am sure M & M will be the most protected kids from here on out!

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  15. I'm so sorry to hear you're going through that but such good news that it's gone. Here's to a quick recovery! Thanks for sharing and hosting :)

    Sarah Bell
    Trendy & Tidy

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  16. I feel you! I got to a skin cancer clinic every year to have them do a full body scan -- my mom got melanoma (on her forehead!) when I was in middle school and THANK GOD they found it juuuuust early enough. I'm way paranoid about all moles / freckles / any kind of spots, but I agree it's better to be cautious about them. Hope your forehead heals super fast and you have no more issues from here on out!

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  17. Sorry to hear about this but you were SO smart to get checked out and I'm glad they were able to get it out early. My old derm actually got a basal cell after her first pregnancy (when she was 32!) so it can definitely happen to anyone. I'm so glad that tanning has fallen out of favor and I'm glad we have great quality spray tans now- I still cringe when I hear those "tan yourself skinny" ads on the radio. Hope your recovery goes well!

    xo, Kristina
    Medicine & Manicures

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  18. So happy you were able to catch it quickly - you are reminding me I need to see a dermatologist STAT!

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  19. I'm SO glad you caught that and are ok! My dad just had Moh's on his forehead this past Summer and it was brutal. I recommend lots of vitamin E oil and Scar Away! I had skin cancer in my leg a couple of years ago and had to go to a cancer center for surgery and it was seriously the scariest thing and the biggest wake up call. I feel like I spend more time at the dermatologist than anywhere else. I'm here for you if you need anything!!!!! Again, SO glad you are ok! XOXOXO

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  20. I hope you're feeling ok - mentally and physically. I've got very similar skin to you, have had way too many sunburns in my youth too, and am now a total freak about shade and hats. There's nothing we can do about the past, but moving forward (and training our kids) is our learned lesson! Hang in there cutie!

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  21. So glad you were able to catch it quickly, lady! I have not seen a dermatologist in, ahem, way too many years and now I feel like I need to see one soon. Hope your recovery is going well! xx

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