PSA: Wear Your Sunscreen (Overcoming a Cancer Scare)
About two months ago, I had blogged regarding a trip Amanda Vin and I took to Hawaii.
During our first day there, I had noticed Amanda had a mole on the back of her leg that had changed drastically from the last time I remembered seeing it.
Changing moles are never a good sign.
We immediately Googled it and looked up as much information as we could. The mole was a direct match for skin cancer, specifically melanoma.
At this point, we are one day in to a two week trip and completely overcome with fear. There wasn't really anything we could do while there short of canceling the trip and coming home early, so we put it in the back of our minds and enjoyed the rest of our stay.
We got home and immediately scheduled an appointment for Amanda at the dermatologist. The doctor took one look at the mole on her leg and said "This doesn't look good" and said it was a 99% chance it was melanoma.
If you are unfamiliar with melanoma, it is the rarest form of skin cancer and it's also the deadliest. It can spread quite quickly and if it burrows down through the layers of your skin and hits your blood stream, it will spread to your lymph nodes, lungs, and brain.
Melanoma survival rates?
With melanoma, the earlier you catch it the better. If you catch it early enough that it hasn't started to burrow into your skin, a small surgery to remove it is all you need and you end up with a 98% survival rate over 5 years. If it spreads and hits Stage 4, your odds drop down to about 15%.
The doctor hit us with that news and did a shave biopsy of the mole. Lab results would take about 10 days to get back.
Hope that you never have to wait for cancer biopsy results because it will be the longest wait of your life.
Every conceivable dark thought will go through your mind no matter how hard you try and fight it. I've never had to consider Amanda's mortality (or really my own) before. I was under the assumption that we would both live forever.
We had just started our family, Vincent is only 9 months old, business is still in a little bit of a lull, and Amanda might have to start battling cancer.
The stress felt insurmountable and all we wanted to know was...
Did we catch it early enough?
After one long agonizing week, we got the results back.
We had caught it extremely early and it was only superficial spreading. The recommended course of action was a wide excision to make sure all cancer cells in the area were removed.
It was about as good of a diagnosis that we could have asked for. Yes, Amanda still needed surgery, but they just had to remove a chunk of her leg and that was it. No lymph node removal, no radiation or chemo, no medicine. Just surgery.
Amanda's surgery went well. She was on crutches for a while, but she is up and moving freely again.
They were able to remove everything and her pathology report came back clear.
Amanda is officially cancer free.
Needless to say, this has been an extremely long and stressful two months. She is still healing and will have to be extra vigilant regarding sun protection and keeping tabs on her skin going forward.
If I can leave you with two things today:
- Wear sunscreen.
- See a dermatologist.
Skin cancer is easily treated if caught early enough. If you have anything you might be concerned about, just go get checked. You are apparently supposed to see a dermatologist once a year for skin checks. We had never heard that prior to this scare.
Fair skinned, light hair & light eyed people are especially susceptible to skin cancer, but any one of any background or race can get it.
So, that's where I have been the past 60 days or so.
It's been a stress-filled two months that I hope I never have to relive.