I Have a New Relationship With the Sun Since Getting Melanoma
The days that I would sit on the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean for hours at a time with just baby oil on my skin for protection are long gone.
When I look down and see my three-and-a-half inch scar on the back of my left calf, I know it was a very small price to pay for getting diagnosed with Stage 1B malignant melanoma skin cancer in January 2017. I know I was really, really lucky it didn’t spread to the rest of my body.
Melanoma is a deadly cancer.
Once you have melanoma, your chances of getting it again increase. The sun and I have a much different relationship now. I mow the lawn with sunblock, sunglasses and a hat. The umbrella we had been using for years is not meant for a table on a deck. It’s barely bigger than a regular umbrella. So I did some research and got a nine-foot umbrella with UV protection. I didn’t even know such a thing existed!
The precautions don’t stop there.
Even though it’s summer, the first time I went to my dermatologist after my surgery I got an earful about wearing nail polish on my toes. Why? Because one of the signs of melanoma shows up as black streaks on your fingernails and toenails. You can also get it between your toes!
A few years ago I was diagnosed with glaucoma. I go for exams three or four times a year. When I went to my first appointment after my cancer surgery and told my eye doctor I had melanoma, he tilted the chair way back and checked to make sure he didn’t see any cancer in my eyes. I also have cataracts and get my optic nerve tested from time to time. It’s quite a production, but worth every minute I am there.
It was my primary care physician who discovered my abnormal mole on my calf at my physical and immediately took a biopsy. It just so happened to be a mole I had already been watching. I shudder to think if it had been one I hadn’t been monitoring.
I typically don’t dispense medical advice, but the next time you have a physical you might want to ask your doctor to do a quick full body exam. I think it should always be a part of a physical, no matter how old or young you are. Although it’s rare, children can get melanoma too.
I still enjoy the sun, but nowadays I am lot more careful. Please, please, please don’t make the mistakes that I made of not wearing sunblock and thinking I was invincible.
It could catch up to you one day, just like it did with me.
Photo credit: Jovan Mandic/Getty Images