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Mom Warns About Dangers of Tanning After Having 23 Skin Cancer Spots Removed in One Surgery

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Editor’s note: This post contains graphic post-operative photos.

Judy Cloud is a 51-year-old mother of two, a legal assistant and an avid traveler. She used to be an outdoor sun enthusiast who wore little SPF sunscreen and visited tanning beds regularly, but that all changed when she was diagnosed with skin cancer.

The Indianapolis native’s skin cancer journey began in 1995, when she noticed a tiny area on her face that looked like a pimple. Unlike a typical pimple, it would often bleed, scab over and repeat that process. It never seemed to heal.

“I made an appointment with my dad’s dermatologist to have it looked at,” she told The Mighty. “The dermatologist took a quick look at it, told me I had skin cancer and said he was going to do radiation on the area.”

Judy Cloud before surgery

You can imagine how shocked Cloud was to hear the word “cancer” — she said hearing it spoken so bluntly was a bit unnerving. Hesitant to undergo radiation on her face, especially so close to her eye, she told her dermatologist she would be back in touch. She went home and did some research on skin cancer, then opted to make an appointment with a plastic surgeon who was highly recommended by a coworker.

“When I had my appointment with the plastic surgeon, he told me that he wouldn’t recommend radiation on the face and that his recommendation was surgery to remove the cancerous area,” she said. “He soon thereafter performed the surgery and at a follow-up appointment told me it was basal cell carcinoma.”

That same doctor treated Cloud’s basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer that has more than four million cases of it diagnosed in the U.S. each year, for the next twenty years until his retirement in 2015. Since then, she’s had numerous areas of skin cancer areas, with all but one diagnosed as basal cell carcinoma. That one exception was squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common and deadly skin cancer.

With these appearances came several surgeries to remove the spots, and her most intensive surgery happened in the fall of 2015 to remove 23 places at once. She shared the journey before and after 3-hour surgery in a Facebook album titled”Skin Cancer.” She started posting photos the morning of the surgery and shared them up to four weeks after to show the recovery process.

The description of her album reads:

This is skin cancer. This is the result of using tanning beds when I was younger. This is the result of having numerous sunburns as a child and teen, and not being religious about applying sunscreen, and staying out in the sun far too long as a teen and into my 20’s and even early 30’s.

Below are some photos from that album.

Heading to the hospital.

Judy Cloud before surgery heading to hospital

Six hours post-surgery.

Judy Cloud 6 hours post surgery

The morning after surgery.

Judy Cloud morning after surgery

Three days post-surgery.

Judy Cloud 3 days post surgery

Four days post-surgery.

Judy Cloud 4 days post surgery

Five days post- surgery.

Judy Cloud 5 days post surgery chest wounds

judy cloud arm dot

Judy Cloud leg wraps

Six days post-surgery.

Judy Cloud 6 days post surgery

Eight days post-surgery.

Judy Cloud 8 days post surgery

Ten days post-surgery.

Judy Cloud 10 days post surgery

Thirteen days post-surgery.

Judy Cloud 13 days post surgery

Judy Cloud incision wound on thigh 13 days post surgery

Fourteen days after surgery.

Judy Cloud 2 weeks post surgery

Seventeen days post-surgery.

Judy Cloud lower leg incision 17 days post surgery

Twenty-one days post-surgery.

Judy Cloud 3 weeks post surgery

Twenty-eight days after surgery.

Judy Cloud 4 weeks post surgery

“Total billed for my outpatient procedure? $26,845.87,” Cloud wrote in the album’s description. “I know tanning salons advertise tanning packages that are cheap. Does a surgery to correct what the tanning bed does to you still make the tanning special sound cheap?”

Cloud first shared the album with her Facebook friends a month after this surgery. She didn’t want to make it public, even after a friend insisted Cloud share her story with others. When she finally gave in and made the album public, the album got over 7,000 likes.

“I received numerous messages on Facebook from people after they saw my story,” she said. “Some wanted to share words of support, some wanted to thank me for changing their mind about going to tanning beds, some wanted to let me know how much they appreciate knowing they aren’t alone in their battle with skin cancer.”

Since sharing her story, Cloud has been busy raising awareness for skin cancer. She’s collaborated with Coolibar, a sun protective clothing company, the American Cancer Society and the Health Union. She even had an author contact her to ask if she could use her skin cancer journey as the basis for a storyline in her novel “Love Is More Than Skin Deep.”

Cloud said she will most likely continue to have new areas of skin cancer appear on her body for the rest of her life. After her 2015 surgery, she went for a year-and-a-half with no new areas appearing, but this past summer she had two new spots appear. “Unfortunately, skin cancer isn’t always a one and done,” she said, “Some people have new areas continue to appear.”

Judy Cloud and daughter

The reoccurances haven’t stopped her from spending time with her family or advocating for skin cancer awareness and reform. Cloud hopes people will start to take skin cancer seriously and do all they can to help prevent themselves and their loved ones from getting it. She also hopes the U.S. will follow the lead of some other countries that have banned tanning salons.

“There’s no question that tanning beds are a leading cause of melanoma and that melanoma is one of the most common cancers in young people,” she said.

“Having a tan isn’t worth dying for.”

Judy Cloud today

You can see the rest of Cloud’s Skin Cancer album on Facebook.

All photos courtesy of Judy Cloud

Originally published: November 17, 2017
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