February 21, 2019 | Amanda Carpenter, MEF Ambassador
“That will never happen to me.”
Like so many teenagers, I sat in the sun for hours slathered in tanning oil. I promised my mother I would wear sunscreen, but my blistering red skin always revealed my lie. To this day, I cringe thinking of what I did back then. I knew better. I knew the risks. As a child, I watched as my grandmother lost a grueling four-year battle with Melanoma. Like so many teenagers, I thought “That will never happen to me.” But I was wrong. When I was eighteen I noticed a mole on my back that would often become irritated from rubbing on my clothing. I have always been aware to look out for any changes or symptomatic moles due to my family history, which prompted me to have this examined by a dermatologist. I made an appointment and the dermatologist told me not to worry; the mole looked harmless. It looked benign.
There was no reason for a biopsy. But that information didn’t sit well with me. Something was telling me to push my doctor and have the mole removed. I knew my body and something about this mole just wasn’t right. I knew to look out for anything changing on my skin. I knew I was at higher risk for developing Melanoma because of my family history. I knew I needed this mole biopsied. I pushed, and finally, my dermatologist agreed to take a biopsy.
A few weeks later, I received a call that the biopsy showed Melanoma in situ, which is Melanoma in its earliest form. I was completely shocked. The surgeon performed a wide local excision to remove it, and my yearly skin checks became even more frequent. The fact that I listened to my body and my instincts and advocated for myself spared me much more invasive treatment, and maybe even saved my life. If I had not gone to see my dermatologist and pushed for the biopsy my Melanoma could have had a very different outcome.
Melanoma can happen to anyone. And even if you never burn, even if you don’t have fair skin and freckles, and even if you are young, it can happen to you. Get a baseline skin check, know your ABCDE’s, and get to know your body and your dermatologist. You are your best advocate.