UNPOLISHED – My Skin Cancer Story

Charleston Flowers

This post is a bit different than my usual fashion and beauty posts. I always like to keep things light and happy around here, but the reality is life isn’t always light and happy. I may appear “polished” in my blog posts, but I want to start sharing more of the “unpolished” parts of my life. We are all imperfect humans living in an imperfect world, and I hope that by sharing some of my experiences that it may help someone, somewhere, in some way.

It all started with a little spot on my abdomen.

I had noticed it when I showered and didn’t really think much of it. I assumed that it was probably just a freckle or a mole, and my hypochondriac self should probably just ignore it. As days and weeks went on, my eyes kept getting drawn to this little spot, and I began to notice that it was different than any other freckles I had. It was a lot darker, and the edges were a little jagged. Still, I tried to ignore it and thought I would maybe just mention it to my dermatologist the next time I went in. A few months later, Garrett and I were on vacation in New Mexico and I decided to ask Garrett if the spot looked weird to him. If you don’t know Garrett, he is usually super laid back and never worries about anything. Being the hypochondriac that I am, he is always the one telling me not to worry and to stop Googling things. However, this time his response was different. I showed him the spot and he insisted that I make an appointment with the dermatologist as soon as possible. This was not like him at all. He doesn’t have a medical background, but even he knew that it did not look right. As soon as we were back from vacation, I scheduled an appointment to get it checked out. The dermatologist agreed that it looked abnormal, so he took a biopsy.

I was at work when I got the call that it was in fact melanoma. Skin cancer.

Needless to say, I was terrified. That word is just scary, and not something I ever thought I would have to deal with. The good news is that it was a very early stage of melanoma (literally the earliest they could possibly catch it). I was able to have it surgically removed, and although I am left with a not-so-pretty 4 inch scar on my abdomen, it is such a relief to know that it didn’t spread beyond that. Another spot on my back was biopsied, and while it came back negative for melanoma, it was considered highly abnormal. It had to be surgically removed as well to ensure that it didn’t turn into melanoma, which meant also removing about an inch of skin on either side of it to clear the margins. I think about how different my story would have been if I had ignored it, and it just makes me so thankful that I acted quickly. I have to go back to the dermatologist every 3 months to check all my spots so that if any others turn into melanoma we will be able to catch it right away. Still, when the doctor tells me a spot looks normal, I can’t help but think “what if he’s wrong?” I have to just trust and pray that he knows what he’s doing, and again, be thankful that I caught it so early. Others aren’t that lucky.

So now what? Where do I go from here?

I’m not going to live my life in fear, but I am going to be much more cautious. Sunscreen is SO important, and it’s not something I can afford to forget anymore. No more laying out in the sun – shade is officially my new best friend. It makes me cringe to think of all the times I would lay out in the sun for hours without sunscreen, and all the times I baked myself in the tanning bed (although it has probably been 5 or 6 years since I’ve used one). There’s no way to know the exact moment that the melanoma formed or what specific instance caused it. We all know that UV rays can cause skin cancer, but you never think something like that will ever happen to you. When you’re young, you feel invincible, and that leads to making stupid choices. I can’t undo the past, I can only make better decisions from here on out and be thankful that it’s not as bad as it could be. Reality checks suck, but they can also be lifesavers.

What are the signs of melanoma?

If you have a spot that concerns you, don’t ignore it. It never hurts to get a doctor’s opinion, and it could save your life. The Mayo Clinic has some great information about melanoma, including the causes and symptoms. You can use the “ABCDE” method to identify an unusual mole:

A – ASYMMETRICAL SHAPE
B – BORDER IS IRREGULAR
C – CHANGES IN COLOR
D – DIAMETER (larger than 1/4 in.)
E – EVOLVING

While this checklist is helpful, it’s not meant to diagnose skin cancer and it doesn’t 100% apply to every situation. There are many forms of skin cancer, and it’s a good idea to schedule a yearly skin check with your dermatologist. My hope is that by sharing my story, it may remind someone to schedule that appointment, or to opt for the higher SPF sunscreen. Don’t live your life in fear, just be aware of the dangers of sun exposure and know that if it can happen to me, it can happen to you.

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Comments

  1. I have had 2 irregular moles cut off that my doctor told me he caught in the nick of time. My uncle passed away from melanoma, so I completely understand your fear. It was so scary when I wasn’t sure what mine were. So glad you are ok!

    McKenna stylewaltz.com

    • So sorry to hear about your uncle, McKenna. Glad to hear yours were removed in time. Regular skin checks are SO important!

    • Thank you so much, Courtney! I am so glad they were able to remove it all, but still can’t help but be worried that more will pop up. Just gotta do what I can to protect my skin!

    • Yes, definitely go get a skin check! Even if you don’t have spots you’re concerned about right now, it never hurts to have a doctor take a look.

  2. I’ve unfortunately seen melanoma hit 3 different people in my family and it’s a scary thing. Glad to hear you’re on the other side of it now but like you said, you can never be too careful with trying to prevent it from happening again!

    -Morgan
    How 2 Wear It [] http://how2wearit.com

    • Oh my goodness, that is awful. I hope they were able to have it removed. I am so thankful mine hadn’t spread further than the top layer of my skin.

    • I wish I would have been more worried about skin cancer, and maybe I wouldn’t have stepped foot in a tanning salon. Just gotta be more cautious from now on! Good for you for wearing sunscreen every day!

  3. This was such a transparent post, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I’m so happy you caught it early and they were able to remove it! Xo

    Jamaria | throughjamseyes.com

    • I am so glad, too. I will be getting skin checks for the rest of my life, but at least I have some comfort knowing that a doctor is monitoring me. Thanks so much for stopping by!

    • Thanks so much, Adriana! I almost decided not to share, but I felt compelled to remind people that skin cancer can happen to anyone. You can never be too careful!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story and experiences. This is always so scary and something a lot of people forget to check!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I can relate because I was diagnosed with cancer last year. Luckily, I finished chemo and now only go in for treatments every 6 months. That’s my mentally and not live in fear. You are amazing girl! From one survivor to another 🙂

    http://www.rdsobsessions.com

  6. I can only imagine how terrifing this experience could be for you. I’m glad they caught it at early stage and removed it. You are right, when we are young we don’t think it can happan to us. Thanks for sharing your story. xx

    Nina’s Style Blog

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