53 days is all it took to have a mole checked to being diagnosed with melanoma - to now being cancer free.
Rewind 53 days.
I had a small mole on my left forearm. Not a new mole, an old mole; it’s been with me forever. But this summer people starting noticing it. Telling me I had a tick, trying to pick it off.
I brushed off those comments with an eye roll.
Then people like my parents and best friends started to comment. People who had seen my mole before.
That made me start watching it myself. It did start to get a little bigger, changing colors and getting more sensitive to the touch.
But life was busy. I was busy. I was going to “get around” to making an appointment to have it checked out.
Fast forward to meeting a bride we were planning to photograph her elopement. We were chatting and I learned about her journey of skin cancer. It started with a mole she also put off having checked. After treatment she is also now cancer free.
After hearing her story - I took it as a sign to make my own appointment.
After having what I assumed was a simple mole removed - they office called and said my simple mole was melanoma.
I didn’t know what that meant. Did I have cancer? Did I just have a mole? Is my arm going to fall off?
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer - which develops in the cells that produce melanin. It is common with more than 200,000 US cases per year.
We caught the mole early. But it was also just big enough that another surgery was needed.
December 5 I had another surgery. Where more margins were removed around the mole site. Also had a lymphnode biopsy - to test if the melanoma had started to spread.
Dec. 19 I got the call that my results were all negative and I was clear.
In the giant world of cancer - my experience has been minimal. But the “C” word is scary - no matter how tiny it is.
I’m not trying to sit here and give a “live your life to the fullest” speech, but it puts your priorities in order. And putting yourself first is important.
I put off having that mole check for months.
And had I kept putting it off, I may not have been so lucky to only have had to undergo a minimal surgery.
I will continue to have my skin checked every three months for the next year.
Which will then move to six months and then yearly checks.
I share my story now to help be someone else’s “sign.”
Watch for the ABCD’s of your moles.
A: asymmetry - when half the mole does not match the other half
B: border - when the boarders of the mole are irregular/ragged
C: color - when the color of the mole varies
D: diameter - if the diameter is larger than a pencil eraser.
I’m so thankful for the support of Jon, my family, friends and coworkers during this experience.
I’m still rocking this club of a swollen arm and my career as a left forearm model is probably over. But I’m thankful for the best Christmas present of being cancer-free.
And remember, always wear sunscreen.
After photos: @llphoto_