My story of malignant melanoma


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Skin cancer has been a part of my life since I was 20 years old. 

I have always loved being outside. Growing up in Kentucky, I spent as much time as I could in the sun.  I come from a family of sun-lovers who vacationed at the beach each summer, but sunscreen wasn’t part of our lives. As a teenager, I tried to get that ‘deep, dark tropical tan’ by skipping the suntan oil and just slathering baby oil on my skin!

I eventually tanned, but I often ended up with a mild (and, sometimes, a substantial) sunburn. 

Those actions were not smart.  For anyone.  Anyone can get skin cancer, but there’s a greater risk for people like me:

  • a lighter complexion,
  • skin that burns, freckles, or reddens easily,
  • blue or green eyes,
  • blond or red hair,
  • certain types and a large number of moles,
  • family or personal history of skin cancer.

I can put a check mark on almost all of the risk factors.

So, after that first frightening diagnosis in 1984 that involved several surgeries and left a prominent scar across my chest, I made a conscious effort to protect my skin.

I was more than a little surprised when I received a second malignant melanoma diagnosis in 2016.

Malignant melanoma is the third most common skin cancer. It is more dangerous and causes the most deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says to see a doctor if you notice changes in your skin or mole or if you have a sore that doesn’t heal. 

Changing moles were the red flags in both my skin cancer incidents. My mother noticed the first one when I came home on break from college.  My husband noticed a changing mole on my shoulder in the second incident.  Now, I have skin checks with a dermatologist twice a year…and more often if I notice anything suspicious on my skin.

I still love being outside, and I’m looking forward to the warmer weather and sunshine…but I’ll be enjoying it with my daily dose of sunscreen!

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.

The two most common types of skin cancer—basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas—are highly curable, but can be disfiguring and costly to treat.

Melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more dangerous and causes the most deaths. The majority of these three types of skin cancer are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.

Find out more about skin cancer here


Regardless of whether you have any of the risk factors listed above, reducing your exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can help keep your skin healthy and lower your chances of getting skin cancer in the future.

  • Most people get at least some UV exposure from the sun when they spend time outdoors. Making sun protection an everyday habit will help you to enjoy the outdoors safely, avoid getting a sunburn, and lower your skin cancer risk.

  • Indoor tanning (using a tanning bed, booth, sunbed, or sunlamp to get tan) exposes users to high levels of UV radiation for the purpose of getting a tan. When UV rays reach the skin’s inner layer, the skin makes more melanin. Melanin is the pigment that colors the skin. It moves toward the outer layers of the skin and becomes visible as a tan.

A change in your skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. This could be a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a change in a mole.

ExternalNot all skin cancers look the same.

A simple way to remember the signs of melanoma is to remember the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma:

  • “A” stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
  • “B” stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?
  • “C” is for color. Is the color uneven?
  • “D” is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
  • “E” is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?

Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, a change in an old growth, or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.



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