Sunday, February 6, 2011

Wear sunscreen, trust your instinct, and be grateful.

Last Monday, Stephen and I got some pretty scary and upsetting news.  About a week before I had seen a dermatologist and happened to mention that I did not like a small bump I had under my right eye.  She became concerned when she examined the small mark and said that she thought it should be removed and biopsied.  On Monday as I was in the car on my way home with both kiddos, I got a strange message from the doctor.  They explained that my biopsy had come back and that I had basal cell carcinoma and would need to have a surgical procedure to remove the cancer.

Luckily, basal cell carcinoma is, as the doctor said, "the best kind of skin cancer to be diagnosed with."  The cancer is slow growing, and while it is malignant, it rarely affects your health and can usually be removed with a noninvasive procedure (Mohs surgery) where they remove the cancel cells piece by piece until they have gotten all the cells.  Basal cell cancer is most often caused by sun exposure.  If you have had an immediate family member diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma you are at a much higher risk.  Other risk factors include fair conplexion, light hair color, and light colored eyes.  While I have always been diligent about sunscreen, I have gotten a few burns here and there and am at an increased risk because my father has also had some skin cancer spots.

Part of what made this diagnosis so scary was that I had the mark for a very long time.  Roughly four years ago, the mark appeared and I saw a dermatologist who was very dismissive of my concerns.  When I asked him to remove it (which would have shown that it was skin cancer) he told me I was too worried and that I was basically being vain.  I should have trusted my instincts about the mark and insisted that it be removed.  I have seen several dermatologists about it since then, but because he was so dismissive about the mark, I did not even ask about it until recently.

On Thursday, I had a procedure to remove the cancer.  Because the mark had been there so long it had spread and I had to have more skin removed than we had hoped.  While it is over now, I will say that the procedure was one of the most unpleasant experiences I have had.  That said, it could have been much worse and I am lucky that I only had to have nine stitches.

I share all of this to provide some education about skin cancer and to encourage everyone to wear sunscreen!  Sunscreen is so important, even if you are not going to be in direct sunlight.  Sun damage can happen even when reflecting off of other surfaces.  Hats, sunglasses, and protective clothing can help protect your skin.  Make sure your lotions, including face lotion, eye cream etc, contain SPF.  Also, if you  have kiddos with light complexions, sunscreen at an early age is absolutely necessary.  Trust your instincts about your body and see your dermatologist on a regular basis, especially if you are like me and have a fairer complexion or family history of skin cancers.  I am very young to have been diagnosed with it, but my dermotalogist shared that she is seeing more young people diagnosed with skin cancer.  The surgeon who performed my surgery said that he treated a patient as young as nineteen.  

And finally, after my initial upset and vanity, this experience has again reminded me how important it is to be thankful for all that we have.  I am lucky to have such a wonderful and supportive husband and family.  They have all been so supportive this week as always.  Things can change so quickly in our lives and we need to be grateful for all that we have.  I have much to be thankful for, most importantly, my health!


  1. We are so happy that every is ok and we are very grateful! It was very scary. The whole experience makes me realize how I need to see a dermatologist. I always wear sunscreen but I didn't all the years I lived in SC, spending every day at the pool or beach.

  2. amazing that several docs said not to worry about it!

  3. What a are lucky you went to the dermatologist! My sister has had several cancerous moles removed over the past year. After everything she has been through it really taught me to stay out of the sun. I have even gotten air brushed tan a few times this year. SPF!!!!! xx

  4. I don't know how I only just saw this post - what a scare that was! Good for you going with your gut on it, too. So glad to hear all is okay now. I need to go get my skin checked too - I'm very fair and have burned my skin more times than I'd like to admit.