Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Tough One

I have written about four versions of this post and deleted all of them before publishing them.

So I'm going to jump right in.

I finally went to my dermatologist yesterday.  I was scared to do this.  I did not want to do this really.  No, it's not because of my random adult acne that pops up once every six weeks, it was because of my moles.

You see, I've always had moles.  And I've always known that about 20 years ago, my mom had a melanoma removed.  So I went to the derm, and got looked at.  And most of the time it's always fine, but after the last year and a half, I'm more proactive about getting anything removed that bugs me.  So I got three taken off yesterday-one on my chest, one on my left arm, and one on my back.

To most people, melanoma is just that, it's a mole that has irregular borders, is asymmetrical, has off colors, is large, or looks off.  And that's how melanoma starts.  But I want to tell you that melanoma is a beast of a cancer.  

My mom has melanoma.  She had melanoma on her back removed.  And then, years later in November 2011, on a random chance, her cardiologist noticed something on a chest x-ray.  It turned out to be a melanoma, on the lung.  So my mom had half of her lung removed, clean margins, etc.

Then, in early February, my dad called me from Florida where they were snow-birding, and said that my mom had a stroke and was in the hospital.  She had emergency surgery to remove a hemorrhaging melanoma tumor from her brain.  

So now, my very strong, kind, and brave mom is doing chemo.  To me, and my family, this cancer that most people see as a surface problem has become something that can invade your tissues, your brain, and places in your body that never see the sun, and really scare the crap out of you in the process.

With summer beginning, please see your dermatologist, or find one and start going.  I tanned in high school, I've gotten sunburns, but none of that means it's "too late" for anyone, including me.  Her exact words to me were, "Just because you have a family history doesn't mean you're doomed at all."  If you're in your 20s or 30s, now is the time to go and get a skin check.  I was there for one hour-from registering to checking out, including have three scraped off!  Painless and easy.

Here are a couple key points my derm gave me:
  • SPF 50-65.  Anything above 65 isn't going to be remarkably better at protecting you from the rays.  The key is to reapply every two hours, no matter the level of protection, from 30 to 100.
  • Avoid peak sun hours.  If I'm going to be active outside, running, etc.  it's best to do it early in the morning or in the evening.  That window of 10-3?  Not the ideal time for getting the 3-miler in.
  • Cover up in the sun.  Aside from using sunscreen, wear a hat, or find a cute pool cover-up.  Nothing will block 100% of the sun, but a super cute wide-brimmed hat can't hurt.
  • See the derm as often as they say to see them.  So, I had three moles removed.  None of them are particularly scary or worrisome, but we agreed that there's no point in keeping anything, and that it's better to err on the side of caution.  If your doc says to follow up in six months, follow up then and don't wait a full year!
I also found this nice infographic on the AAD's website, which is an easy reminder of what to look for in a sunscreen.

And because this is my favorite beauty blog anyways, here is MaskCara's self-tanning tutorial vid so that you can still bask in the glow of summer:

So, my final plea:  Go see a dermatologist!  Melanoma is literally not just skin-deep.  My mom always saw her derm and was cautious, but there are so many things as young people that you can do to stop sun damage!  I'm the first person to admit to having made poor choices, but there's no way a tan is worth your life, guys.  


  1. Oh man...I have a mole on my chest, left arm, and back that I am all getting checked out in 2 weeks. I am looking forward to my derm appointment since they are making me a little nervous, and I just want them gone. I am so sorry to hear about mom. I pray that she stays strong and pulls through!

  2. This is a great post, Sara! Thank you for such an important reminder- just bought some new sunscreen yesterday!! :) sending your mom lots of love and you too!

  3. love you the most. You already know it but still. This is an incredible post girlfriend!

  4. I'm sorry to hear about your mom, I'll be thinking of her while she rocks out her chemo, which she will of course!! Because heck look how much she's done already. What sunscreen do you use?

  5. Sending lots of love and support to your mom. This is a great post and I wish more people would realize the awful effects of tanning. I am like you and have moles removed all the time. I am probably up to 30 or 40 removed by now. Thankfully I am to the point where I only have to go to the derm once a year, but was doing every 6 months for awhile.

    I wish I would have known what I know about tanning now when I was a teenager and college student. The thought of how much tanning I did just kills me.

  6. Good reminder. Made a note to find a dermatologist. I'm way too fair to not have one. Lots of good thoughts for your mom.

  7. thanks for this great reminder! and thinking good thoughts about your mom!!

  8. Such a great post. My dad has stage 3 c melanoma (a step away from terminal) and it's horrifying. This is great just before summer. We are not immune to it! And thinking if your mom.

  9. Always sending good vibes and prayers to your momma, Sara!

    Had my first full body scan last week - I had known that my doctor wanted a mole to be looked at for over 5 years and kept procrastinating - a little thing called fear, I suppose. But, I finally went in, got it removed, got the fully body check and feel much better about taking control of my health.

    Great post! xo

  10. I'm so sorry to hear of your momma but thank you for sharing as well as getting the facts out. I have dark dark freckles in places that I need to get checked out and my dad has extremely bad skin cancer. I think you may have convinced me to think more about this and do as you have said and go get my body checked. I'll keep your family in my prayers!

    Thanks for linking up as well :)

  11. Oh Sara, I'm sorry to hear about your mom! Your family is in my prayers! If you need anything let me know, I can definitely relate to what you're going through because I had to get moles removed for the same reason.



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