When I tell people that I was diagnosed with melanoma and the surgeries that I have had, they just look at me shaking their heads, saying “but you are so young”. I am originally from Michigan, as a child I spent my summers out on the Great Lakes with my family. I have had the burns, with the blisters. I am blonde and fair skin, and of course growing up you want to have some sort of color. In high school, I had a membership to a tanning salon. I was always playing sports outside, and the last thing you thought about was making sure you had enough sunscreen on.
Well, that all changed for me in the fall of 2005, when I went to my dermatologist regarding some concerns that I had about a mole. My dermatologist did a biopsy; I got the call a few weeks later from the office saying that he wanted to meet with me. I remember going to the office after work, and meeting with him. He said that he set up an appointment with me the next day at the University of Michigan Melanoma Clinic. I remember just walking out of that office and calling my parents and crying on the phone breaking this news to them. So the next day my parents and I went to the University of Michigan Melanoma Clinic, they looked me over and scheduled me for surgery. I had surgery the following week on my upper left chest, and they removed 3 lymph nodes from under my left arm. Here I was at the age of 28, being diagnosed with stage II melanoma. With the surgery, I had clean margins of the incision and my lymph nodes were clean.
Shortly after this I moved to Boston for my job, and my doctors at the University of Michigan set up my doctors for me at Mass. General Hospital, and I love my doctors at Mass. General and the support system there. Since moving to Boston, I have had three more surgeries, and everything has come back clean. So, at the age of 31 I have had 4 surgeries, and I have scars on my forehead, my back, my chest, my thigh, and my hip. But every day I look at these scars, I realize that these are my “battle scars”, and that I am a very lucky girl. There is a reason why I keep fighting this, so I can get my word out there, and have people see and understand the importance of sun safety. I wish I could take those days back when I was younger, but I can’t, and I will just keep fighting.