My Melanoma Story: The Sun’s Deadly Kiss

My Melanoma Story: The Sun’s Deadly Kiss

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I know I have been distant and haven’t been posting very much lately, but I’m slowly resurfacing. My life was on hold for a little while, after I got biopsy results that a mole removed from my leg was Melanoma. Yes, cancer. I want to share my Melanoma story with you.

I have put a lot of thought into how and if I was even going to share this with you. I made the decision to share my story with you, but before I do, I want you to understand why I’m telling you my melanoma story. I am not telling you my story for sympathy. I’m telling you my story in hopes that it will save you or someone you know from having to go through what I have been going through for the past two months.

I want to create awareness that it is not “just skin cancer”.
Having a mole removed sounds like no big deal until they tell you that have cancer.
Melanoma is a big deal.
It is cancer and it will kill you!
You need to know this because I didn’t.

This is my melanoma story. I’m telling you my story in hopes that it will save someone's life. Help me raise awareness SHARE WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS PLEASE! |

My Melanoma Story Starts Here…

No doubt, I have abused my skin in the sun and the tanning bed through the years. I also have a family history with non-melanoma skin cancers. Like many, having a tan made me feel good. It was nice during the summer months to be tan. My skin is fair and It took a lot of work, but by the beginning of summer, I was lightly bronzed.

For about six months, I had been watching a mole on my leg evolve. It was just above my right knee and about the size of a pea. It had all the classic characteristics of what the experts say to watch out for:

The ABCDE’s of Melanoma

  • Asymmetry
  • Border – Irregular Shape
  • Color – Started of light and became darker over time with red edges
  • Diameter – the size of a pea or pencil eraser
  • Evolving – In 6 months time, the mole grew and became darker

I may have been ignorant about my sun exposure, but at least I knew what to look out for. This mole was an angry-looking beast and it wasn’t going away. Instead, it was getting bigger. Not knowing just how bad the beast growing on my skin was, I allowed it to stay there. I put off getting it checked out. Part of it was fear and part of it was ignorance.

This is my melanoma story. I’m telling you my story in hopes that it will save someone's life. Help me raise awareness SHARE WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS PLEASE! |
This is what Melanoma looks like. Black, irregular shaped, with red edges. There was a nick still in it from where I cut it with the razor. [Photo courtesy of my dermatologist]

I realized I needed to get this mole taken care of, one night when I was in the shower shaving. I skimmed over the mole with a razor. It bled, until after I got out of the shower, but I never felt it. It was painless. It didn’t burn, didn’t sting. It just bled. Something is truly wrong when something that ugly is cut and there is no feeling of pain whatsoever. The bleeding stopped and within a day, it looked just as ugly as it always had.

I called a dermatologist near where we live, but I was told that they were not seeing new patients until February 2016! I didn’t even bother calling the family practice where I go for general health care. I guess they could have gotten me into that particular dermatologist sooner, but there was no time for that. I knew it was not wise to wait any longer. I started to search for another dermatologist an hour away from home, but near where David and I work. A doctor’s appointment near work wouldn’t require as much time off to make the visit and I could go and come back during a long lunch break. I made an appointment for about a week and a half after I cut the mole. Much better than waiting another 3 months!

My initial visit with my dermatologist was the first Friday of November. During this visit, the dermatologist did a thorough skin check all over my body. After years of abuse, my weathered skin has a lot of moles, heck I think I was even born with moles. She was thorough and notated a few watch spots on my chart, but there was nothing of major concern. She also checked out another place on my face I was concerned about. She saved that ugly mole until last for evaluation.

This is my melanoma story. I’m telling you my story in hopes that it will save someone's life. Help me raise awareness SHARE WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS PLEASE! |
[Photo courtesy of my dermatologist]

Doctors have great poker faces, but sometimes if you look at their eyes they will tell you what’s really going on. As I looked at her eyes while she was inspecting the mole, I could see the concern in them. She told me she wanted to do a biopsy and quickly made arrangements for me to come in early on Monday morning. She wanted me in her office before her normal day started to do the biopsy right away.

David and I commute into the city together. A normal workday for us starts off at 5:00 a.m. We leave the house about 5:45. David drives in the morning. I drop him off at work at 7:00 a.m. and then drive about 2 miles down the road to my job. Our workdays begin at 7:30. That particular Monday, I dropped David off, but instead of going to work, I went to my dermatologist for the biopsy. I arrived a lot earlier than my appointment but went ahead inside. I was surprised to find the office already bustling for the day. I didn’t have to wait, but just a few minutes before I was called back to begin the biopsy.

During the biopsy, I was laying flat on my back on the examining table, with a small pillow under my head. I couldn’t see what was going on, but I think I would have watched her make the incision if given the opportunity. After a few stings from a needle and slight pressure from the dermatologist’s hands, it was all over. The dermatologist said it would take 1-2 weeks to get the results from the biopsy. If it came back ok, they would call me and let me know. If it was more complicated, then I would be called to come back into the office to discuss the results. I was at work within an hour of my normal start time. I went on about my day and about my week.

This is my melanoma story. I’m telling you my story in hopes that it will save someone's life. Help me raise awareness SHARE WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS PLEASE! |
The biopsy site 1 month after the mole was removed. Taken the night before surgery, December 4th.

I leave work at 3:30 p.m., and go back to David’s work to pick him up. I have to wait about 20 minutes for him to complete his day. On Thursday, just 4 days after the biopsy was done, I was sitting in the car waiting for David to come out. It had been a long week and I  was relieved I didn’t have to go home and clean (I clean thoroughly clean house every other Thursday). All I wanted to do was go home, eat pizza and watch TV. That sigh of relief and thoughts of pizza and TV were rudely interrupted by my ringing phone. I was receiving an incoming call from the dermatologist’s office. I answered the phone. It was a nurse from the dermatologist office. She wanted to know if I had time to come by the office that evening, the doctor wanted to review my biopsy results with me. She didn’t provide any information and I didn’t ask her any questions. I knew it wasn’t good. I agreed to come in as soon as I could. She told me I would more than likely have to wait a while before I could be worked in to see the doctor.

Upset, I called David and told him about the call and that we had to stop by. He was willing to drop everything to come out a few minutes earlier. But I insisted that he finish up because we had plenty of time. Within 10 minutes, he was in the car and we were off to the dermatologist office.

The nurse wasn’t lying. We waited for what seemed like months. Watching patients go and come. So much for going home to relax eating pizza. Finally, the nurse called me back. I was very nervous. The nurse routinely checked my vitals. She was in a good mood kind of joking and carrying on like she would with any patient. She told me my blood pressure was the highest reading of the day. I told her it was because I didn’t know why I was there or what was going on. As soon as I said that, her face went into “doctor poker face”. Showing no emotion. She finished up, told me the doctor would be in soon and left the room. Another clue that my results were bad.

Shaking like a leaf sitting on the office table, David and I tried to make small talk and he attempted to try to calm my nerves. After another long 10-15 minutes, the dermatologist knocked on the door. She came in greeted me and introduced herself to David. She gave a quick look at my biopsy site, then pulled up a stool and laid my chart up on the table.

“The results of the biopsy show that the mole was Melanoma,” she said.

Even though I knew what she was going to say, to hear it confirmed was a shock to the system. I tried my best to keep up with what she was telling us. She was very thorough in explaining the results. One of the major factors that determine the treatment needed for melanoma is the thickness of the melanoma itself. The melanoma removed from my leg was 1.2 millimeters thick. (To give you a size comparison, a dime is 1 millimeter thick. So the melanoma removed from my leg was a little thicker than a dime.) The melanoma potentially had grown deeper than the top layer of skin. That meant that at that point I was in the Melanoma Stage 1 Category. This meant I needed to seek treatment from a specialist. More than likely, I would need surgery to ensure clear margins and at the same time have a sentinel lymph node biopsy to ensure that cancer had not spread into my body.

My new-found dermatologist had taken the liberty of calling the Inova Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center, in Fairfax, Virginia, to have me worked in the following week. They wanted me to spend the day there, so they could begin examinations and testing. I could not have picked a better dermatologist to go to. She had put me on the fast track from day one. She gave me a detailed explanation of the findings, the next steps for treatment and was willing to answer all of our questions.

David and I were absorbing, but she couldn’t answer the one question we had:

Did I still have cancer?

That lazy pizza night turned into a restless one. I couldn’t stop Googling melanoma and scaring myself to death. For the next few days, I was in a daze. From the time I’d wake up in the morning until night when I laid down in the bed, cancer was all I could think about. I thought about things I had never wanted to think about: the end of life. I didn’t allow myself to stay there, but I wouldn’t be normal if I didn’t go there. Until my appointment day, my brain was like scrambled eggs.

The day for my appointments at the Inova Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center arrived. I spent the better part of a day there and had appointments all morning. First, I saw a nurse practitioner, who eased my nerves and put a lot of our fears to rest from the very start. She had a copy of the pathology report and carefully went into each detail of what the report meant, and how staging cancer worked to determine where I was. Her explanation of things immediately relaxed a lot of our concerns. After the detailed explanation, she proceeded to do a thorough skin check and then I briefly awaited visits from the head dermatologist, the oncologist, and the surgeon. Each doctor felt of my lymph nodes and I had a couple more thorough skin checks by each of them.

Before lunchtime that day it was determined that I needed surgery. I was being scheduled for a surgical procedure called a “wide excision” and at the same time, they were going to do a sentinel lymph node biopsy.

On this same day, they made an appointment for me to walk over to see a plastic surgeon. Since the melanoma was so close to my knee, there was concern about the closure of the surgery site and keeping my knee functional. The plastic surgeon would more than likely be doing the closure of the incision. He specializes in rebuilding lives after cancer.

I also had all the ordered labs for blood work, an ECG of my heart (since I have high blood pressure) and a chest x-ray. It was a long day, but I was able to get so much accomplished. I was surrounded by top specialists that networked beautifully together. It took a lot of stress out of the situation. All that was accomplished on that day was done at a single campus. We never once had to move the car from the parking garage. Best of all I wouldn’t need to take any more time off from work, before the surgery.

During my visit, we were in the waiting area for my labs and saw a pretty young woman about the same age as me, if not younger. I recognized her from the radiology department when I was there for my chest x-ray. Her mother was with her. She was up at the desk talking with the receptionist about her insurance and labs. David and I overheard her mom on the phone talking about a tumor that was found. The mother’s voice was starting to quiver and she told the person on the other end of the line that she needed to off the phone before she lost it and couldn’t stop crying. I watched the pretty young woman from a distance. She was very thin. Her diagnosis was much more serious than mine. One of the doctors from my earlier appointment told me that out of the 7 new cases they had that day I had the most straightforward plan for treatment. I was called back for my labs and we didn’t see the mother and daughter again.

This is my melanoma story. I’m telling you my story in hopes that it will save someone's life. Help me raise awareness SHARE WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS PLEASE! |
Locating the lymph node for biopsy.

Surgery day was scheduled for December 4th. David and I arrived at the hospital around 6:00 and awaited my check-in for surgery. First, I went down to Nuclear Medicine, where I was injected with a blue radioactive dye at the melanoma site to determine the location of lymph node they would need to biopsy. If the cancer were to spread it would go here first. After about an hour I had an “X” hand drawn by a doctor on my groin. That “X” marked the location of the lymph node to be taken out for biopsy.

After the lymph node was identified, I was on the fast track. The lymph node had turned blue from a radioactive dye they had injected into me. If they were to wait too long they dye would clear out of my system. I went into pre-op was prepped for surgery and away I went.

This is my melanoma story. I’m telling you my story in hopes that it will save someone's life. Help me raise awareness SHARE WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS PLEASE! |
E.T. phone home? Under the influence of anesthesia.
This is my melanoma story. I’m telling you my story in hopes that it will save someone's life. Help me raise awareness SHARE WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS PLEASE! |
Bandaged and braced up.

When I awoke, my entire leg was bandaged up and I had a huge leg brace on it. I was in some pain, but the doctors and nurses quickly got that under control by injected some pain medicine in my IV. Everything went well with the surgery. They ended up taking 2 lymph nodes instead of the 1, but nothing physically looked concerning. I would have the results from the biopsy in a couple of weeks. Not long after I awoke, I was dressing to head back home. David picked up my prescription for pain meds at the hospital pharmacy and thanks to a wonderful hospital valet parking service we were on the road home to the mountain in no time. The surgery was behind me, but we still had a long two-week wait. There was a standing follow-up appointment on December 16th for the results and further treatment instruction.

For 6 LONG days, I recouped at home. I didn’t have much pain, but I was so miserably uncomfortable. With all the bandaging and that awful brace on my leg, I couldn’t shower, so I had to wash my hair in the kitchen sink and take sponge baths using the bathroom sink. I couldn’t get comfortable in bed at night. I’m a side sleeper and laying on my back took a few nights to get used to, not to mention David and I had to switch sides of the bed so it would be easier to get my right leg in and out of the bed. His Royal Highness was deeply confused about why we switched sides of the bed and pretty amusing to watch his reaction when we went to bed at night.

This is my melanoma story. I’m telling you my story in hopes that it will save someone's life. Help me raise awareness SHARE WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS PLEASE! |
Seeing my leg for the first time 1 week after surgery.

After those uncomfortable 6 days, I had a follow-up appointment with the plastic surgeon to remove the bandaging and take that awful brace off my leg for a few minutes. All was healing nicely and I was able to shower! I was not allowed to fully bend my knee. He said the brace was a safety net to ensure I didn’t bend my leg far enough to pop open the incision. I could take it off if I weren’t up walking around.

It was great taking showers again. I don’t know how people used to function without a full shower. I just NEED my shower! All of that was great, but I still didn’t have peace. I still didn’t know the one question I had from the beginning.

Did I still have cancer?

I stopped allowing myself to think anything but positive. My blood work was fine, my chest x-ray was clear. I had no physical signs that cancer was still in my body. After two long weeks, David and I went to my follow-up appointment for the results.

We waited a lot longer than the time we were there before. We sat in the examination room acting like we normally would, laughing and saying stupid stuff. Just being us, without cancer. Finally, there was a knock at the door and in came my oncologist with a folder in his hand. He pulled up a stool and pulled out some stapled papers.

The results showed that ALL WAS CLEAR!

There was no residual cancer cells found around the site of the melanoma, nor were any cancer cells found in the two lymph nodes tested.

No more signs of cancer!

Leaving the doctor’s office with such relief. Finally after weeks of not knowing, I could take a full breath and breathe again. A huge weight fell off of my shoulders, but on the way out of the driveway of the Melanoma center, I could not help but think about that poor woman getting x-rays and labs the same day I did. I teared up a little and told David:

“You know, I’m leaving this place as one of the lucky ones.”

This is my melanoma story. I’m telling you my story in hopes that it will save someone's life. Help me raise awareness SHARE WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS PLEASE! |

I am still recovering from surgery. I’ve been very sore and I am just beginning to fully bend my knee again. I will take some time, but eventually, all of that will go away. It’s nothing compared to what could have been. 

No signs of cancer doesn’t mean this is the end. I have to be very diligent with follow-up care for the coming months and years for the next 5 years. There is a 10% chance that the Melanoma could come back, whether it is through the skin near or around the original melanoma was located, it could be found in the lymph nodes (although the chances of that is extremely low – about 2-3%), or it could have spread homogeneously (meaning through the blood). I will have skin checks every 3 months and screening, labs, and x-rays every 6 months. I am to report any types of illness to the cancer center to determine if further tests would be needed. And of course, I will be diligent in caring for my skin and keeping it out of those dangerous UV Rays that got me into this mess.

I am no stranger to skin cancer. My daddy passed away with complications from squamous cell skin cancer. Cancer took his ear and it spread all over his face and arms. My mama has had multiple places removed from her arms and face. Hers was a combination of squamous and basal cell cancers. Both of my parents had non-melanoma skin cancer.

I was dumb and naive. I thought they would just cut cancer off and dig it out a little. I did not know that Melanoma was such an animal. An aggressive beast that will enter your body and try to kill you and kill you quick. A mole no bigger than the size of a pea can tear your world upside down and leave you scarred for life.

I’m not one to tell people to stop doing this and stop doing that. When I quit smoking I didn’t jump on the quit smoking bandwagon. I’m not going to jump on the no tanning bandwagon either. That is a personal decision and a battle that each person has to face on their own.

I will tell you this: If you have any suspicion at all about anything growing on your skin, DO NOT WAIT! Go get checked out as soon as possible! Make an appointment today!

I waited too long. If I had gone to get my mole checked as soon as I realized it wasn’t normal, I wouldn’t have had to go through all of what I’ve been going through the past two months. There wouldn’t have been surgery, no pain, no scars and most importantly, there wouldn’t have been any worry and the mental agony of fear itself. 

Do not be afraid! Don’t wait! Go get checked!

I now have one request. Please use the share buttons below to share my story on social media. Share it with family and friends. You could help save a life!

Thanks for listening.

This is my story. Others have stories that are much worse than this. For more information about skin cancer visit: The Skin Cancer Foundation


Courtesy of Phoenix Skin Medical Surgical Group

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18 thoughts on “My Melanoma Story: The Sun’s Deadly Kiss”

  • How wonderful that you got such good news in the end!! I have two children who have had melanoma. My daughter was nineteen – her story is much like yours only the mole was on her back. She is now 40; no recurrences but her dermatologists still do a full skin check annually.

    My son was 38, I noticed the mole one day when he squatted down to wax his car and the waistband of his pants pulled low. Right away I said “Steve there is a mole on your back that you need to have checked.” His comment was that the mole had “always” been there. My reply was, “I’m your mother and, believe me, I know what has always been there!” Well it took two weeks of nagging but he finally got an appointment. The appointment was the doctor’s last one on a Friday – I insisted on going to the appointment with him since his wife didn’t want to and I was amazed when after examining the mole the doctor said that if this was his brother he would take the entire mole off immediately without waiting for biopsy results. One problem his staff was starting to close down the office. He stepped out and asked them change their plans and stay late. They immediately agreed and got going on the surgery prep, I think they all worked probably an hour and a half to two hours overtime.
    Later we found out Steve would need a wider excision and in the end his little less-than-.5 inch mole required a nearly 5 inch incision. Wonderful doctor, wonderful results in the end. He was free of cancer. He also has yearly full-body exams and has had one recurrence on the edge of his ear which was caught very early.
    Sorry for the long story but I wanted you to know that the good news can stay good! Be vigilant, but have fun and live your life fully just as my children are! Yes! You are one of the lucky ones!

    • Wanda, thank you so much for sharing your children’s story. I really appreciate you sharing that. This has been a life changing experience, to say the least. I just want to create awareness. I know how oblivious I was. Thanks again for commenting! I’m glad your son and daughter continue living with awareness and are healthy!

  • It’s too bad that we can’t do anything about what we put in motion when we didn’t know better or weren’t as responsible. We had a neighbor boy that passed away at 19 years old of melanoma. He had a mole on his hairline. It was so sad to think if only it had been looked at sooner. I am very relieved that you got through this ordeal, and if there is any silver lining, you are on the watch lists and have people helping you search for what needs to be found. Great post my friend!

    • Thanks, Julie. I’m sorry about your neighbor. Timing is everything! If I hadn’t of gone to the dermatologist when I did, I’d still be waiting to get in now. It’s scary stuff! I hope my post can reach people in time. Precious time….

  • Oh, I am so sorry you had to go through all that! But thankfully your have made it through the darkest time. Your story is so important. I had no idea, and I will reblog this post so that others will know. Thank you for sharing!

  • I’m so sorry you had to go through all this Debbie, but thank you so much for sharing – it’s been quite awhile since my last derm appt. so you’ve inspired this gal to get my butt back in there for a check-up! I’m so glad that your diagnosis ended on a positive note and that you’re on the mend! Truly, a great and informative post!

  • Debbie! This has broken my heart. Praise God that you are healing well! You have most definitely inspired me to take a good look at myself & get any spots checked. Rest up so you can get cooking again for us 🙂 You are so loved by your bloggin’ family!!!!

    • Thank you so much, Rachel! I love my blogging family. I have missed y’all so much. I’m able to get cooking again now. Please get checked. I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I did! ?

  • Thank you for sharing your story. I too have had several moles remived and have been putting off another appointment due to the retirement of my surgeon. This was the prompting I needed. Like you, I am in Northern Virginia and the wait for appointments are insane. Would you mind sharing the name of your doctor who did the initial screening and biopsy?

  • My SIL had a mole on her face last April, concerned she went to the dermatologist and was biopsied- basal cell, had to have it removed immediately. Of course on her face above right lip would leave a nasty scar of which she freaked out. Her mother died from kidney cancer at age 47 (yes, young). A blue eyed fair skinned person she never went to tanning beds or that I am aware of sat in direct sunlight. An Officer’s daughter (US Air Force) they did move around a lot during her childhood. Settling in Florida when her Dad retired from US Air Force and was still very young and took a job with one of the local Post Offices here in Florida. That’s basically her background, master level educator still teaching elementary school. The look in her eyes was beyond reproach for me as I am an advocate to sunscreen and do not lay out in the sun. I am of Mediterranean descent and Olive Skinned anyway. Indirect UV rays can affect one so I use sunscreen constantly. Never used a tanning bed and never will. So many cases of skin cancers in Florida. People do not heed the damages that can be done. Let me tell you I do not play with it, my 5 children get sunscreen every morning (even though they are in school) and when they change clothes after school. I tease about wearing flip flops and I do but my feet, legs are smeared with sunscreen! My clothing is from Coolibar (Check out Coolibar,com) when I check my gardens, pick citrus my coolibar hat, outer wear is on me each and every time I am in direct sunlight or not. For my SIL her lip and above is numb still, the scar is just beginning to fade some, she is very conscious of it. Although, hers is the most common of skin cancers and most treatable I know in her heart of heart she constantly worries of a reoccurrence. There are no guarantees in this life. Every 3 months she is checked. Be glad you did not lose your leg my friend! That scar can be hidden behind clothing. If anything Debbie you will become much more humble then ever. Life can change in a NY minute. Cheryl

    • Thanks for sharing this, Cheryl. Yes, life is short and we are never promised tomorrow. I really don’t care about the scar. It’s a battle wound and I will be happy to share my story with anyone who asks about it. People do not realize how bad skin cancer really is. I hope your SIL continues to check out ok! <3

      • It’s August 19,2019. On Wednesday, August 14, 2019 I visited my dermatologist for the first time to check a mole that had begun to itch and bleed along my bra line on my back. Fair skinned, tanning bed lover that I am just thought it was infected. Doctor scraped a layer of the area and sent it off for testing. Fast forward to today and I get the phone call that it’s melanoma and I will need to see a plastic surgeon. Thankfully I have friends in many areas of health care due to my job. Messaged my friend and she got me in at 3:30 this afternoon. Of course I run into another friend at the same office. She sees me and asks “are you ok?” And the dam of tears that have been welling up since the earlier phone call breaks. I just lost it. I have never been through anything like this and NEVER heard the “C” word in relation to anything in my body. So scary. After I talked to my friends and the amazing doctor I felt better about what I’m facing. I will undergo the same procedures that you did. I am at 1.3 so very close to what you were. My area is a bit larger but procedure is the same. I will get my surgery date tomorrow and, once again, contact my nuclear medicine friend who will do that part and my nurse anesthesias friend who will take care of me in the OR. I will also have one or two lymph nodes removed. I’m anxious about the post surgical pathology report. I fear the unknowns. Reading your story has given me hope. I briefly thought about the potential of meeting Jesus due to this scary thing but I’m not ready for that and I’m not sure He is either. I haven’t told my two youngest children yet (20,21) because I need to calm my spirit before I explain it to them. Plus I want to have a definitive date so they can know it’s being removed. Thank you for sharing your story. I appreciate the photos and details. Blessings to you.

      • Hi Amy! I’m so sorry you are having to go through this. I wrote this story in hopes that I could save someone or let people know there is hope. Like you, when I was diagnosed I browsed the web looking for stories from others. I found a few that helped comfort me. I know the fear you are feeling and all of the thoughts that are going through your mind. The whole world just kind of stops and you feel like you are floating around watching feeling helpless. The best advice I can give you is don’t let fear creep in and take over your spirit. Think as positively as you can. I pray that you get good results. God Bless You!

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