“No big deal. It’s ONLY skin cancer.”
Let me tell you: That black spot that is “only” skin cancer can be one of the most aggressive, vicious diseases if it gets inside your body. Your best defense is to have any weird changes to your skin checked out and removed as early as possible, when the minor surgical fix is easy and the cure rate is nearly 100%.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the path that my life took.
My black mole appeared on the side of my face near my right ear. I have no idea how long it was there initially, but people started pointing it out late in 2010. I’d usually mutter something along the lines that I think it’s always been there in hopes of avoiding a visit to the dermatologist, but, deep down, I was knew it was there.
Around the New Year’s 2011, I noticed that that this spot was growing and even getting elevated. Well, I rationalized, it’s really not unlike other moles that I’ve had my entire life, once again avoiding a trip to the doctor. But, as the winter passed, the spot on the side of my face began to affect me psychologically. It seemed to be getting bigger. I’d keep touching it to allow myself to question if I was just imagining this or not.
Finally, in March, I decided to schedule an appointment with my dermatologist. When I arrived, I was panicked from spending the night on WebMD and Google trying to pre-diagnose what horrifying disease I might have. It seemed like it was the “black tumor”: melanoma, but I wasn’t 100% sure.
Reading a statistic that fewer than 18% of people with advanced melanoma survive five years made me fear for my life. I arrived with my wife at the doctor’s office as nervous wreck. My dermatologist examined my mole and decided to remove it right there and then for further evaluation. He had to dig a bit deeper into my skin than he expected. Although he posited a few different options as to what this lesion was, he didn’t attempt to guess. But, I was thinking the worst. I suspect he was, too.
Later that week at lunch with my colleagues, my iPhone rang. The call was from my doctor’s office. I answered and heard the voice of my dermatologist. I immediately knew that this was not good news before he uttered those fatal-sounding words, “It’s melanoma. You need to meet with a surgeon right away.” I lost my appetite upon receiving my death sentence.
My life had turned. My innocence was lost. I was forced to face the battle for my life.
My mind was reeling with unanswerable questions: When did I first notice it? Why did I wait to go to the doctor? Was my fate already cast? What are my wife and kids going to do without me? Why am I going to be taken away? Why me?
I tell my story as a cautionary tale.
The best way to survive melanoma is through early detection and surgical removal. As the melanoma grows larger and deeper into your skin, your prognosis gets exponentially worse. If you’re worried about something on your skin, get it checked out now–before it’s too late.
Over the last few years, I’ve literally been to Hell and back. Believe me, you do not want to go through what I’ve gone through. Nobody should have to.
My life would have likely been easier if I had visited my dermatologist as soon as I noticed the change on my skin. Please, don’t make the same mistake.