Graphic Picture Near End Of Post
A flat brown spot showed up on my leg about ten years ago and I dismissed it as an early age spot. The next time I saw my dermatologist, Dr. Ha, I had him take a look at it. It seemed benign and he wasn’t concerned at the time. It was light brown, flat, and appeared to only be a pigmentation change in my skin.
Comparing it to the typical signs associated with melanoma eased my concern as well. It was pretty symmetrical, it’s borders were pretty regular, and it was solid tan with no color variation; however, it was a quite a bit larger than 6 mm.
I was very aware of melanoma for a couple of reasons. My Uncle Bill died of melanoma at the age of 47, and nothing brings an awareness of a disease to the forefront like losing a beloved family member to that disease. I had already had over 40 basal cell carcinomas removed from my body, and Dr. Ha reminded me that damage caused to my skin from years of sun worshiping also set me up for a greater chance of melanoma.
During the fall of 2010 while pruning the bushes in front of our house I scrapped and scratched my legs in several places. Two weeks later, I noticed that all of the places had healed except for one in the middle of the brown spot on my leg. I kept an eye on it for another week and when it didn’t go away, I realized that it wasn’t a scratch, but a change in the spot on my leg. Concerned, I made a special trip to see Dr. Ha. He biopsied it and called me a few days later to say that it was melanoma, but that we’d caught it in it’s earliest stage.
After my conversation with Dr. Ha, I was left with many things to be thankful for:
- I was thankful that Uncle Bill’s fight with melanoma made my family so aware of the disease.
- I was thankful that 40+ basal cells had made me aware of every single new spot on my body.
- I was thankful getting those scratches made me look at my legs more closely and notice the change in the spot on my leg.
- I was thankful for having such a great doctor.
Dr. Ha referred me to a skin cancer surgeon, Dr. Todd. Dr. Todd discussed several options, but said that with my activity level, punching the melanoma out with a large circle of skin and not stitching it up would work best. There just wasn’t enough extra skin on my shin to pull it back together with stitches without risking the stitches popping the first time I walked.
I opted for the hole punch, which would remove all layers of skin, and leave a hole the size of a quarter in my leg. I would have to keep it wrapped until it healed, changing the dressings daily. As Dr. Todd predicted, it took about four months for the wound to heal.
I regret not taking a picture of the melanoma before Dr. Ha biopsied it, because it didn’t look like the typical melanomas pictured on the chart above. It just didn’t look right to me, and my instincts told me to get it looked at, and soon.
This picture is not intended to gross you out, but to remind you of how serious melanoma is. I found mine early, and was lucky that it hadn’t spread, and that I didn’t have to have any follow up treatment. I left the doctor’s office cancer-free, but many people are not so lucky.
Here’s how my scar looks today. Seeing it reminds me to take care of my skin and make good decisions when I’m out in the sun.
Those good decisions include wearing sunscreen, limiting my time in the sun, and seeking shade whenever possible.
- Do you check your skin regularly?
- Do you see a dermatologist ?
- What’s your favorite brand of sunscreen?
As promised in This May, Please Learn From My Mistakes, look for these other articles on Deb Runs during the month of May:
- Confessions Of A Tanning Goddess
- What To Expect At Your Full Body Check: A Visit With Dr. Ha
- Connecting The Dots
- Tips For Running Safely In The Sun
- Sunscreen Surprise
- Alternatives To Tanning
- 2014 TKO Melanoma 5K Race Recap