It’s that time of year again when we move our Stroller Strides, Stroller Barre and Body Back classes outside to our local parks. It’s also the time of year that we start spending more time outside in our yards, with our kids at parks and enjoying the sunshine. Spring is here! As we move outside we want to remind everyone to make sure they are properly protecting their skin. When was the last time you bought new sunscreen? You should be checking it to make sure it’s not expired. What about a hat for yourself? Are YOU, mama protecting your skin? It’s so easy to forget about ourselves when we are busy making sure our babies and kids have sunscreen and their skin is covered. That was me, and this is me now. Just recently having a 1 cm radius of skin removed from neck, because of a mole that came back positive for melanoma.
So, lets talk about this. Are you taking care of your skin? When was the last time you did a body check to look over your moles? Do you have a mole that doesn’t look right? NOW, is the time to go in and get it looked at. Yes, they might remove it right there in the doctors office like me or they might monitor it. You know your body best and if something is not right or feels off, it’s time to get yourself checked.
I want to start this with sharing a picture of me from our grand opening of our Bremerton Stroller Strides classes in August of 2018. Look how dark that mole is. It’s very noticeable on my neck. Though, a lot of my clothes friends said they never noticed the mole before. That mole grew with every pregnancy (3), so I just figured it was growing because of the change in hormones, however, some time last year it changed to melanoma. I remember in the fall thinking “I should probably get this looked at.” But life is busy, moms are busy and there was no time to get it looked. When I saw a new primary care provider back in January, that was the first thing he noticed. My referral went in and 2 ½ months later, I finally had that appointment to get it looked at. Sitting in the doctors office waiting for it to be removed. I was freaked out. More freaked out about having a needle in neck and cutting a hole in my neck. What was even more scary was the phone call saying pathology came back positive for melanoma and they will be removing a 1 cm radius of skin from around that area. What’s happening? How did I get here? Talking to a few moms about this giant wound on my neck, they said they to have had melanoma spots removed from their skin. It’s really scary at first to hear this, but it is something we shouldn’t take lightly. The day after I had the remaining skin removed from my neck, I was able to take off my bandage. When I removed my bandage I saw a 4 inch long steristrip covering my stitches. When I was imagining a 1 cm radius of skin, I was thinking a little bigger than a quarter, not 4 inches. I am very thankful that the second round send to pathology came back clear and there is a 99% chance that melanoma won’t come back in this area. However, I’m very fair skinned, with lots of freckles and moles, so getting my skin checked is going to be a priority of mine. Just like going in for a yearly physical.
There are 3 main types of skin cancer. The form of skin cancer that I had is melanoma. Probably the most recognized by name but it is not the most common form of skin cancer. While mine was caught in the early stages, I do wonder how long I would have put off getting that mole checked if it weren’t for a doctor being concerned about it. There were more than 178, 500 cases of melanoma is 2018. If melanoma is caught early, it is almost always curable but if not, it can spread to other parts of the body. Here are the warning signs (ABCDE) of Melanoma from the Skin Cancer Foundation.
If you draw a line through the middle, the two sides will match, meaning it is symmetrical. If you draw a line through the mole and the two halves will not match, meaning it is asymmetrical, a warning sign for melanoma.
A benign mole has smooth, even borders, unlike melanomas. The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched.
Most benign moles are all one color — often a single shade of brown. Having a variety of colors is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, white or blue.
Benign moles usually have a smaller diameter than malignant ones. Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the eraser on your pencil tip (¼ inch or 6mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.
Common, benign moles look the same over time. Be on the alert when a mole starts to evolve or change in any way. When a mole is evolving, see a doctor. Any change — in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting — points to danger.
Now that I look back on my story, I notice a few things from the ABCDE’s. Evolving stands out the most to me. It was evolving and I chalked it up as maybe it’s something I shouldn’t be concerned about. My mole was slightly asymmetrical, but not by much. Under a microscope it did have one area without a smooth border, but it was hard for me tell. The color was dark, but with darker eyes and hair, my moles can be darker naturally. Diameter, my mole was larger than a pencil eraser. I could have easily scheduled a dermatology appointment back in the fall when I first had the feeling that something was wrong, but I didn’t and looking back if I knew more about the ABCDE’s of melanoma, I probably would have gone in sooner.
Since having my surgery to have the remaining skin removed from neck, I’ve talked taking more precautions with my skin. I bought a few more hats (Thanks FIT4MOM for releasing some cute new ones!) to wear while I’m classes or attending classes. I’ve purchased new sunscreen recently which I usually do every season. We are working with 2 really awesome sunscreen companies on providing sunscreen for our upcoming Mother’s Day Celebration and Father’s Day Celebration! Plus keeping my skin covered. I do need to keep my scar away from the sun for a little while to let it finish healing. But it’s time to create a new normal in my life by always applying sunscreen when I am outside and cannot be covered and wearing hats more to protect my face. This is also just a gentle reminder that WE know our bodies best. It doesn’t matter if it’s needing your moles checked, scheduling your yearly physical or even going to the dentist. It’s so important to take the time to schedule those appointments and go to them.
To read more about sun protection, please visit https://www.skincancer.org/prevention
To read up more about melanoma, please visit https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/melanoma