2 Emmebabe Stories of Melanoma Recovery and Lessons Learned
Most people think that skin cancer is just something that other people get. And if, by chance, they are diagnosed, it can easily be “picked” off the skin like it is no big deal. My long-time #EmmeBabes never imagined it would happen to them either and they have graciously shared their stories with us in hopes that it can spread the awareness of how serious skin cancer can be and how to protect yourself!
Meet Megan: owner of Tandy Lash Lounge, a mother and Melanoma survivor.
No one would ever expect Botox to be a life-saving procedure, but for me, that’s exactly what it was! When my RN nurse was injecting me, she noticed a mole on the top of my foot in which she recommended I get checked. Of course, as we all have busy lives we’re living, I didn’t really think much about it and moved on.
Six months later I finally decided to go to the dermatologist to have a biopsy done. 4 weeks had passed and I hadn’t heard anything back from the doctor. Then, I got the phone call that nobody EVER wants to get. The woman on the other line tells me, “we need you to come in to go over your results.” My heart sank.
Needless to say, things progressed quickly. About one week later I saw a dermatologist followed by two oncologists and three different plastic surgeons.
Having a mole on the top of your foot that comes back as a stage to melanoma is very tricky....and scary. For starters, we don’t have any fat on the top of our feet so you’re working with very thin skin and a lot of tiny bones. Because of these factors, none of the doctors wanted to do surgery, but unfortunately, the cancer had a very high mitotic rate so time was of the essence.
My team of doctors ultimately decided to do a sentinel node biopsy. To say this was painful is an understatement. They start by injecting a specific fluid into the mole site and then watch it travel to my lymph nodes. This allows the doctors to ensure that the cancer hasn’t metastasized throughout my entire body. From there, they performed the biopsy. Obviously, this was extremely nerve racking to experience and go through, especially as a mother.
As I said, this was one of the most painful procedures I’ve ever had to go through, worse than my C-section. After the procedures, I wore a boot for 12 weeks to ensure that my incision wouldn’t pop open to prevent having to do a skin graft.
On top of it, the added stress to my personal and financial life was a lot to bear. At this time, I was the only one in my household working, I had just opened a salon and I was seeing about 12 clients a day! All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I wasn’t able to work and provide for my family. This alone was one of the scariest parts of having cancer.
Melanoma or cancer is a life altering diagnosis for so many reasons. I am lucky that my Botox nurse spoke up when she saw a suspicious mole. Unfortunately, this is now a lifelong concern for me. To anyone who is reading this: I want to stress the importance of sunscreen, regular skin checks, and avoiding the sun when you can. When I say this, it doesn’t mean you can’t ever enjoy the outdoors, it just means that you have to be CAREFUL and CAUTIOUS! In fact, I had a friend recently ask me if I would ever go on a tropical vacation again. Of course, I would! I would just do things differently moving forward…. have a cabana and wear sunscreen!
No one is invincible from this. Bob Marley died from melanoma on his foot, of all places. Melanoma is one of the top killers of both men and women under 30 years old. I’ve had this horrible cancer happen to me three times since, luckily not anything as bad as my first time. This will be something I deal with forever. I am so grateful to have caught it and even more grateful I continue to catch it before it progresses.
Meet Katie: a college grad, teacher and 23 year old Melanoma survivor When I reflect back on my experience with Melanoma it feels like a lifetime ago and still often doesn't feel real. I was only 23 years old and had just graduated from college but if I am being honest, I was in a pretty rough place in my life. I had just returned to the states after living in Japan for the summer and wasn't sure what life was going to be like after college. I had only been home 9 days before losing my mom unexpectedly and I could have never been prepared enough for what was still to come.
While living in Japan, a friend I had made within my travel program, asked me about the mole I had on my neck. She admitted to me that she had been wanting to say something all summer but just didn't know how to approach it. Up until that point, I had never really thought much about my mole, it had been there my entire life and was just something I was used to seeing on my body.
When I returned to the states, I unexpectedly had a few family members start to question the mole and recommended I have a doctor look at it. This was very strange that all of a sudden everyone around me was noticing it. When my dad asked me about the mole, that's when I knew I needed to have it looked at; too many coincidences.
Fast forward a few weeks, I am at the dermatologist having the mole removed. This first procedure was small, therefore, I didn’t have to go under anesthesia. The doctor was able to remove the mole leaving about 2 inches of stitches behind. At this point, I still did not truly understand what was happening or the seriousness of the whole situation.
It's hard to put into words how I felt when I got the call from my doctor letting me know that I had been diagnosed with Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. They immediately scheduled me for my next surgery where they would remove more skin from around the area, take a lymph node from my armpit and another from near my heart.
I got lucky. Had I waited any longer my story could have turned out differently. We were able to catch the cancer before it spread to my lymph nodes and remove the entire tumor to stop spreading all together. I was able to walk away with just physical therapy, a badass battle wound and a lifetime of skin checks with my dermatologist.
Today, I continue my routine skin check-ups with my dermatologist and at-home skin checks that I perform on myself. I NEVER forget my sunscreen or a cute hat. Out of all of this, the most important lesson I learned is to take my health seriously. My scar reminds me how lucky I am and I never want to take my health for granted ever again.
My advice to you: wear your sunscreen, stay out of tanning beds, get checked and be pretty in pale! You'll always have a good self-tanner to back you up.