the c word.

It's been a long time since I posted about the c word. I don't like it, but then again, I don't know anyone who does. So when skin cancer became a part of my life in July 2008, I became all too acquainted with that ugly word. Thankfully, I've had some time to process it--and while it's never "normal" to say I had skin cancer at age 23, I don't hide it like I did in the early days.


Since my melanoma was removed that summer, I have visited my dermatologist every few months without fail. After a biopsy at a routine visit in July 2011, my dermatologist removed a precancerous mole from my abdomen. For the first three years after my initial diagnosis, some part of me believed my melanoma was an isolated event. When I went into surgery for the second time, I quickly realized I would be fighting a lifelong battle with the c word. 

Let's face it: celebrating our third anniversary in April will be infinitely more exciting than my fifth melanoma "anniversary" in July. In my book, the word "anniversary" should never be used with sad events because it takes away from the good ones. As that fifth year mark came into view this year, I received another reminder that the c word will always be in my vocabulary.

Two weeks ago, I went to my dermatologist for my six-month check-up. I don't think I'll ever grow to love the process, but I slipped into my gown so she could do an examination of everything. {In the chill of winter, it feels slightly like you're in a bad dream in which you wake up in the middle of a football game without your clothes. Lots of fun, right?} One mole on the right side of my chest had been worrying me and she affirmed those worries. She wanted a biopsy. Though I have never much cared for the b word, I had mentally prepared myself for this one.

What I wasn't prepared for was the biopsy she wanted to take from a mole on my back. My back has always been a scary place for me because a) I can't really see it and b) I can't keep close tabs like I can everywhere else. {cv} keeps an eye on my back, but with my sea of moles, it is tough to pinpoint new ones. After a few quick swipes of a scalpel, it was all over. I just hated the odds that something might come back cancerous. All of my previous biopsies had.

I left the dermatologist's office feeling deflated, anxious, and seriously ticked at myself for ever caring about being tan. As life would have it, these biopsies kicked off a week of pure craziness in my personal and professional lives. The chaos helped keep my mind off of the impending news, but it didn't always do the trick. I've never been good at the waiting game. 

After eleven days of waiting, many prayers were answered when I heard my dermatologist say I was in the clear. I walked out of the office with an enormous smile on my face. I climbed into my car and cried a few happy tears. Though I know melanoma will always be a part of my life, it isn't time for me to fight it again. My relief can scarcely be put into words.

I may not blog about it often, but the sun savvy pledge that Danielle and I created in June 2011 is still very much alive. If you have any stories to share about how you've changed your sun habits, I am all ears. Please email me and they might find their way into a future post. 

If you're still reading, thank you. I choose to share this experience with you because I feel an obligation to confront the c word head on. The sun is still shining and it means we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves. I pray this post might encourage one of you to make an appointment about your mole that looks funny. I cross my fingers that it reminds you to wear your sunscreen--all year round. Above all, I desperately hope this post will serve as reminder that being tan isn't everything. Being healthy is. xoxo {av}

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50 comments:

  1. You just gave me quite a fright, my friend! I'm so glad it all came back a-okay. I can't even imagine how scary that is. I actually have not been in the sun, in a bathing way, in a few years. I've definitely embraced my paste :)

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  2. I am so glad that everything came back clear. Thank you for sharing your story. People need to be more aware about skin cancer and your post is a great way to remind people that it can happen to anyone. XO

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  3. Oh, sweetie, I am so relieved to hear you are in the clear this go round! There is a lot of skin cancer in my dads family so I am very alert. I slather the kids and myself in sunscreen and I have had my husband have a few weird moles removed only to find they were fine. Better safe than sorry.

    Hugs!
    Kara

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  4. My dad had melanoma two years ago and it was so scary. Luckily, his spots were removed but realizing that your own father has the deadliest form of skin cancer is SCARY. People think skin cancer isn't a big deal- that you just remove moles and that's it. If they only knew...

    Since then, I'm extra careful about being out in the sun and wearing SPF- it can happen to anymore! I'm glad to hear you are okay now, and thanks for bringing to light a serious topic.

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  5. so strange - I was JUST thinking about how I need to make an appointment with my dermatologist, and then "sun savvy" crossed my mind :) It's not forgotten by your readers either, don't worry! So glad you received good news this time around

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing this and making people more aware that it is present and it does happen (all the time!) I am so glad that everything has turned out okay for you! xoxo

    L

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  7. i am so relieved for you that you are in the clear!
    i'm not sure if it's the same for you guys in america, but in australia, every second ad on tv is about the damage the sun can do on your skin! its crazy. but a good crazy! my awareness has reached a level where i have become so sun savvy now. especially after last year when i came in contact with the B word - almost C word (luckily it was a benign lump). but i still find it tough, because in the summer, i feel so good with a tan! but what could happen makes having a tan SO NOT worth it! your story helps remind me that a tan definitely is not worth it! xxx

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  8. So happy to hear the GOOD news!!!

    So many coxswains end up with scares (or the real deal) from sitting in the boat for hours and hours every week. Because I'm so fair to begin with, I was ALWAYS paranoid. While I tried really hard to make sure I wore sunscreen every day (especially on my face and my arms/shoulders), I know I'll still be at risk. Going to the dermatologist is super scary, but SO WORTH IT!

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  9. I am so thankful that all is well for now! I can't imagine how that must feel but I'm so proud of you for staying strong and facing it head on. I have always been terrified of the c word as well, and do make sure to wear sunscreen and resort to a good spray tan on the very occasional times I feel like I need more color. Thank you for sharing your story! xo

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  10. I'm so glad everything came back clear. Thank God! I have never been a tanner but I do love the sun.. I definitely need to be more aware and protect my skin a lot more. Thank you for sharing! I'm anxious to try the sally hansen spray tan stuff for your legs lol

    Alissa
    FeelingGoodFashion.blogspot.com

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  11. Thank you for sharing! The sun is so dangerous. I am so glad everything is clear!! I was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma last January and went through chemo and radiation. I know what it feels like to get those checkups and having to wait for results. I am afraid I will know that feeling for the next 5 years at least!

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  12. So happy that it was good news! I can't even imagine how terrifying that must have been. I think a lot of young women associate the c-word with someone much older than them, even though that's far from the truth. Thank you so much for the reminder! :)

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  13. So glad you got GREAT news!! My mom had melanoma too. It is scary. I'm the palest girl around but I don't care. At least I won't have wrinkles and hopefully won't get cancer. xo

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  14. Congrats on the good news. My mom and dad both have had skin cancer so I know how scary of an experience it can be.
    xo, Maria

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  15. This can be so scary! I'll never forgot going for my first check up. It was all clear but the uneasyness it brought definitely convinced me of the dangers of being in the sun. My grandfather and father have had many places removed and it isn't something we should mess around with. It still amazes me that so many of my acquaintances "sun bathe". I'm rocking the pale/flushed look!

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  16. Yay for the good news! I let out a sigh of relief as I read it haha! Thank you again for your honesty and bravery. You're an amazing inspiration to all of us. Thanks for the reminder to keep that pledge!

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  17. Thanks for sharing this with us. I am so happy to hear your last visit went GREAT. This a great reminder to everyone, sunscreen is cool + excessive tanning is not.
    -Becky
    The Pumpkin Spot

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  18. your story comes to me everytime i think i don't need lotion or to be covered while in the sun. thanks for sharing - i know it is tough. i am so glad everything was clear!

    http://lachapstickfanatique.blogspot.com

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  19. Oh my I'm so glad everything turned out to be ok! Thank you for sharing your story dear. Since I read it, I've been much more religious with my sunscreen application, even in the winter. Sure, being tan looks cute and all, but I'd much rather be safe.

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  20. This post was truly amazing to read because I went through something very similar. When I was 17 and about to leave for preseason at my college I went for a physical. The doctor was unfamiliar with my medical history but did strongly suggest a particular mole on my chest looked very suspicious. After getting a second and third opinion and having all of my moles checked, we decided to remove one that was located on the side of my breast. The mole went for a biopsy and I went to school. I cannot describe how scared I was considering melanoma has made some of my family members into angels, and because I was in a completely new environment. The results came back with significant amounts of precancerous cells in that area.

    The incident changed my life in such a positive way. Healthy sun exposure paired with a good sun screen moisturizer is the way to go.

    Again, your post was amazing.


    xoxo,
    That College Girl
    http://www.youngbrokecollegekid.com/

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  21. can i just hug you really quickly??
    great post lady- so amazing that you are willing to share your story and the real fears that come along with it. And your line at the end about being tan isn't everything, being healthy is so true, and should be spread everywhere! thanks for not just spreading beautiful things on your blog, but also beautiful, honest posts like this!!
    xoxo

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  22. I'm so glad the results came back clear! Thank you for sharing your story. I don't think enough people realize how dangerous the sun can be. Maybe if more people shared their story like you did, others would be more careful!

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  23. I love the sunshine, but redheads + sunshine usually equals a shade of pink I think only belongs on Barbie's accessories. My poor aunt has discovered this - she's been battling melanoma for about 10 years now and while she's going strong, I know it's a battle. One that I don't want to fight. I've had a few moles examined that made the doctor say that scary biopsy word, but I'm eternally grateful they've come back clear. I'm a little worried about my upcoming move back to Hawaii, but I've learned that long loose sleeves and stylish floppy hats are my friend, and for those times I absolutely want to be in the water, rashguards, 100SPF, and zinc. I've just learned to enjoy painting my face interesting colors.

    Stay strong, pretty lady, and keep telling people to cover up! You don't have to show tan skin to be fashionable.

    Speaking of that, have you ever done a "sun savvy" Friday's Fancies? I've got a few floppy hat looks to share!

    :D
    KC
    ahappyeverafter.com

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  24. i'm so glad everything came back okay! i know that is the worst feeling. i found out i had skin cancer when i was 21. i found out after i got sun poisoning, because it turns out that i am allergic to most sunscreens. living in san diego is pretty much the worst when you can't be in the sun. luckily my boyfriend understands because he has it too.

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  25. My dad was 36 when he passed away from Melanoma and when I was younger the thought of visiting a dermatologist terrified me. I have had several moles removed (some pre-c) and even though I'm still uneasy at every visit, I've come to realize over the years how important it is to stay on top of my health and protect my skin! Living in Arizona and enjoying the outdoors doesn't make it easy but you're right beauty isn't everything! Thanks for sharing this and educating others!

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  26. Oh my gosh, I was so worried while reading this post. I'm glad to hear you're in the clear! Thanks for sharing this. Some people think I'm crazy for wearing sunscreen even on cloudy days but I'm convinced its necessary everyday. Hearing your story makes me feel more confident in mine own choices. :)

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  27. AV thank you for sharing this. Yours is a brave story that I can imagine isn't always the easiest to share. I appreciate you taking the time to talk about it and educating us your readers about it.

    Alana
    http://cheapchictraveler.com

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  28. I literally have tears. I am so glad to hear your last check up came back clear. I worry so much about my younger sister. She's all about tanning and tanning beds. I just wish more people were aware of the damages they are doing to themselves. Signing your pledge now!

    Shia
    World According to Shia

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  29. Glad to hear that everyone turned out A-OK! I'm sure you filled with worry as anyone would be. I know that worry. You are a very strong person and you are also very brave. What doesn't break us only makes us strong!! There is nothing wrong with pale skin!! I love mine!!
    Hugs!!

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  30. I am so happy that everything came back clear! And thank you for reminding me that I am overdue to have my moles checked!!! I just got an appointment:)

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  31. I'm so glad that you're in the clear! That must be so scary!

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  32. So, so glad to hear everything came back clear. And horribly embarrassed to realize that despite my liberal and loving application of sunscreen and staying in the shade, I've never actually had a dermatologist check me out. Making an appointment now–thank you for the push.

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  33. I'm so glad that you got the all clear... I can't imagine having to wait for that kind of news.
    Thanks for keeping us so informed... like Lena I think it's time for me to schedule an appointment too.

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  34. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/25/science/new-mutations-discovered-in-melanomas.html?hp&_r=0

    Saw this article after reading your post - I thought you might be interested. And glad to hear you're in the clear!

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  35. Congratulations on your wonderful news! Thanks for always being open and honest about the "c word"...you're an inspiration!

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  36. Glad to hear you're in the clear! I work in oncology and see the fear and pain that cancer causes. I also see people kick its butt :) Thanks for sharing!

    www.glitterarygirl.blogspot.com

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  37. Eek! So scary. I was a lifeguard for 5 years and I get so nervous every time I go to the derm! I've had 3 precancerous moles removed and am always checking my bod for new spots. Thanks for your encouragement as always! Xoxo

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  38. I love that you are trying to raise awareness and make a difference, I have already had too much personal experience with people close to me and the c-word, so this is a cause that's close to my heart. A HUGE sigh of relief and a hip-hip-hooray for your good news!!!

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  39. This is beautifully written. When I read the part about your post-visit anxiety... I am glad you are healthy and in the clear.
    Pale skin 4ever!
    -C

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  40. Your honesty and positive outlook are so refreshing. Thank you for sharing your story - it definitely makes me re-think the way I expose myself to the sun. Prayers for you and hopefully a c free life!

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  41. You are amazing and an inspiration to us all. I love your public service announcements about this issue and hope that you continue to bring awareness to it through this blog for a long time to come. So happy you're in the clear for now!

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  42. Thanks for sharing - I can imagine how scary that would be, because I've had lumps and bumps checked out before. I was starting to feel a bit ashamed, but now feel okay to say I will probably be the only person who returns to work from the school holidays with lily white skin after this hot, hot Australian summer. :)

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  43. I'm so very happy that you are ok. You are so strong and thoughtful for sharing a story that will benefit other people. I will pray for more wonderful anniversaries to come!

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  44. Keep kicking cancer's butt girl!! I work for a skin cancer screening company and I am constantly lecturing people to wear sunscreen and have their moles checked...and I also regularly wear sunscreen myself now. This post is featured today on my "this week I loved" post! xoxo

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  45. Congrats! My mom had a scary mole removed that reveal cancerous cells, but luckily it was early enough that she didn't have to do anything about it, and I have had 3 moles removed since they found hers. Mine have weird cells, which is extremely scary (especially since I'm a Type 1 Diabetic and I heal VERY slowly), but so far, nothing has progressed. It's hard to go in for those exams, but better to go than to leave anything to chance. Know that you are not alone in hating those awful exams, especially in winter :)

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  46. I'm so glad to hear that you are in the clear! Just catching up on reading some blogs, and it makes me happy to see that you share this with all of us. You definitely have kept me much more cautious since you first shared with us.

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  47. I'm so glad you're in the clear this time! I just discovered your blog today, and oddly enough I actually went to the dermatologist this morning. I had two biopsies taken today - and have had at least one every single year since I can remember. I know I'm lucky they've all come back clean. But I can't help but be fearful, as I have several moles, both my parents have had skin cancer, amd I was obsessed with being tan in my teenage/college years. I don't go out in the sun very much, so instead I occasionally used tinted lotion - but I really just don't care about being tan anymore. It's not anywhere near as important as being alive!

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Many thanks for visiting {long distance loving}! I'd love to hear what you think :) xoxo {av}