Passionate About the Community
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The Day I Almost Died

There was a day last year when I almost died.

Sometimes my husband says I’m a bit dramatic (what does he know?)  Was I on the brink of death?  No.  Did my life flash before my eyes? Kind of.  While I didn’t find myself on my death bed, I did find myself in a situation where a phone call made me cry at the thought of my boys getting married without me there.  It was scary and frightening and all things terrible and I’ve made it my mission to make sure that others don’t have to go through it!

What is this mysterious thing that almost killed me, you ask?  My own vanity. 

Well, really it was UV rays that did it but it was my vanity that caused it.  From the age of 18, I was convinced that tan skin meant pretty skin (if you were to look at a picture of me you’d think “but you were never even tan.” Exactly. I’m that pale to begin with.)  I’d convince myself that just a few times in the tanning bed would help get me ready for prom, for vacation, for the wedding I was in, for my own wedding.  It was never ending.  In fact, looking back, I didn’t even realize I was tanning as much as I did.  Year after year I found an excuse.  I wish I could go back and slap some sense into myself. (…And also not eat so much Taco Bell in college!)IMG_20150319_144234200

Fast forward a few years when I noticed a weird spot on my arm.  It wasn’t anything concerning, just a little pink spot.  I kept putting “go to the dermatologist” on my mental to-do list but then things like diapers, dishes and making dinner got in the way.  Finally, a few months after having my second son, I made an appointment.  I showed the spot to my doctor.  She wasn’t concerned about it and said it was likely a sun spot, but she could tell that I was uneasy about it and agreed to remove it to get it tested.

A week went by and I didn’t even think about it…until I got the call.  I was at the grocery store and when I got home, I realized I had a missed call from the doctor’s office.  Listening to the voicemail, my heart sank.  The doctor called to leave the message.  Not a nurse, a DOCTOR.  Surely that meant I was dying.  I fretted all night long until I could call in the next day to find out the dreaded news.  The spot did turn out to be something: a malignant melanoma.

Cue the hot mess.

My mom left work early and came to offer support as I had a houseful of kids and had to pull myself together and act like nothing was wrong.

I went the following week to have surgery on my arm.  They had to remove an area of skin around the spot to see if the cancer had spread anywhere else.  I was awake as they cut a large chunk of skin from my arm. I mean, it was disgusting.  Then, they had to stretch the existing skin to cover a gaping hole that was left and stitch me back up (I hope you are reaching for the sunscreen as you read this.)  It was painful, and the worst part? I couldn’t hold my new baby for TWO WEEKS!  I wasn’t allowed to lift anything, including him.  How awful is that? Family members had to take time off work to come over and help me out. Leaving him in the same spot for two weeks clearly was not an option.

Because I chose vanity over wisdom…looking one shade darker in a prom dress over just being me…tanning prior to a beach vacation only to still get scorched in the sun.

To be fair, it’s hard to keep it all in perspective when you’re young.  That one day you will have a husband and kids that depend on you.  That one day your life will mean so much more than how pretty your skin looks.  That a phone call can rock your world and make you rethink everything.

Luckily, this story has a happy ending.  The cancer had not spread and they were able to get everything out. I now have a large scar on my arm reminding me to make good choices when it comes to sun safety now.  It is kind of ironic that in my quest for the perfect skin I ended up causing a pretty good sized scar that screams “this skin is imperfect!”  Life is funny sometimes.

So why I am I telling this all to you?  So YOU can make better choices for you and your family.  Wear your sunscreen and cover the heck out of your kids when they go outside! Stay clear of that tanning bed, it isn’t worth it.  Most importantly, go to your dermatologist!! Regular checks are key to finding problem areas. It gives me the shakes to think what would have happened if I would have put this visit off any longer.  Don’t have a dermatologist? No problem! I know a great one.  Take care of yourself and your skin. Trust me, you are worth it!

Help me share the awareness. Comment below with your story, your scare, even your tips to ensuring your family is covered…literally!

 

 

 

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One Response to The Day I Almost Died

  1. Kate
    Kate May 12, 2015 at 7:28 am #

    I get the comment (more often that I’d like), “But you look good pale!”

    ….gee, thanks!

    I’ve had basal cell carcinoma removed from my own arm and know a few people fighting through stage 3 and 4 malignant melanoma. I rock a little self tanner when I need a pick me up (hate those chemicals too…), and always do sunscreen on my face. I struggle with getting it on the rest of my body. I only will use the mineral formulas (not the chemical ones) and dislike the feeling of it on my limbs. Great reminder for me to do it no matter what though! Thank you!

    Kid note: Babies under 6 months of age should not get sunscreen at all – especially the chemical ones. (Anything ending on -benzone). The harmful effects of the chemicals in their tiny systems outweigh the risks of UV rays. So just keep the little ones covered and in the shade.