All it takes is one incident. With one incident of brutal sunburn, I was told you increase your chances of getting some form of skin cancer by a whopping 50%. Having fair skin, and at least two of those sunburn incidents incidents one of which I remember clearly, my chances were always high.
Sometimes all the protection you do is still not quite enough.
In my youth I spent plenty of time outdoors in the sun. Especially during the summer weeks in Prince Edward Island where I hung around a swimming pool or beach. This was before more effective waterproof sunscreens were widely available. Parents were still quick to do all they could in reminding me of sunscreen use, hat wearing and proper shirts with collars. I even wore some of those shirts in the pool and in the ocean. I wore baseball caps which are not a foolproof way of protecting your entire head, face and neck. They only protect a certain portion of your upper body. In my early teens I stopped wearing caps. Few were fitting my head anyways and schoolmates saw it as an opportunity to make fun at how awkward I was starting to look while wearing hats that did not fit. So I just gave it up.
I enjoy a moderate amount of time in the sun. Even so, I liked to believe I was taking all the necessary precautions into adulthood. Plus, I never once used a tanning bed. The precautions included as much sunscreen as possible. Ensuring I re-apply when time came to do so. Using waterproof sunscreen when in the ocean or poolside. Everything.
Or so I thought.
Earlier this year there was a spot on the left side of my neck that looked odd but yet was not alarming to me. A few months later and on that same spot, two dark spots appeared. Fortunately I was able to see a dermatologist quickly and get a procedure booked to have it removed and examined. That was on November 12th. Just over a week after the world became less smarter with my brother passing away from cancer.
The lab results were back not long after this first procedure. Literally minutes before a visit with my Doctor for other matters, The lab results came back positive for melanoma. As much as this news shocked and shook me, there was and is so much to be thankful for. It was a very small (0.7) size melanoma. The additional skin taken outside around it (the margins) all looked good. I visited my dermatologist a few days later for further explanation and to book a follow-up visit, and get a referral consult to a Plastic Surgeon.
Incredibly, that consult happened a short few days later, and thanks to a cancellation the procedure took place on December third, three days after the consultation. This additional procedure involves removal of more skin in the same area, taken out at a deeper level than the top layer. I’m awaiting the results of the pathology from that surgery. The medical pros are optimistic that those results will come back clean. Note: The day after this post went live, they indeed came back clean.
When they tell you to wear a hat to protect yourself from the sun, Do it.
When it is suggested to wear sunscreen, Do it.
When people telling you to take skin cancer seriously and trust the science, Do it.
Thanks to Dr. Kristyna Cleminson (Incredible Dermatology Resident who did my November 12th surgery), Dr. Christopher Gallant (Dermatologist and Surgical Supervisor) and his office staff (who are just as important), and Dr. Martin LeBlanc of Plastic Surgery, QEII Halifax Infirmary and his staff (just as important).
This content is not to be treated as medical advice. For any medical concerns, contact your family physician.