How A Skin Check Saved My Life

The test came back positive. You need to schedule to have your mole removed.

When I found out about the positive biopsy (stage zero, melanoma) on my leg from a mole that looked suspicious, I didn’t feel like this news would affect my life. I was lucky. They had caught it early. I was able to get an appointment a week later and, in the end, it should just be a minor inconvenience. 

But when I woke up the next morning it was as if my brain had been able to process the news through the night as I slept and the one thought that engulfed my mind is how lucky I was. What if they hadn’t found it? What if it had spread past the surface? And what if I died from cancer before reaching my fortieth birthday? Those were the realities of the news.

Because I can’t give myself credit for taking care of myself.

The reality is the only reason I had a skin check was because a few years ago an annoying bump had shown up just below my lip. Most days it doesn’t bother me. But when I look in the mirror, I see it. I had gone to the doctor about a year after it showed up, done a biopsy that was negative and they had tried to remove it and said it would flatten out. 

But here we are a few years later and it is still there and seemed to be slightly growing with time. So, I decided to have it checked out again. When they looked at the bump, they also did a full-body scan for all my moles. One stuck out at a concern to the doctor. I wasn’t worried. I am 34. And I am healthy and active. When I had done my full skin test a few years before nothing had been flagged. I didn’t think the mole on my leg had changed. But I had to go back anyway so having the biopsy was an easy decision and one I didn’t put off. 

A Skin Check Can Save Your Life

Now almost a week after the test was taken, I can’t stop thinking of how lucky I am. And that bump that used to annoy me now reminds me that it saved my life. I rarely go to the doctor and definitely don’t fight the Tricare system to get an annual skin check. I’m only 34. 

And when people say the words self-care, I don’t think of going to the doctor. I think of going to the spa or finding a good book to read. And self-care is important in the mental aspect, but I feel I was truly missing the point. Doing things to help me out mentally is great and important. But not taking care of my health could mean that even if I am taking care of myself mentally my body may not be around to keep me living. For too many years I have been skipping routine check-ups, getting the additional screening, taking care of everyone else and forgetting me. I need to change that way of thinking and start putting myself as the priority and not letting the excuse of being busy or doing important work stop me from taking care of me.

What if I didn’t go in for a skin check?

As hard as I try to not think about the “what if,” I can’t. It is scary to think about the reality that your life could end because of cancer and you may not even see the symptoms taking place. It is hard to think of my children not growing up with a mother. Having to go through life without me being there. For my husband having to find a new way forward without me. I can’t stop thinking of this reality. 

Because it was so close to coming true. I didn’t expect it to happen to me. You probably don’t think it will happen to you. And maybe you will be lucky and you won’t face a challenge like this. But don’t you think it is worth taking the extra time you need to have your annual checkup, to get your skin checked at least once a year, to get your mammogram, pap or whatever other tests you need to have done. 

Don’t wait another day to not take care of yourself and your health. You won’t ever regret taking time to be proactive and it could save your life.

I didn't go to the doctor worried about cancer, but they wanted to do a full body skin check and I didn't even think I could say no, so I did. And they found an abnormal mole that was indeed cancer.

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