I was diagnosed with Stage 2a melanoma and basal cell carcinoma at age 40. I was an outdoor tanner since age 15. There were many times I was not able to tan, especially when my kids were little, because I was just too busy! As a teen I liked the way it made me look and feel. As I got older, I tanned outdoors to look better and it was relaxing to me. At age 39, I decided to try indoor tanning. I mean, everyone was doing it! So I signed up for the membership, ignoring the waiver about getting skin cancer, and was instantly hooked! It was amazing! So fast for results, and I didn't have to lay outside and get sweaty. I went 4 times a week for 3 5 months, then I stopped for the summer for about 3 months. I went back in the fall, and noticed a mole on the back of my leg was raised. I was actually putting on lotion to go inside the tanning bed when I found it. I kept an eye on it for a few months. It was getting bigger, so I did some research and was shocked at what I found. I didn't know that melanoma could kill you. I admit I didn't know much about melanoma and thought if I got skin cancer it wouldn't be so bad. They would just cut it off and I would go on with life. I was so wrong. All the years of abusing my body ended in melanoma. Cancer. I was scared out of my mind. I was stage 2a, which they said was good. They wanted me to have surgery to remove more skin around the original mole site and also have a sentinel node biopsy. I was terrified and cried my eyes out. I made it through surgery and had a long recovery. Since the surgery was on my leg, it was difficult to walk. I was off work for 2 weeks. My lymph nodes ended up being clear. They took out just 3. I now live with the fear that it will come back and I won't know it. My dermatologist and surgical oncologist said that I don't need to have any scans to see if it has spread. So, I just have to hope it is true that it was all removed.
I now participate in walks when I can and I have a blog and facebook page dedicated to melanoma. I also did my first of hopefully many, TV interviews this month for melanoma awareness month! I will always educate on the dangers of tanning. I wear sunscreen and hats and I try to live my life without fear. It isn't easy. If I could say one thing to someone that wants to tan, it would be, "It is NOT worth it." I am now loving the skin I have and am doing a much better job of protecting it!