Amelia StAnge

Caribbean Girl, former tennis player, melanoma at 22

 

I used to be an avid tennis player from 11 years old. I was constantly on the court in the scorching sun every weekend religiously till I was 18. On October 2012, after a summer of being an assistant coach in kiddies tennis and partaking in a cultural event which entails constant sun exposure for 2 full days, I noticed a change in the mole at the back of my neck. My mole was never elevated, matter of fact, I was never aware I had this mole until friends told me I had one. Actually being able to feel this mole on that day had me concerned. It also itched quite a bit and had been for a few weeks but I was never that aware of the change till I asked someone to check out my neck since I felt there was a bug there. It was an elevated mole. 

I'm Afro-Caribbean so we believe that black people are less susceptible to uv damage as compared to lighter skinned counterparts. I used sunscreen but never made it a habit to remember to constantly protect myself. 
I had also just began medical school and had read about other skin diseases so I instantly visited the dermatologist. She was a bit concerned since I told her my mole was never detectable in that way. She did an easy excision biopsy and sent it out to the pathologist. A week later I got the news that it's malignant melanoma but my margins were not clear. I was distraught because I felt I was only 22 with skin cancer. I tried to find information about my diagnoses, staging and everything about melanoma. Instantly reading melanoma is one of the deadliest skin cancers had me so emotional. I instantly broke down but was calmed by my dermatologist. She did another excision biopsy to try to clear the margins and sent it to the pathologist who then declared my margins clear. I was so relieved! I've known a few patients who were not as lucky as I was since they had a higher staged disease. I now try to urge everyone to be vigilante about any skin changes because the notion around is that it's almost impossible for dark skinned people to get melanoma but that's absolutely not true. I'm still scared to spend time out in the sun, I wear hats and use an umbrella and now I use sunscreen like cream. I'm Caribbean but I no longer enjoy the jewel of the tropics - the beach like I used to anymore and that's perfectly fine with me for now. Hopefully, I can be able to grow out of that fear of just hearing or thinking about a future melanoma diagnosis 
Sun, 2015-05-17