JS

Early detection saves lives.

 

Hi friends. At the age of 28, I was diagnosed with Stage I melanoma on my scalp. The lesion is underneath a substantial amount of hair about 1.5 fingers away from the hairline of my forehead. I was very lucky to have detected this early.

I spent my childhood in Australia, so have always been quite paranoid about sun exposure and skin-cancer. I have had regular checkups since high school, annual checkups since college, and obsessively apply SPF 30+ sunscreen and wear hats. I don't avoid the sun, but always keep my head covered while reading, and wear a hat in the water. I've had two moles removed that were normal (paranoid, see!), and do have quite a few moles throughout my body (Asian/Italian heritage).

Just before the December holidays, I noticed a slightly painful bump on my scalp and thought it was a pimple. It bled a little bit, and I figured it would go away in a few days. Surprisingly, I developed a scab. After the scab fell off, I noticed a brown mark. Over the next few weeks, I noticed this brown mark growing. I thought I was being paranoid, but scheduled my annual dermatologist appointment for when I returned to NYC just in case.

My dermatologist is Dr. Rahat Azhar, and this was the first time I had seen her. She took a shave biopsy of the lesion, and checked the rest of my body. 1 week later, the biopsy came back confirming melanoma. I was diagnosed with a .38mm lesion, and she advised me to have it removed as soon as possible.

Needless to say I was devastated. The emotions that surge through a person when they hear the word "cancer," are quite powerful, and the tendancy I have to hop onto pubmed and do research were not helpful in my situation. All I found out was that I had been diagnosed with one of the most fatal types of skin cancer, and that an early stage diagnosis could still lead to complications.

I was referred to MSK, but was told that I would have a 4 week wait period. I was then referred to NYU, where Dr. Shapiro got me in for an appointment the next business day. I will say this - if you are in NYC and need to have a doctor who knows how to balance humor and facts, this is your guy. I have never met a kinder surgeon, and am so glad that he took me on as a patient. He had me scheduled for the first available surgery, and removed the lesionn and a thin margin of tissue. 

The surgery went smoothly, and my pathology showed clean margins. I'll now go for check ups every 3 months, and have alerted my family to go and get checked.

The fact that we caught this is a miracle. I am so grateful for good dermatologists who know what to look for, for my mother who made me paranoid about that hole in the ozone layer, and for my husband who took care of me every single second until I was back to normal. 

I head out to Tanzania to go set up a refugee camp next week, and have packed many hats and a few tubes of sunscreen.

Skin checks save lives - don't forget the scalp.

J

 

Tue, 2016-02-16

Comments

It's so good to hear a melanoma story with a happy ending. Three years ago, I noticed a newish mole above my right elbow and was concerened about its size (around the size of a pencil eraser). When I saw the PA at my dermatology office, I pointed out the mole and she initially didn't state that we should biopsy it. She basically left it up to me since it was "borderline" in size. I fervently asked her to biopsy it and it turned out to be Stage 0 melanoma in situ. Needless to say, I no longer see this PA. The dermatologist performed the surgery and my margins were clear.

Just this past week, I saw my dermatologist for my 6 month skin check and directed her to an asymmetrical mole on my arm, just above where my original melanoma was. She biopsied it and it was on the spectrum between benign and melanoma in situ. Just had my second surgery this week. My point is that we need to be vigilant about our own health as patients and carefully examine our bodies regularly and definitely get skin checks frequently. 

It is definitely stressful living as a melanoma survivor since we never know if we'll get another melanoma and there's a decent chance we will. So thankful I found this forum.