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Skin cancer - how survivors tell it

Posted By May

At ESK, one of our core philosophies is about taking care of skin on and beyond the surface. In this post, join us as we dive into the personal narratives and the emotional side of skin cancer straight from the survivors.

Hopefully we can all learn a thing or two about why we need take skin care more seriously.

 

The battles fought to win the melanoma war

Dr. Banerjee and other social scientists from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center conducted research in 2018 to look into what melanoma survivors said and felt at every stage of skin cancer from pre-diagnosis, diagnosis, treatment and post-treatment.

From this study and the source of their data (melanoma.org), here are some of the survivors gut-wrenching thoughts at each stage of skin cancer.

 

It all starts with suspicion (pre-diagnosis)

Before the survivors knew that they had cancer, most of the patients talked about noticing a suspicious mole/lesion that led to their doctors appointment.


I noticed a color change in a mole I had on my collar bone area on my chest. The mole I had all my life and was about 1/8 inch in diameter. It was changing from brown to having black flecks or streaks in it (not full blown black).

One of my many moles started to change. It was on my right ear. It was getting bigger and darker. I didnt think a lot of it until I woke up one morning with blood in my hair. I realized the mole had burst and bled overnight.


Cliché but true, big things start from small beginnings. Best to have even the smallest of suspicious moles checked as much as possible. A routine check with your favorite dermatologist at least once a year would be a good start.

 

The bomb-dropping diagnosis

Survivors at this stage thought about the person bearing the news that they had cancer and their emotional responses to it.


The ENT doctor sent me off to get a neck CT because he felt a lump in my neck. Yes my stomach dropped.

At first the news was sickening. My blood pressure was 180 over 130 as I had not been able to sleep for days.





Transitioning to treatment and finding the best doctor

In seeking treatment, at this phase the survivors top concern was finding the best physician for the job, even if it took multiple visits to more than one doctor.


We got a second opinion from a surgical oncologist who specializes in melanoma. He pretty much backed everything up that we had been told, but both Ben and I felt 100% more comfortable with a specialist doing the work.





Powering through treatment: positive thinking

For 96% of the sampled survivors during treatment, it was the best way they knew how to deal with the challenges ahead.


While I would not wish this on anyone, I can say that it has been a weird blessing in disguise. Im not even sure how to describe it, maybe its a wake-up call, a change of prospective... or simply its life changing. I find myself hugging my boys tighter and longer before dropping them off at school and I whisper a small prayer for them as they walk in.





Vigilance heightened at post-treatment


Since then, I cover up and use sunscreen. Ive had numerous moles removed through the years. One mole on my back I had removed a few years ago was precancerous. I now see a dermatologist annually.

Obviously if you are reading this, (you) or someone you know has had melanoma, so please for my father spread awareness... get yourself and your family and friends checked.


In the name of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, spread the word and practice safe skin care. Wear sunscreen, hats and protective clothing when out in the sun and make routine visits to your dermatologist.

ESK has medi-spas that might be near you. Ask our Beauty Advisors today to schedule a visit with our friendly licensed dermatologists.

--
REFERENCE: 
Banerjee, S. C., D'Agostino, T. A., Gordon, M. L., & Hay, J. L. (2018). "It's Not JUST Skin Cancer": Understanding Their Cancer Experience From Melanoma Survivor Narratives Shared Online. Health communication33(2), 188201. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2016.1250707 



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