In 2002 my life was forever changed because of the picture above.  I went in for a "routine" dermatology appointment to have a couple of moles taken off that were bothering me.  When I told the doctor what I wanted he felt like they didn't need to be removed but said since I was there he would remove them.  I went on with life and two weeks later went in to get my stitches out.  Oh and I actually tanned before I went to the doctor.  The doctor came in the room while looking at my chart then quickly excused himself from the room.  I never thought a thing about that thinking he might have forgotten something.  Next thing I know he is back in my room explaining the mole on the left leg (which he didn't think needed to be removed) was malignant metastatic melanoma stage 3.  As he explained everything that was to come in the very near future I didn't hear a word because I was overwhelmed with emotion.  

The next week I traveled to MD Anderson in Houston.  Two days later I was having surgery.  Not just any surgery but a surgery that would leave a huge scar and would be a large incision.  The mole that was removed was tiny, so why would the incision be so large?  Well the melanoma had grown down and broke off into little fingers, so in order to get a clear margin they would need to remove a lot of skin.  They also would be doing a sentinel node biopsy to see if any lymph nodes were positive.  

The surgery went smooth but the recovery sucked!  The lymph node biopsy felt like fire coming from the inside out and my leg was a MESS!!  After being in the hospital for 5 days I finally got to go home.  Next the waiting game began.  The biopsy results would not be back for a week.  That was one of the worst weeks of my life!  Then I got the call.  I held my breath.  The lymph nodes were negative and they got a clear margin around the melanoma!!!  My follow up would be a CT scan every 6 months and a full skin check every 3 months for a year.  Well I could DEFINITELY live with that.

Everything went very smooth and I did as I was told for the next 2 years until one day I noticed another purple mole very close to my first melanoma.  I made an appointment and the doctor removed it with no question.  I got the call……….yep THAT call.  Melanoma AGAIN!!!!  The world stopped again!  This can NOT be happening.  Again I headed to MD Anderson a few days later and again had surgery soon after.  They did another lymph node biopsy and another large excision of the area.  Again the waiting game.  This time I just knew the lymph nodes would be positive, but thank GOD they were again negative!  BUT even though they were negative they felt chemotherapy was needed.  This particular chemo is infused every day for a week, then once a week for a year.  Well my immune system was already weak because I have diabetes.  I tried to get through the chemo but finally the doctor said no more!  The chemo destroyed my immune system and she would no longer administer it.  I had to decide what to do.  After prayer I decided to stop and pray for no other recurrence.  

As of today, April 20, 2014 I have been cancer free since 2004!!!!!  I still am terrified any time I see a new spot and have had many moles removed since.  I am one of the lucky ones and I'm so grateful for that, but I want to share how I got into this MESS to begin with!!!

I am a redhead with very pale skin.  That is never good!  As a teenager I desperately wanted to be tan like my friends.  The ONLY way to get that bronze glow was a tanning bed.  I tanned at least 3 times a week and prom time it was everyday.  Also I had many sunburns as a child and as a teenager because sunscreen was never at the top of the list.  In fact I remember mixing baby oil and iodine together and slathering it on.  That was supposed to accelerate your tan!  Stupid, stupid stupid!!!!  

I have NO DOUBT my melanoma was a result of the tanning bed!  NO DOUBT!!!!!!  The melanoma was on the left leg both times on the back where it laid against the tanning beds over and over and over.   I know you think it won't happen to you just like I thought.  It is NOT worth it!!!  Life is much more precious than a stupid tan!  Please STAY AWAY from the tanning bed!  It CAN happen to you just like it happened to me twice!!!!!  It's not JUST skin cancer.  It is deadly!  Truly at stage 3 I am very, very lucky and blessed to be alive.  Take care of the skin you have!!!!