brave, cancer, gratitude

PSA: Wear Sunscreen


I had this mole on my upper chest that appeared and would occasionally scab over. My doctor looked at it, but she didn’t think much of it. A year or so later I accidentally scratched the mole, the scab opened and some blood got on my sweater. I asked my doctor to remove it due to annoyance. However, a few days later she called me to inform me it was more than annoyance. The cells were abnormal – basal cell carcinoma. I was freaked out at first but then learned it’s not terribly concerning.

(My primary care physician felt really bad. She honestly didn’t think it was anything more than a mole. This experience taught me that doctors are human too and I have a responsibility to speak up for my health.)

At first I was sent to a dermatologist to have a really fancy procedure done – a really fancy and really expensive procedure. It would make sense to have that procedure if the mole was on my face, but it wasn’t and I didn’t care that much about a visible scar on my chest. So, I found a different dermatologist and she removed it. That was March 2016.


Thanks to that mole, I go for a yearly skin check-up. Last year there were no issues. Then last week I went back and she asked if there was anything I was concerned about. I casually mentioned this spot on my head, just inside my hairline, which scabs over occasionally. She looked at it closely and decided to take a biopsy. She told me I’d hear from them a few days later, maybe not until Monday (the appointment was Tuesday). However, Thursday afternoon I had a voicemail from the office and got a follow up call the next morning. More BCC.

Yesterday I had the spot on my scalp removed. I now have five staples in my head (to be removed next Wednesday).

I went to a tanning bed once in high school. I enjoy swimming and laying out by the pool with a book. I usually put on sunscreen, but I’m not always perfect at applying it. Sometimes I still get burned. When I was younger I didn’t mind getting burned because I knew I’d soon have a tan after a few days.

I think I look prettier when I’m tan. Society tells me that I look prettier when I’m tan.

However, I would never describe myself as a “sun worshipper.” I don’t go out of my way to be in the sun just to get a tan – I just enjoy being outside. I enjoy laying on my hammock reading a book. I enjoy laying near the water and cooling off when it gets too hot. I don’t think I’m out of the ordinary in all of this. There are many people who are in the sun much more than I am.

I don’t ever recall my scalp being burned by the sun. My chest, on the other hand, gets a lot of sun exposure. Somehow I had the same abnormal cells in both places.

Some of this may be genetic – several family members on side have had similar experiences.

I asked my doctor why these need to be removed since Google told me it’s not that serious (if left alone it doesn’t become melanoma or anything like that). She said moles like this will continue to grow and over time will become large sores. Because I’m so young (her words lol), she wants to get them removed as quickly as possible.

I know I haven’t taken care of my skin perfectly over the last 39 years but I didn’t think I was that bad. I don’t know anyone else in my peer group who’s had this issue. (If you have, let me know!) I’m grateful to have good insurance and that each spot was caught quickly. I’m not so grateful for procedure itself (it’s a quick, in the office surgery…while I’m awake listening and “feeling” it all happen), but I am grateful it’s not more invasive or disruptive to my life.

Wear sunscreen, friends. We can’t fix our genetics, but we can control our environment. It’s easier to blame this on genetics because then it’s not my fault. However, I suspect this is more my fault than I’d like own. The next time I’m out in the sun, I’ll remember these staples in my head and find some sunscreen immediately. (Put that under “things I never thought I’d say”)


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