A childhood cancer survivor’s journey is never done. We live with the risk of long-term effects from our treatment for the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, I am not immune to this. I have always known I had a higher risk of being diagnosis with skin cancer, but I never really thought about it. I used sun screen if I was going to be outside for a prolonged period of time and wore a hat to block the sun. I have never used a tanning bed and for the most part thought I did a good job at just being cautious.
A few months ago, I notice a spot at my hairline that I never felt before. It gave me an uneasy feeling. I know my body and I knew this was something new and wasn’t going away. I made an appointment with a dermatologist and then the pandemic hit and my appointment got cancelled. A month went by and I knew the spot on my neck wasn’t a normal mole or ingrown hair. I had a deep somewhat unsettling feeling it was skin cancer. My dermatologist’s office finally opened back up and rescheduled my appointment. I brought my stuffed dog, Katie with me. She had been there during my cancer treatment years earlier and I knew that if I were to need a biopsy I would want her with me again. Sadly, I was right…my doctor confirmed that she didn’t like the spot I found and she took a biopsy. I held Katie as she injected numbing medication into the spot so I wouldn’t feel the biopsy.
A few days later, the results were back. It was Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) the most common type of skin cancer. My treatment will be to have it removed. Since I live a nomadic life, my dermatologist is kind enough to work with me to find a dermatologist in which ever city I end up in to have the BCC removed. I will also have follow up with my dermatologist every six months (although not sure how that will work if I am on the other side of the country.)
Hearing the news I had skin cancer, felt weird. It was like I already knew I had it, but to hear the words was surreal. I can only assume that my treatment from the leukemia had a part to play in this diagnosis, as it is the only risk factor I have. It brings an awareness of how quickly our health can change. We only have one body, so we need to care for it the best way we can.
What comes next, a more vigilant me. According to the skin cancer foundation, once you get one BCC, you are at risk of getting another. I ordered a hat, will continue to wear sun screen when outside especially for prolonged periods of time and will note any other spots I find on my body because with any form of cancer, you want to catch in early. In a few months when we get to Las Vegas, I will find a dermatologist to remove the spot. And I will pray that this will be my first and last dealing with BCC or any other form of skin cancer.
Your skin is your largest organ so please take care of it. Please check your body, check your loved ones and if you see anything that looks suspicious get it checked out by a dermatologist. Please refer to the Skin Cancer Foundation for more information about risk factors and warning signs.