It’s genetic. Is that supposed to make me feel better?

It is incredibly difficult for me to share the following info about myself, but I think it’s very important because I believe people will rarely pay attention to medical issues unless they know someone who has been personally affected.

On Monday morning I received a phone call from my dermatologist that a mole I had removed two weeks before tested positive for melanoma, my second in less than two years.  While you all were in class discussing social media and government, I was having outpatient surgery on my thigh.  Today is my birthday, so it was a really great way to celebrate.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and it’s on the rise in young people ages 20-34.  If you want to learn more, the Skin Cancer Foundation has a ton of great information, and there is a great skin type quiz that can help you determine if you are at greater risk.  In the interest of brevity, suffice to say I can check pretty much all the boxes.

I have always had a lot of freckles and several moles since childhood and for a while friends and family would tell me to go get a particular mole checked out on my back.  I didn’t go to the dermatologist for a long time, despite the comprehensive free health care I have had since joining the military nearly 8 years ago.  When I finally went to the doctor, he took one look and said, “I’m gonna take that one.”  That’s all he said, but I heard the concern in his voice.  He biopsied that one and two others, and told me they would call me only there was a problem.

Six months later…  Out of the blue the doctor called me six months after that visit to inform me that I had a melanoma and that my sample had been lost at the lab for all that time.  He and his office workers had neglected to follow up with the lab on my samples, meaning that they may never have discovered my results.  I won’t go into the details of the follow-up treatment I went through other than to say that I now have a four-inch long scar on my upper back.  I didn’t need chemo or radiation.

This post is not intended to be a treatise on the on-going health insurance debate, and it’s not a scare tactic.  This is just my way of asking you all to be proactive about your own health care.  If you think something isn’t being handled appropriately, or if you think there’s something wrong that the doctor says is nothing, make them check it out anyway.  Many of you are probably still on your parents’ insurance so you may not know how important it is to find a job that can provide you with that coverage.  If I didn’t have the excellent coverage that I do have I may never have had it checked.  With melanoma, it is almost 98% curable if caught early enough, which both of mine were.  So bottom line, get yourself checked out if you see something that looks weird.

If you have questions, I’ll be glad to answer them.  But PLEASE, don’t treat me like a sick person when you see me in class.  I’m fine – really.  And STOP TANNING ALREADY!

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11 Comments

Filed under health care, melanoma, Uncategorized

11 responses to “It’s genetic. Is that supposed to make me feel better?

  1. cameronellis88

    Anna, first I am glad that you are doing ok. Thanks for sharing the importance of being on the lookout for skin cancer. I have been in the sun playing tennis since I was 10 and always feared what I was doing to my skin. I hate going to the doctor (cause they never tell me anything good!), but I got my first whole body skin check last summer and didn’t have any abnormalities. I will admit, I am still having issues giving up the “laying out” sessions by the pool!

  2. My girlfriend also was diagnosed with a melanoma in her foot two years ago, and it was a complete surprise. Luckily it was caught early and as of right now she shows no signs of anything coming back, which is great. Thanks for sharing and I agree completely on the need to watch sun exposure and at the very least get checked.

    • I’m glad she was able to catch it early. It definitely comes as quite the shock. When you’re young and take care of yourself, you never expect something like this to happen to you; it’s the sort of thing you only think happens to other, old people.

  3. Anna, I hate to hear that you had to go through this. However, I’m glad to know that you have excellent health care and can seek necessary treatment. Unfortunately, too many Americans wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go to the doctor in the first place, let alone get follow up treatment.

  4. Marcie, I agree. I don’t really understand the new Health Care law, but I do know that sometimes it is incredibly expensive to purchase health care benefits. When people without insurance go to the emergency room to receive health care it drives up the costs for others and makes it difficult for people in true emergency situations to get the care they need in a timely fashion.

  5. Anna, I love that you’re using your blog platform to bring awareness to such an important subject. I hate that you’re going through something so scary, but your proactive approach and positivity are really commendable.

    Also, side note to the health care discussion. When I was 21, I didn’t have health insurance. I also had my appendix taken out. 30,000 dollars later for a surgery that took 30 minutes, I discovered that hospitals actually have pretty reasonable payment plans. The moral of the story is that requiring health insurance like car insurance may be a good thing for kids that feel like it’s not a necessity. However, if things stay the way they are, payment plans aren’t the end of the world.

    • Ouch, $30,000! I’m glad that you were able to arrange a reasonable repayment plan with your hospital. I have heard that they are usually very understanding about it with people. I remember when I was first out of college I never went to the doctor because I was so broke. It likely would have taken an emergency like yours for me to see a doctor at all.

  6. Anna, I am so glad that you are ok! It is great that you feel comfortable telling your story to us! I have been fortunate to have no immediate personal run-ins with this (not myself or close family members). However, I have grown up with my mom ALWAYS laying out on our back deck, going to the beach, and going to White Water every week in the summer. I will definitely be pro-active if I suspect anything. Thanks again for sharing!

    • Casie, my mom always laid out too, but she taught me from an early age to slather on sunscreen. This is mostly because I burn within fifteen to thirty minutes of sun exposure in the summer if I don’t wear at least 3 SPF. I have had a few bad sunburns through the years, and one bad one is all it takes to develop into something more.

  7. Ning Huang

    Oh, I treat you as a brave person who frankly speak out the problem and have a sincere hope that everyone should learn to take care of themselve. I think we need to keep the healthy lifestyle and habbits, in order to keep the disease from us. Once we set up the stable and healthy rules, we would enjoy the happy and healthy life.

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