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!