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It’s not something I like to talk about, but 4 years ago, I was diagnosed with Melanoma—the least common (5% of all skin cancer cases), but most serious and deadly form of skin cancer. In fact, one American dies of melanoma almost every hour. However, the 5-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99% (American Cancer Society. 2009 Cancer Facts and Figures).
It was a scary time in my life, but I was very lucky that it was in the very early stages when I was diagnosed, and I only needed surgery to remove the lesion. It was a mole that I’d had for years and didn’t think anything of, but my normal doctor mentioned that I should have it checked out one day. So I made a dermatologist appointment, had a biopsy done and got the news that I needed surgery to remove it—and that I needed to do it as soon as possible.
Actually, I didn’t realize quite how serious it was until I went in for my surgery. When I heard mole removal, I thought they’d just be removing the mole. I sat down in the chair and the dermatologist drew a circle around the mole, then he drew a large shape around that. It looked like he had just drawn a giant eyeball on my leg.
This is not the image from my surgery, but this is what it looks like when you go in for a melanoma excision. They remove everything inside of the drawing:
It was at that moment that I realized the issue was far more serious than I had known. I was about to have a giant chunk (of cancer) cut out of my leg. After having a panic attack (I have some serious medical phobias), the surgery proceeded and the cancer was removed. The biopsy report came back and showed that they were able to remove everything.
Even today, I have a daily reminder of my experience with melanoma, my scar:
While my case of melanoma was easily treated, your life does flash before your eyes when you hear the “C” word. I think that’s why I relate so much to the show, “The Big C.” Brian didn’t understand why the main character freaked out so much and went into crisis mode. And although my melanoma wasn’t terminal like hers, having cancer still changes you in unimaginable ways.
Maybe it doesn’t affect everyone the same way, but for me, it completely changed the way I look at the world. Many things get much simpler. If someone doesn’t like the way I live my life. Too bad. If someone is only putting negative energy into my life, it’s much easier to say goodbye than it would have been before.
Having cancer really opens your eyes to how precious, and brief, life really is. You have to take advantage of every moment that you’re blessed with. Because you never know when it might be unexpectedly taken away from you.
One thing that really changed for me is evaluating what I put into my body, and onto my skin. I have tried to eliminate environmental toxins from my life wherever I can. That’s still a journey I’m on, but I think I’m much more cautious than at least 90% of people out there.
Having melanoma is one of the major events in my life that started me on my journey of educating others about healthy eating and the dangers of conventional skincare products. Chemicals surround us every day, but we do have the power to control our exposure to many of them.
So, in honor of May being Melanoma Awareness Month, in addition to urging you to make a dermatologist appointment for a skin cancer screening if you haven’t been recently…
I will be donating 10% of all online sales I make for alex+von for the remainder of the month to the Skin Cancer Foundation (you need to enter my name at checkout).
Help me gain awareness for this growing epidemic by making a purchase today.
After you do, please comment below so I can personally thank you for your support.