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Cindy Combats Basal Cell Carcinoma

One day, out of the blue, Cindy found a suspicious spot of skin on her nose. This spot ended up being Basal Cell Carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, which affects almost two million Americans each year according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Cindy shares her story to remind us of the importance of being SunAWARE.

Cindy’s Story

I was a 48-year-old sun worshipper when I discovered a flake of skin on my nose that would not heal. It appeared to be just a piece of dry skin until I washed my face one day and the spot began to bleed.

I made an appointment with my dermatologist and she took a biopsy. I returned a week later to have the stitches taken out and told her that the spot that flaked was not exactly on the spot that she biopsied. The biopsy came back negative and she assured me that if there was cancer it would have shown up on the test results.

I returned to her a year later complaining the spot was bigger and continued to flake. This time she froze the area. I waited 6 months and returned insisting on another biopsy – in the correct spot. This time it came back positive for basal cell. She apologized admitting she had taken a biopsy the first time from a wrong area. I was scheduled for a Mohs procedure and flap repair with a plastic surgeon. I realized then I had to be my own best advocate!

I stopped sitting in the sun without sunscreen and a hat. However; five years later I was diagnosed with a second basal cell carcinoma. Again, the only indication I had was a flaky spot on the side of my nose that just would not completely heal up. And again, I was scheduled for Mohs procedure and flap repair.

My Doctor states that once diagnosed with basal cell skin cancer you are more likely to have a reoccurrence.  Now I won’t leave the house without a hat. I also wear a sunscreen of SPF 46 and make-up with sunscreen.

My younger brother was diagnosed and treated for melanoma when he was only 38-years-old. He had a mole on his back that surgeons stated were sure had been there all his life. He is now 16 years cancer free! He is very cautious about being in the sun and always wears long sleeves and sunscreen!

My advice to you is to be safe while you are in the sun, protect yourself.  Check your skin for changes and be your own best advocate.  Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.  Save yourself from having to going through what I have. 

Cindy After Mohs Surgery
Cindy after Mohs surgery
Cindy After Stitches Were Removed
Cindy after stitches removed
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Success Stories Wellness Warriors

Melanoma Survivor Tim

Tim Ward and Family

In 2007, Tim went to a Mayo Clinic dermatologist to have a mole on his left arm looked at. The doctor removed it right away so it could be tested. A few years prior, Tim had this same mole tested, and it was fine. But this time, the biopsy showed that the mole had turned into Melanoma.

Tim’s Story

My name is Tim Ward.  I am 39 years old and had malignant melanoma.  I was diagnosed in the summer of 2007.

I am Australian born and lived in Melbourne Australia for 25 years.  In 1996 I came to America to study at the University of Minnesota in horticulture.  I have worked in the horticulture industry my whole life, outdoors most of the time. 

Five years prior to my diagnosis I had a mole biopsied on my left arm.  The doctors took only a part of the mole and left the rest.  The biopsy came back fine and nothing more was mentioned to me at the time.  Five years later my wife Amy noticed a change of color to that particular mole.  I went to Mayo Clinic to see dermatology.  The physician who examined my body wanted a biopsy of that mole immediately.  Three to four days later I received a call back from Mayo with the diagnosis of malignant melanoma.  They scheduled me that week to remove the rest of the mole and its margins.  They took the margins around the mole and 35 stitches later sewed me up.  Five to ten days later the clinic called again to tell me that they had removed all of the cancer.  I have since had a few other moles removed which have all been cancer free. 

Since the diagnosis I have paid close attention to my entire body. My family has been very sensitive during this experience.  I have 8-year-old twin boys, one with very fair skin like myself.  My wife and I are very conscientious of sun protection for our family.  I have always worn sunscreen year round prior to cancer and since.  Unfortunately, my profession leaves me exposed all of the time.  I try to wear a hat and long sleeves when possible.  I am very careful to apply sunscreen to my children and to make sure they wear UV protection clothing especially when swimming. 

My advice to you would be to use sun protection year round and to try and limit your sun exposure if possible.  Regularly see your doctor and watch for any changes to your skin.

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Sun Protection Clothing Wellness Warriors

I’m Only 21, I Can’t Get Cancer

In 2009, Jessi went to a dermatologist to have a freckle removed. A week later, she received a call from her doctor and was told she had Melanoma (the most serious form of skin cancer). She was only 21-years-old at the time. Before her diagnoses, Jessi was unaware of the dangers of UV exposure. In high school, she tanned during the short Minnesota summers and visited tanning salons before formal dances. Since then, she has been proactive about sun protection and tracking changes on her skin throughout the year.

Jessi’s Story

I never thought I would be diagnosed with skin cancer. I had a freckle on my forearm with all the characteristics of a questionable spot. After a couple friends said I should get that spot checked out, I finally decided to go to the clinic and have the freckle removed. The next week, I received a call from the clinic and was told I had Melanoma and needed to have more skin removed. Before I had a larger excision, I scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist for an entire body check. During that appointment, two more spots were removed. The spot on my back came back positive with Melanoma. Especially after the second spot came back positive, my mentality about sun protection has completely changed. I am now always prepared with sunscreen or sun protective clothing when I know I will be spending time in the sun. 

Jessi Staying Covered Hiking Grand Canyon
Jessi Staying Covered Hiking Grand Canyon, 2010

Since I was diagnosed, a few things have changed. First of all, I will never use tanning beds again. Although I never used them regularly or frequently, I did use tanning beds in order to be tan for formal dances. Secondly, I am now always aware of when I am in the sun and plan ahead for protection.

Sun protection played a minor role in my life before my diagnosis. After diagnosis, I now make sure I have a stock of sun screen, sun protective clothing and a nice hat. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with skin cancer, sun protection is important. Not only does it reduce your chance for skin cancer, it keeps your skin looking younger longer. It is never too early to start using skin protection. 

Melanoma Removal Scar on Back
Melanoma Removal Scar on Back
A-Typical Mole Removed on Leg
A-Typical Mole Removed on Leg

 

Jessi also has a scar on her arm where Melanoma was removed. She visits the dermatologist twice a year to have a full-skin exam. After her melanoma was excised two years ago, her doctor has not found any more traces of Melanoma, although Jessi continues to have a-typical (suspicious) moles removed almost every visit.

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SunAWARE Wellness Warriors

Skin Cancer Survivor Carol

Carol Schuler was in her early 30s when she found a freckle on the left side of her face that appeared abnormal, it turned out to be Lentigo Maligna (a form of melanoma).

Carol’s Story

I had [the freckle that turned out to be Lentigo Maligna] looked at about 8 years before I did something about it, but then had Mohs procedure on it about 15 years ago followed by extensive plastic surgery.

I remember this freckle showing up and not noticing that it was growing and changing since it was so slow. When I mentioned it to my family doctor, I was told to just keep an eye on it. If I had gone to a dermatologist right way, I might have avoided having a chunk of my face the size of a 50-cent piece cut out of my face years later. Since I was living in Australia at the time, when I would go home in the summer my best friend Julie started bugging me about it.  Being a busy mother of 3 children my tendency was to put my own health at the end of the list of to do’s. This is a cautionary tale about taking the time for your own health in order to ensure that you are here for your kids in the future.

I feel very lucky to be able to have had it taken care of even though it had grown rather large. I also wear very high quality sunscreen on my face every day of the year. Winter sun can be just as damaging with prolonged exposure.  Now that there are great, breathable fabrics like SUNTECT® from Coolibar – I am able to spend as much time as I like outside without worrying about skin damage.

When I was living in Australia I used to only put on sunscreen when I was going to the beach or pool but the sun was there every minute of the day so I should have applied sunscreen every day regardless of my activity.

Don’t put off going to the doctor to have something checked, the sooner the better.  The time you take to deal with it today just might save your life.

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Success Stories Wellness Warriors

A 6-Year-Old Melanoma Hero

It’s not fair that anyone should have to deal with something as life altering as melanoma, especially a 6-year-old. Rachael was only 5 when she was diagnosed with stage III melanoma on September 10, 2009. After a year of battling and conquering melanoma, Rachael and her family know all too well why sun protection is important.

It all started with a little mole on her left arm that Rachael complained hurt. Rachael’s mom, Danielle, took her to the doctor thinking the mole was nothing, but better be on the safe-side. Once at the Doctor’s office, the physician removed the mole and everything was assumed to be okay. While this spot was not initially diagnosed as stage III melanoma, after the first biopsy, doctors knew it was something. It was confirmed after Rachael had a wide local excision on her arm three inches long and a biopsy of the sentinel lymph node, where they removed a few lymph nodes to look for cancer cells. 

While the typical survival rate for stage III melanoma is 60 percent, Rachael was in a rare, but good situation for the circumstances. Doctors told Danielle that children under the age of 10 diagnosed with malignant melanoma have a high survival rate, but further action was necessary. The treatment Doctors recommended for Rachael has been used on less than 100 children in Rachael’s situation and all survived. Her treatment never incorporated chemo, but rather surgery (to remove all lymph nodes under her left arm), four weeks of interferon given daily through an IV using a picc line (which can make the patient ill), weekly injections through the picc line for 48 weeks, and what will be years of follow-up tests. Rachael received a bead through the Beads of Courage program for every treatment she went through. By the end of the year, her necklace of beads was worth more than a thousand words.

Rachael's Beads of Courage

Fortunately, Rachael’s cancer was caught early. She is living healthfully and cancer-free now among her parents and brother; however, her journey to wellbeing was not an easy one, and the experience has forever changed her life as well as her family. Danielle says, “A year into this, how has life changed for us? I think about the sun every single day… I no longer think 15 minutes without sunscreen is okay. Rachael wears a hat every day.  She wears it in the pool.  She wears it to the beach.  She wears it in the shade.” Danielle does this with great reason too. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, about 65 percent of melanoma cases can be attributed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Rachael and those surrounding her are now all practicing sun-safe habits every day under the sun.

Danielle’s Blog chronicles their family’s journey through pediatric melanoma: http://iloveyoumorethanmost.blogspot.com

Organizations such as the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation aggressively focus attention on the need to teach “prevention” and “sun protection” to children, and their caregivers. Learn more about this program and tools you can use to teach future generations how to be SunAWARE.

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Wellness Warriors

14 Year Melanoma Survivor

Tim Burriss, Melanoma Survivor and founder of the Stay Out of the Sun Foundation passionately promotes awareness of the dangers of sun exposure and melanoma research.  He discusses his work with us.

I am a very grateful 14 year melanoma survivor! 

In May 2006 I started the Stay Out of the Sun Run to benefit melanoma research and education at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.  We have had great success and have contributed over $120,000 to the Mayo Clinic and have had over 2,700 participants in just 5 years.  

Mayo Clinic has used these proceeds for the 2009 Melanoma Patient Symposium, Melanoma CME course for the professional staff, and Mayo Proceedings publication of several research articles prepared by Mayo Clinic researchers.  We are in the process of wrapping up the 2010 event and starting the preparations for the 6th Annual Stay Out of the Sun Run on May 20, 2011.  For more information please visit our website at Stay Out of the Sun Foundation

 
2010 SOSR 10K Runners - Rochester, MN

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