Have you heard of a mom’s unborn child saving her life? Erica’s daughter Caroline did just that (both pictured to left). Read Erica’s story and how her daughter may just have saved her from Melanoma.
My name is Erica. I am a daughter, granddaughter, wife and mother. Although having my child at the age of 22 was not in my immediate plans, I often say that if it wasn’t for my strong-willed, red-headed little girl I may not have been here to make plans. I am a firm believer in everything happening for a reason and am at complete peace with the bumpy ride I am still on regarding my skin. This is a short version of my journey with melanoma thus far.
Two months after my 22nd birthday I had a six month OBGYN appointment. I always saw a midwife but on this particular day I saw the actual OB and I was wearing shorts, something I rarely did while I was pregnant. He took one look at a spot on my thigh and suggested I see my primary care doctor immediately to have it checked out. This mole had been on my leg for about two years and although it was ugly it was just one of those things I kept putting off getting checked. It was not important to me, after all what could it have been? Just an ugly, unattractive spot I could get taken off for cosmetic reasons? My general practitioner believed it to be nothing but still removed it for further testing. Initially, I was told that it was severely dysplastic and I was sitting on the door step of melanoma. After further evaluation from the pathologist it was confirmed that I indeed had a .68 mm stage 1 melanoma that showed signs of regression.
When I got the news that I had melanoma it truly didn’t hit me that this was a very serious condition. When I got the call from the doctor that I needed to go in that morning I went by myself and was not the slightest bit nervous. I vividly remember the nurse hugging me and telling me that all would be o.k. and I would still be here for my daughter. It was at that point that I broke down crying in the office, hugging a stranger trying to get a good grip on the fact that I not only had cancer but I had the deadliest form of skin cancer.
After that things started moving very fast. I was scheduled immediately for a WLE (wide local excision) and a lymph node biopsy because I had some issues with them around the time the mole originally appeared. Being that I was pregnant, the lymph node biopsy had to wait until my little girl was around seven weeks old. The WLE resulted in clear margins and there was no signs of melanoma in my lymph nodes once they were checked. All was fine until roughly seven months later when another melanoma was found in my groin region. Thankfully that one was an in situ which is essentially stage 0 and is not invasive. Several other biopsies were taken as a precautionary measure which has left me with several keloids scattered around my body. Since then I have had a nevus with pre-cancerous cells which was taken care of with a WLE. I am also currently awaiting results on another biopsy.
One of the biggest questions I get asked about my personal experience with melanoma is how did I get it. When I was sixteen I began going to the tanning bed. As a teenager and even during my collage years I didn’t do the typical rebellious things such as drinking, partying, etc. I was a homebody, an honor student, the type of person who chose to go to bed at 9 on a Friday night. Little did I know, the one activity I was partaking in to make me feel good about myself and boost my self-confidence was the number one thing that could have very easily robbed me of my life. I would tan a couple times a week, use the hottest tanning lotions and tan for about 15-20 minutes at a time. What I didn’t know is each and every time I would lay in a tanning bed I was engaging in risky behavior that could have been fatal. During my tanning years I heard of melanoma and even saw pictures but I always brushed it off as something that would not happen to me or happen many years down the road when I was “old”. I have since found out that skin cancer also runs on my paternal side of the family, something I had no idea about at the time. Unfortunately, ignorance truly is bliss.
In the past two years I have became very educated when it comes to melanoma. I have read and reread the facts, told anyone and everyone who will listen about my story and have became very vigilant with my skin checks. I see my dermatologist every three months and we check and reevaluate areas of concern. My little girl will forever be at a higher risk given my history so sunscreen, monitoring her skin and keeping her safe from the sun is of utmost importance to me. I am also learning to embrace my once tan body that is now a body full of scars, keloids and regularly appearing nevi. If I was to never get another melanoma it would not mean that it is totally over. It would simply mean that there is NED (no evidence of disease). Melanoma education, prevention and awareness will forever play a big role in my life!
Erica Adams – Founder of Astheygrowup.com blog