Thursday, May 15, 2014

Leave me ALONE, for crying out loud! It's JUST a mole!

I said that many times when I was a teenager. When I was in my twenties. In my thirties. Even on into my forties. I said it to my Mama the most. I said it to my Daddy. I said it to my husband. I said it, a bit nicer than that, to complete strangers. But that not all I said.

"It's not going to kill me or anything!"

That completes my dramatic response to anyone who did not like the looks of the mole on my upper left arm and dared to say anything about it. To tell you the truth, I got sick and tired of hearing how I "was going to have trouble with it one day," or "do you know you have a tick on your arm?"

Seriously? Anyone who knows me, at all, would know that if there was a tick anywhere on my person, I would find it, remove it, flush it, and certainly not tote it around with me for the fun of it! And anyone who knows me knows that I do not voluntarily show up at a doctor's office and ask to have something removed. Especially something as innocuous as that mole. It didn't bother me. Why couldn't other people just shut up about it?

I did show it to my OB-GYN one time, to get her learned opinion. And she agreed with me: it was two moles that overlapped and that's all it was. Nothing to write home about.

But. Dang it. When I was 48 that mole reared up and bit me. Mama was proven right after all those years. Double dang it. I found out the hard way that a mole really can bring me down. Can we say "RATS!" OK, this calls for strong language. Garden peas! (Don't blame me. My Mama's a baaad example!)

My story is scattered throughout this blogsite so I won't be redundant. But I won't be remiss either.

We're in Melanoma Awareness/Education Month all May long. And we, in the melanoma community, step up our efforts to open the eyes of people who are enjoying dangerous habits so that they stop their fool-hardy ways and take their own steps to avoid joining our exclusive community.

We tell our stories, we share pictures, we get facts and information out there. And what happens? Well, I'll tell you. The vast majority of people get sick and tired of it. Many can get downright rude. People who tan in tanning beds or bake out in the sun (especially without proper broadspectrum sunscreen of at least 30, 45-50 is even better) ignore us or call melanoma "just skin cancer" and display a high level of ignorance and arrogance. And we, in the melanoma community, get hurt and we get angry. We say, "THEY know my story and what is happening to me!"

And we wring our collective hands because we know that many won't get it until they get it.

Just like we did.

See, I'm not the only one who blasély ignored pleas and went ahead doing like I wanted to do. And besides that mole...well, I have a family history of melanoma. And you know what? I still didn't know what melanoma is and what it means to have it. I failed to take it seriously.

I've never seen a tanning bed up close and personal. But I know way too many who have. The warnings are everywhere! And, yet, today, right now, around the world, countless people are killing themselves over a tan. They know about the dangers. But they just do not think it can happen to them.

I got mine from sunburns as a teen. I didn't dare use sunscreen. Nah. That stuff in the 70s smelled like coconut. I used Johnson's Baby Oil! I had no clue I was lighting a lingering flame under that mole that would erupt decades later. No clue. Mama didn't either...not the laying out part...she just never liked how my mole looked. Countless people, all races and who are now middle-aged, were out in the sun for a variety of reasons, unprotected, and melanoma is biting my age demographic hard. We really do pay for the transgressions of our youth, even those transgressions that we don't realize are transgressions. Tanned skin is damaged skin and skin does not forget and it does not forgive. That's a law of nature. Break it and nature can frown really hard.

We people, as a rule, just do not think melanoma or skin cancer can happen to us. To ME. We think we can do as we wish and nature will turn her head and bat her eyes and pretend we really aren't doing what we're doing to harm our skin. People with a lot of skin pigment will think they're immune. People who have never been in a tanning bed or laid out or who don't fit the "profile" will think it WILL NOT happen to them.

You know what? If you have skin..or if you have a body...and from what I've seen, that's 100% of the human population...YOU CAN GET MELANOMA! YOU! At any age, anywhere IN or ON your body...anywhere...even those places where the sun don't shine. OK, your teeth cannot get it...but anywhere else in your mouth can. And, strands of hair cannot get it, BUT hair follicles can. Anywhere else, in or on, your body that you can think of...CAN GET MELANOMA. And it can present at any age. Children. Teens. On up into your 90s. And every demographic imaginable is seeing a dramatic rise in the rates of diagnosis.

And you know what else? I'm just crazy enough to bet that 100% of those people are just like I was and don't think it can happen to them. But it will for one out of every 50 people. And some will be diagnosed at stage 0, in situ. And some will be in the stage 1 range, or the stage 2 range, or the stage 3 range, or stage 4. And NONE will be cured. But all, right now, are thinking, "Well, if it happens to me, I'll just cut it out and be fine. It's no big deal." 

Don't think it can happen to you?

I didn't either. Hello. I'm stage 3b.

charis