I was never a sun worshiper. Laying around sweating to get a tan wasn’t my thing. So I was very surprised the first time I was diagnosed with skin cancer at age 27. Luckily, it wasn’t Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. My skin cancer was Basal Cell Carcinoma. BCCs are slow-growing. The doctor told me it was probably from sun exposure when I was a child. When I was little, not as much was known about skin cancer. Blue, green or gray eyed, fair-complexioned children are more at risk, but all children should wear sun screen and hats when playing in the sun.
My first BCC was on my back and grew quite large. I had always had a mole there. I used to rub it subconsciously, like people who play with their hair. One day I noticed that it was larger than it used to be so I asked my gynecologist to look at it during my normal yearly exam. He said I should see a dermatologist and recommended one. I called the next day to make an appointment, but the recommended doctor was on vacation. The receptionist asked who had recommended me and I replied “My gynecologist.” She said the associate could see me and she was female so I would probably feel more comfortable any way. I mentioned to Paul later what the receptionist had said and added “Why would she think I would be more comfortable with a woman?” Paul said, “Think about it, Sharon. Your gynecologist recommended you.” I was so naïve in my younger years.
When I arrived, I explained to the dermatologist that I had the mole for as long as I could remember, but that it was larger than it used to be. She looked at it and said, “I want to remove that; do you have time?” I said “Today?” She said “Yes, we really need to get it analyzed.” So, I agreed and she removed the entire mole in the office and sent it for a biopsy. I was familiar with Melanoma and moles because I had a sister-in-law who died five years after having a mole removed. The Melanoma had spread to her brain. I expressed my concern to the doctor and she said I shouldn’t worry, it was probably a more common, less dangerous form of skin cancer or nothing at all.
A couple of weeks later, I was visiting my mom at her house when I was surprised by a call from the doctor. She said she had called my house and Paul told her where I was and gave her the number (no cell phones back then). She said the cancer was basal cell and that she had gotten all of it, but I needed to come back in so she could examine me all over for any other suspicious moles or lesions. Wasn’t that nice of her to call on a Friday night. Now remember, she had told me on that day not to worry, it was probably nothing. When I arrived for my follow-up and checked in, the receptionist said “Dr. *** was so excited when she got the results of the biopsy, she was so worried.” After a thorough exam, she even used a hair dryer to blow my hair so she could see my scalp, I was pronounced suspicious spot free.