Survivor Stories

Christina Bowen, Stage I

Diagnosed 09/01/2008

Won’t Happen to Me

I was diagnosed with melanoma in Sept. 2008 at the age of 26 for the first time. Something hard to accept being a young mother of three boys, working as waitress, and a nursing student.

I have never been addicted to the sun or tanning beds. In fact, I hated being in the sun; it was too hot and gave me migraines. I would always simply burn and peal. Occasionally I would tan, though, for special occasions like weddings, summer, or vacations. Being naturally fair skinned, tanning seemed to give me a sense of self-confidence. I simply liked the way I looked with a tan.

I never had a lot of moles, but on a vacation in Mexico, I noticed a small mole on my left arm. It seemed to have a light red ring around it, which concerned me. Being a nursing student, I knew enough to get it looked at when I returned home. I found a wonderful dermatologist that did a biopsy on it, and a few days later I got the call that it was melanoma. My heart dropped, my eyes filled with tears, and I was suddenly speechless. I eventually managed to mumble the words to my husband who was packing to leave town (he travels for his job), and we cried together. How could this happen to me? I was always healthy and had a healthy family. No one can prepare themselves for such news, but I wasn’t even worried about the results. I was sure everything would come back fine. I was wrong.

I got the local excision done a week later and was devastated with the results. It looked like a shark took a huge bite out of my arm. Working as waitress and reaching in front of people, I had to pack the “shark bite” with gauze and wrap it. I must say, though, years later it has filled in pretty well, and I can say I’m proud of it. I don’t feel the need to hide anymore … no shame here!!

I see my dermatologist every 3 months, and things were going good for awhile, until a routine checkup required a mole to be removed from the back of my neck. A couple days later I get the same news I’ve heard too many times in my life already. I go through the same procedure again. In total I have had eight moles removed, with two being melanoma. My body has seemed to triple with moles over the past few years as well. I am no longer obsessed with my body image but worried that more moles may mean a higher chance of the melanoma returning.

No one can be prepared to be given such bad news, especially when you have the mindset that “it won’t happen to me.” I had feelings of hate, worry, and sadness. So many unanswered questions, like why me? I worried for my children. Will I not be able to watch them grow up? Some days I was strong and thought to myself that I will beat this. Other days it got the best of me, when I felt hopeless and realized I was not in control.

Even after being cancer free for a good deal of time, I still worry from time to time that the next visit won’t have such a good outcome. I have also learned to not dwell on it and live life better than I ever have. I’m now able to ignore the dishes and laundry and sit with my boys and read a book. That’s something so small but previously hard for me to do. I want my boys to have the greatest memories of their mother, as we never know how much time we have with our loved ones.

I no longer take the sun for granted when it comes to myself or my children. I was told my boys have a 75% chance of getting melanoma, and that number pushes me to protect them in every way I can. Although melanoma has affected my life in a negative way, it has also been positive. I feel fortunate for my personal story, as others may have a harder battle.

If I could teach others about melanoma I would say this … For all you regular tanners, now it may seem like a good choice to tan, but it could be deadly in the future. No one is excluded from melanoma! Remember that at one time we all believed “it won’t happen to me” … WRONG! Take precautions now to protect yourself in the future.