Survivor Stories

Jessica Garrett, Stage I

I’ve always been very aware of the moles on my skin – many I’ve had since childhood and at this point they’ve grown too many to count.  I’ve gotten nearly 10 removed; half for aesthetic reasons and the other half for concerning reasons.  In my mid twenties my dermatologist suggested I come in for a mole check every three months – she was concerned for about a year and saw no changes, so I was in the clear to extend my visits to every 6 months.

After enduring a long Chicago winter I was excited to finally get some sun on vacation with family to Costa Rica.  I wore SPF 30-70 everyday, re-applying often.  You can never be too careful in the sun especially where it’s stronger than what you are used to, and I did end up getting a few burns on my back the very first day and on my face the very last day.  I applied aloe to my skin daily during and after vacation to keep my skin hydrated and to extend the tan.

Getting ready for work one morning only a week after returning, I noticed my back was still so itchy.  It wasn’t the kind of itch you feel while a sunburn heals; it was a non-stop itch painful itch.  A mole just underneath my bra strap had become painful to the touch and a portion of it had grown larger and turned black!  I knew I was seeing melanoma.  I immediately cleared my schedule to call every dermatologist office in the city, because I knew it was going to be tough to get into an appointment slot.  Luckily after many left messages and an entire day of waiting for a call back, I got in the very next morning.

I had read that melanoma can spread to other areas of the body within two months and I had noticed a change after only one week! If I had done nothing and waited until my regularly scheduled appointment in august, this could have been so much worse!

At the appointment my dermatologist, Dr. Sanchez took one look at my back and said “This one has to go today”.  It was a relief to hear because she confirmed my concerns, and I knew that being proactive was the right thing to do in this situation.

Four procedures later in a one month span, I’ve just received word that the biopsies came back good and the melanoma is gone.  I believe I survived this scare because I took strong action quickly.  My advice to anyone reading this is to make an appointment for a mole check with a dermatologist.  Educate yourself on the ABCDE’s and the dangers of sun exposure.  Always be observant of any changes happening in or on your body and NEVER ignore your symptoms.  Take charge of your health and understand that you can’t rely on doctors to tell you everything to save your life – you have to take control by being good to your body and mind.  I see this experience as a wake-up call to make many positive changes to my regimen.  I am so grateful that I have peace of mind and committed to keeping a close watch on my skin, and loved ones skin.

Hoping you will make an appointment with your dermatologist today, invest in SPF to wear everyday, and 100% embrace your pale skin because pale is beautiful!