Survivor Stories

Kerri Danek

Diagnosed  02/01/2012

Hi, I decided to write about my story, hoping that other young and old girls will stop going to tanning beds! My name is Kerri; I am a blond and have light skin naturally, although this does not always matter.

I can remember going to my first dermatologist in my early 20s. I have always had to have moles removed because they would look funny. I was embarrassed of how many I had, and I thought if I tanned people would not notice as much. So I would try and keep up with my dark-skinned girlfriends because I believed having a tan made you look better.

With much regret, I wish I was not a sun worshipper because I am paying the price. I did not go to tanning beds often, but I did go, like before I went on vacations to get a “base tan” and if I had a hot date. Back then I used tanning beds on the weekends, if I remember correctly, when I was 21-22 years of age, about once a week during the winter months since I live in Illinois. Once I had my first moles removed, probably at 24 years old, I did not go as often, which I felt compared to other girls was not often anyways.

My doctor encouraged me to wear sunscreen, which I always did, and watch for changes. He would remove my moles by scraping them off; then they would be sent out for biopsy. A couple came back dysplastic nevus, which is pre-cancerous, and then I would have to go back and get them cut out, with a few stitches. You would think this would make me stay out of sun, but although I was more careful, I still loved laying out. My friends would say, “Oh you will be fine, just wear sunscreen.”

My life went on. I had my first child at the age of 26 years old, and I remember people saying he was going to come out tan because I was so tan. I remember having a mole cut out on my leg while I was pregnant. Life did go on, thank God, because of a good dermatologist. I want to mention that, at this time in my life, my best friend’s mom, a very special person, was diagnosed with melanoma on her leg, and from the time she was diagnosed, she lived 5 years. Bless her heart, she died at the age of 52 from melanoma. So I was very aware of this disease.

Well, I got married and had two more children; we moved to St. Charles, Illinois, and every house we lived in had a pool. So I still continued to enjoy the sun! I found a good dermatologist and would go every year for a mole check. I have probably had over 30 moles removed, that’s if I count my scars.

Last February I got the phone call from Dr. Blasak’s nurse telling me one of my moles came back as melanoma. I cannot explain how this feels. The only people who can understand are all the victims of the many kinds of cancer when they tell you those words. It hits you hard, your thoughts go crazy, and the first thing I thought was I have 5 years. Not long enough to live out my life! I still want to do all the things on my bucket list!

I believe I think this way because of another special person I knew and loved. My friend’s sister Shelly, who we had to bury 2 years ago because of melanoma that took her life at 38 years old. A young beautiful mom who had also found a mole on her leg, and from when she was diagnosed, she lived only 5 short years, not to mention she left two beautiful children (who miss her very much) behind because the melanoma had spread to her lymph nodes.

I am a survivor and I have great faith that these special people are watching over me. My doctor was able to cut mine out for now, and my margins came back clear. I am grateful.

I thought I lived through my greatest fear, but guess what? I was wrong. Just this past month, my only daughter came home from college and told me she was going to go to Dr. Blasak because she did not like the way a mole looked (brown mole with a black dot in it) on her upper thigh. I looked and said, “Oh geez, I think you’re over-reacting, but if you want, make the appointment.” She did! Thank Heavens! He removed it, and we did not hear back right away on the account of the holiday. It was on my mind, and the same morning I was going to call, I heard from the nurse. She could barely get the words out “It came back as melanoma.”

I love my daughter more than any words could describe. I am shocked. My daughter is not a sun worshipper; she does not deserve this. I feel terrible that she has to go through it for the rest of her life. She is predisposed because I have had it. I know it can always be worse, and I thank God that she was smart enough to hopefully have caught it in time. I am telling you speaking from experience, It hurts being cut on. Ariel has no choice; she will have to be brave and go under the knife. This coming Sunday morning, we have her surgery scheduled because our doctor knows and has seen first hand how melanoma can take lives. He and his nurse are willing to meet us in the office so he can get rid of her skin cancer!

Please protect yourselves against this deadly disease. Thanks for reading!

Sincerely, Kerri Danek