Survivor Stories

Sandy Ramirez, Stage 0

Diagnosed 08/27/1986

My melanoma story officially started in 1986 but it actually began in my childhood when I spent every summer at a swimming pool or beach. Long before I knew about the risks of skin cancer. I loved swimming and bathing in the sun while I read books and hung out with friends. Once I moved to Oregon in 1979 things changed. I was diagnosed with basal cell cancer and was then seen every year by my Dermatologist. In 1986 had my yearly checkup just before starting back to work and asked him to look at a spot on the back of my leg that a friend had noticed when we were camping during the summer. He said it needed to be removed and performed the excision at that visit in his office. It involved several stitches but I was fine to go to work and thought it was just another basal cell cancer.

A few days later I was at my office for a meeting when I received a phone call from the dermatology nurse. She said she was calling to tell me the biopsy showed I had a melanoma and needed to schedule an appointment with a surgeon to have it removed. My response was, “What’s a melanoma?” Since this was before cell phones and Google, I had to use other means to look it up. The information was scary since it said that melanoma could be fatal, and I had two young children to support and raise. Needless to say, I immediately scheduled an appointment with the surgeon and was able to have the cancer removed. At that time, there was no possibility of a MOHS procedure so a very large excision was performed and I needed 18 stitches to close the wound. I was very lucky that the margins were clear and there was no indication that the melanoma had spread outside of that area on my leg.

I soon  found that my life’s priorities changed permanently and I identified with people who had faced death. I began to live in a way that honored my life and my health and determined to be pro-active as much as possible to prevent future problems. I believe that I value my relationships with others above all and strive to make the most of my life and opportunities to be with loved ones and help others. I was lucky enough to have many years as a mental health professional, as well as the chance to enjoy so many life cycle events with family and friends. I’ve read a lot of good books, seen movies, gone dancing and snorkeling and traveled to many wonderful places. I’m 33 years into this journey and plan to be around for many more.
I continue to take care of my health and maintain good skin care practices as well as other lifestyle choices which promote well-being. I believe I have been a good role model for my children and grandchildren.