Survivor Stories

Taylor Morrisett

Diagnosed 07/01/2009

If it tells you anything, I was working at a tanning salon at the age of 15 for free “tanning time.” This was back when we tanned for 30 minutes at a time and at least 5 days a week — thinking the beds were safer than the sun — mainly because this was the rumor. Far from the truth I found out in July 2009.

I have green eyes and dark blonde hair (naturally) and get a nice tan but prone to burn the first few times. I NEVER wore sunscreen when tanning outdoors —

At a wedding reception in the Summer of 2009 (age 33) a close friend that had Stage III melanoma back in the 1980’s came up to me and mentioned that the mole on my bicep should be looked at — that it did not look good at all. This was true — it was a dark mole I had for approx. 14 years — but suddenly developed a purplish raised area attached to the original mole within 6 months prior. The mole was about half the size of a pencil eraser. I went to the dermatologist the following week — had the mole removed. About a week later while I was at work, I received the call that it was Stage I melanoma. I had no idea how serious this cancer was — they sent me to a plastic surgeon to have the area of tissue around the mole removed as well.

I was so unaware and just plain uneducated on the subject of the seriousness of this cancer. When I arrived at the oncologist office, I actually went to the front desk (once I discovered I was at a cancer doctor’s office) and told the receptionist I thought they had made a mistake — that I was not supposed to be at a cancer clinic — I was supposed to be at a plastic surgeon’s office — she couldn’t help but laugh and inform me that I would not be there if my dermatologist did not send me. This freaked me out.

After seeing the oncologist, I was devastated to learn that I would have a 5- to 6-inch scar on my bicep after the surgery, and samples of my sentinel lymph node would be taken from under my arm to test if cancer had spread. I was so unaware of the seriousness even at that point — the oncologist looked at me like I was nuts when I asked, “Does this mean I cannot go to the tanning bed anymore?” He said, “When I get done with that arm, you will never want to see another tanning bed.”

He was absolutely correct. I would have rather given birth again than to have gone through that HORRIBLE surgery. The lymph node removal was even worse than the 5-inch scar that was left. So very sore.

The 2 weeks my family and I waited to get the results on the lymph node biopsy was more stress than you can imagine. I prayed CONSTANTLY for the results to be normal. When I went back to get my results, I was clear!!!! — no spread of the melanoma. Thank you, Lord!!! I went to the dermatologist every 3 months for the first couple of years and every 6 months thereafter. I have had about eight other moles removed (looking like Swiss cheese at this point), but better to be safe than sorry.

A few weeks ago I had one removed on my back that came back as a “Spitz Nevus” — which is basically the type of mole that turns into melanoma — so had to go back in and let them take a little more out — now have a 1-inch scar on my back from that — BUT — VERY thankful it was not any worse.

I now do a spray tan to be tanned and wear SPF in the sun — minimizing my exposure. This is tough when you have been a sun worshipper as I always have been since a teen — and I tan so nicely — you almost feel deprived — but DON’T. This cancer is one of the worst you can get, and it can show up anywhere in your body. You are blessed if it shows its ugly face as a mere mole.

You must NOT overexpose yourself — and NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER go to the tanning bed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Rays are much stronger and intense than the sun! This is exactly how mine came about — I abused it like you would not believe — not realizing that your skin is your largest ORGAN you have and is connected to everything INSIDE of you!!! Melanoma has a way of attaching itself.

So please, take this advice. I told my husband if I ever die from melanoma — on my headstone I want under my name for it to read: “THE TAN WASN’T WORTH IT.”