Monday, July 25, 2011

Cancer Free for 4 Years!

July 25, 2007 was the date of my last skin cancer removal surgery. Praise God that 4 years have passed with no new cancer. I was first diagnosed in spring 2003 with basal cell carcinoma. At the time, I was finishing my senior year of college and had been married for 8 months. A skin cancer diagnosis is not what newlyweds have planned! To top it off, we were getting ready to graduate and move to Virginia Beach for Seth to attend law school. I had a surgery done in the doctor's office by a general dermatologist, and I assumed she got all of the cancer. A couple weeks later, as I was moving on with my life, I got a phone call.

A nurse informed me that they did not get all of the cancer. I needed to go to Carmel (1 1/2 hour drive at the time) for a Mohs surgery with Dr. Hanke. I quickly learned about that surgery and decided it was the most dependable way to get rid of the cancer cells. I had that surgery on May 12, 2003. The next month Seth and I moved to Virginia Beach, where I had follow-up appointments with a dermatologist recommended by Dr. Hanke.

Mohs surgery claims to cure 95-99% of all skin cancers. In 2007, I found out I was in the 1-5% of people who was not cured. The cancer had returned in the same spot. At the time of this diagnosis, we had moved back to Indiana, we had a 2 year old son, and I was 8 months pregnant with Asher. Once again, not the most convenient time for a skin cancer diagnosis...but I don't think there ever is a good time for that!

The doctor and I decided to wait until after the baby was born to have the surgery, so when Asher was 7 weeks old, I went back to Dr. Hanke for my second Mohs surgery on July 25, 2007. They kept taking more and more cancer cells, until finally they got it all. Dr. Hanke called Seth into the room and talked with us about the need for plastic surgery, since the surgery was more extensive than they originally expected. I went home that night with a big bandage on my head, since the plastic surgeon couldn't see me until the next day. I would have preferred to have the plastic surgery right away, but that wasn't an option. The next morning, I was admitted into the hospital for the skin graft surgery. This was the only surgery I was put under for (read: I was awake for the Mohs surgeries and have gotten used to needles around my face!). The skin graft surgery went well and I was able to go home to a newborn and 2 year old to rest...with lots of help from my husband, family, and friends :)

I am writing this blog post to share my experience, but also to educate my friends and family on skin cancer. I first became suspicious of the spot on my head because it wouldn't go away. "A wound that won't heal" is one thing to watch for. Another thing to watch for is any spot that changes. I suggest seeing a dermatologist regularly, especially if you have a spot you are concerned about. And WEAR SUNSCREEN! My doctors cannot tell me why I got skin cancer, but they do know that prevention involved sunscreen and regular visits to the dermatologist.

I know God has been with me throughout this journey. He has taught me so much about patience and the true meaning of beauty, since I have worn bandages for several months and learned to live with my scar, which is on my face. Whenever someone asks me about my scar, I can share my story of how God has healed me! I may have more plastic surgery in the future, but for now I need to be 110% sure the cancer will not return.

Skin Cancer Foundation Guidelines is a good source for protecting yourself from skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Facts:
  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in over two million people are diagnosed annually.
  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.

1 comment:

Leanne said...

Wow! I had NO idea!! I think about skin cancer a lot since i grew up in CA and LOVE being outside. I've been lazy about sunscreen in the past, but since having Rex I'm A LOT better about it. I kept thinking, I need to be safe so I can be around for him! I just tell myself, I'll still get tan...just a little slower and A LOT safer! :-)