What I Wish I Knew Before My Breast Augmentation! FAQ | Jackie Aina
What I Wish I Knew Before My Melanoma Diagnosis
There is nothing I love more than Summer. My kids off at camp, the house quiet, I finish my writing days by early afternoon, lunchtime if I'm lucky, scrambling home to slip on a bathing suit and slather myself with sun block to spend the rest of the day floating on a raft around the pool, book in hand.
I wander inside sporadically, for cool drinks, and stop by the mirror in the hallway, the one with the good light, brandishing my arms, turning to try and see my back, see how my sun tan is coming along.
I had the fairest of skin when I was a child. There was little sun in England, but every vacation saw me lying face down on a bed, at least for the first two days, with a blistering sunburn on my back. I blistered in the South of France, in Spain, in Italy. I burnt in Kenya, New York and Greece.
My skin has toughened and darkened over the years. I don't blister anymore, and sunburns fade within a day to a lovely golden brown.
On my birthday last year a friend gave me some CDs by a singer called Eva Cassidy. I hadn't heard of this singer with the angelic voice, and lazily Googled her while listening to her music on my office computer. I read that she had a small dark mole on her back, which was an early malignant melanoma. I read that she had it removed and was told they got it all, that she wouldn't have to worry about it. Three years later she discovered they were wrong. That tiny dark mole had metastasized, and she died, three months after discovering she was riddled with cancer, at the age of 33.
I have many freckles and a few moles. Occasionally, if one looks suspicious, I will go to the dermatologist and have it removed, but I am not someone to whom bad things happen, and certainly not melanoma. This, despite the childhood sunburns, and an uncle who died from malignant melanoma.
I lay on my bed, that night, reading. I put the book down, and my glance happened to fall on a spot toward the back of my left calf. I leaned forward. A small mole, irregular in shape, with a large black splatter in the middle, like paint.
I had no idea what an abnormal mole would look like, until that moment. I made an appointment to see the dermatologist for a shave biopsy in three days, and she too leaned over my leg, without her usual laughter and gossip, her stare intense, and grave.
'It could be nothing,' she said. I looked at her then, but she didn't take her eyes off my mole, and I knew it wasn'tnothing.
The call came three days later. I was on a train on the way back from New York. 'Do you have time to talk?' said my dermatologist. 'It's cancer. Skin cancer. It's a malignant melanoma.' An icy calm descended as I sat next to the window. I have no idea what she said next, the buzzing in my ears drowning everything out. I think I asked a question or two. I didn't hear the answer. The train rumbled along as the numbness hit, and then I leaned my head on the glass window, as a few tears trickled down my cheek.
I do not cry very often. I am the strongest woman I know, and little floors me. When my husband came to pick me up from the station, he took me in his arms as I wept on his shoulder.
I waited in a haze of surreal detachment to see a skin cancer specialist at one of the big hospitals. Nothing felt real except these words that would tickertape through my head: I have cancer. I havecancer.
Nothing felt real except these words that would tickertape through my head: I have cancer.
Melanoma is not the most common of skin cancers, but it is the most dangerous if not found in the early stages. Melanoma causes 80 percent of skin-cancer deaths. According to the Melanoma Research Alliance, more than 76,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with it each year, one every eight minutes—and roughly 9,500 die from it, one every hour.
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