May is Melanoma Awareness month, but for moms like me, every month is melanoma awareness month.
I was 28 the first time we found melanoma on my back, by complete accident. It was stage 2, and the original spot was half the size of my toddler’s pinky nail. It would have gone undetected had I not had a staph infection on my stomach. The dermatologist asked if there was anything else. I laughed, “Not unless you can get my back to stop itching.” He took a look, cut a piece of my skin off, and sent it off. Less than 24 hours later I got a call from the doctor. Two weeks later I was in surgery to get a parade size football of skin cut out from the center of my back.
It was three months later when they found two more spots. Back under the knife.
Things calmed down for a few years. Then at eight months pregnant I noticed a spot on the top of my belly. I tried to dismiss, but the fear was strong. I knew my body better than anyone, it was not normal. But then my skin was stretched to the max. I was huge. It was June and I was hot. Nothing was normal, but I went in and got it looked at. Stage 1 at 35 weeks pregnant. They didn’t want to cut into it yet given that my skin was paper thin AND the risk of general anesthesia. So I waited. Did you know that melanoma can spread to your child in utero? Yep, I did. I thought about it every night till July 28, 2015 at 10:41pm. Then four days later, I got it cut off.
I am hyper aware of melanoma, because it doesn’t have to be fatal. Keep a close watch on your skin. Get checked out. Take preventative measures. Here are my top tips for you and your family.
Screenings & Detection
If you have questions, reach out to your medical professional and have them take a look. It is not hypochondria to get it checked out. Don’t ask a friend. Just go.
Umbrellas and Shade
Many of the BREC playgrounds, thanks to the LSO Foundation/Spotty Dottie, have sun covers. Use them. They are fabulous. The foundation also does children’s readings and adult presentations to educate groups about detection and prevention.
When the weather is nice, sprinkler time and water toys are our family’s jam. But between 11:30-1:30, we are inside eating lunch and taking a rest. This is also a great time to clean off and reapply sunscreen (which you should be doing every 2 hours if no water is involved and 1-1.5 hours if ocean / pool / heavy sweating is). Make sure to apply 30 minutes before entering the sun to make sure the sunscreen has time to absorb.
Hats and Sunglasses!
Y’all … this is the best thing you can do. Find your favorite baseball hat or pick up a killer sun hat from Target and rock out. Go Hollywood with your big glasses, because your eyes need protection. While we are on the subject of clothing, when you are at the beach or pool, RASH GUARDS. One, they are precious. Two, they are necessary.