In Your Face!

I was relaxing on the beach late Friday on Labor Day weekend; the sun was sinking slowly over the ocean when I got the call.  I knew it as soon as I heard his voice; it was my dermatologist, who had just scraped a sample off my face the week before.  ‘We need to get you in here next week and get the rest of that thing off your face’ he said.    The good news is we will be seeing a lot of each other over the next few months. As an avid sunbather since childhood, I figured it was only a matter of time but the words still stung:   malignant melanoma.  Malignant Melanoma?  The diagnosis danced in my head as I wrapped my mind around the fact that my life had just changed forever. It never dawned on me that age spot on the side of my face could be the real deal.  Even after my soul sister, who had two skin cancers removed, reminded me of it repeatedly, it didn’t register. In hindsight I realize it looked surprisingly similar to the picture on the brochure I review every year after my annual skin scan; it met all the criteria of the ABCD test. Luckily my faith overshadowed my fear.  I felt safe, optimistic and thankful we found it early and put a plan into immediate action.  ‘Don’t worry about it, just enjoy your weekend and call us next week to make an appointment.’  Okay, sure, I won’t worry.   Those are the exact words he and his nurse said to me last week as they bottled my biopsy.   But they were right.  Don’t worry; because worrying won’t stop anything from happening, it only robs us of the time we have to enjoy before it does. So that is the choice I embraced: Don’t Worry, Be Happy. If you follow my column you can appreciate the irony of my past two posts:   Hooray, the Sun’s Out and Savoring Summer; both oozing with my affection for the sun. No more serial sunbathing sessions for me.  Though I have been solar powered for life, I spent Saturday shopping for a new umbrella and embracing a new appreciation for shade on the beach. Now my life has changed.  I am worse than a reformed smoker; scanning my friends faces, alerting them to potential problems.  I am certain if my cancer were internal I would not share the news with strangers.  But because it is such a simple yet potentially serious situation, I am telling everyone I know.  I have become the self-appointed poster child for sunscreen and skin cancer prevention.   I credit my annual skin scan for saving my life and encourage you to adopt this timeless tradition.   An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure:  don’t wait until the evidence is in your face to take action.

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