I started researching melanoma awareness programs this weekend and quickly became very frustrated. I feel like I not only lacked some serious education when I was younger about the side effects of sun exposure, but I also wasn’t particularly aware of the signs and symptoms of metastatic melanoma. Assuming I’m not the only one, I decided to research opportunities to get involved to maybe help save a life or two in the future.
Enter: frustration. Melanoma Research Foundation has a campaign called #GetNaked to encourage you to check your skin for marks or moles. Melanoma is one of the most treatable types of cancer when caught early enough, so the campaign makes sense (and obviously skin checks are first step). But here’s the thing. I did “#GetNaked”. Not only did I look for new marks and moles all the time, but I even “#GotNaked” every 6 months for the last 5 years at the dermatologist. And here I am. Fighting metastatic melanoma with no new moles or marks.
I learned so much after I first found out I had melanoma and had it removed. But, there was a huge piece missing. The part about “what happens if it comes back” and NOT on my skin. I had three palpable lumps on my body and I thought they were all something else: a couple muscle knots and a swollen lymph node. I had no reason to believe otherwise. But I was wrong.
So yes, knowing your skin is the easy step. Look it over and check it frequently. Hell, visit a dermatologist, too. But then what? This is where we need (or I needed) education. What happens next? What does reoccurrence look like? What are the signs and symptoms that it’s spreading after getting clear margins? Where are the programs, campaigns and/or resources that talk about that?