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6 Things I Learned After Being Diagnosed with Melanoma at Age 26

This post is brought to you by Walgreens and SheKnows Media. The opinions and text are all mine.  

There was a day eight years ago that completely transformed the way I live my life. Of course, there have been a few of those days in my life – the day I got married, the day I had my first daughter, but this day eight years ago was one that was also the scariest. It was the day I was told that my skin biopsy had come back as Melanoma. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and I was only 26 years old. I am so thankful that I get to share my story, eight years later, and the things I’ve learned about myself and life after being diagnosed with skin cancer at such an early age.

Cancer knows no age.

I realistically knew this even before I was diagnosed and while at 26 I had grown out of my invincible teen years, I suppose maybe I was still in them to a point. Even when I went to the Dermatologist and had the biopsy, I never dreamed I would be diagnosed with cancer.

So many forms of cancer, even skin cancer, really knows no age which means that you should start protecting yourself and your children now. Don’t put it off thinking you have years before you have to worry.

No one is ever prepared to hear “You have cancer.”

Just as cancer knows no age, there’s nothing in this world that can prepare you for those words. My head started reeling when the diagnosis came back. I wanted to scream “I can’t have skin cancer! I’m only 26. I just got married 5 months ago! I’m still a newlywed!”

Of course, bargaining and denying didn’t help at all, but it still seemed so unfair. My husband and I had only been married 5 months and my diagnosis definitely hit us both hard. It was definitely a hard dose of reality as newlyweds.

That tan was not worth it.

Yes, I did go to tanning beds when I was younger. Honestly, I don’t think the dangers of tanning beds were really widely known at the time, 20 years ago, or at least I didn’t hear about them often. I loved to lay out in the sun and get a tan, but now know that no tan is worth it.

I proudly display my pasty, pale legs for everyone to see now and share the news with anyone that will listen that a tan is definitely not worth the risk. Skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of any type of cancer, so it’s important to do everything you can to protect yourself.

You need support.

Going through any type of sickness or diagnosis, the one thing you need is support. I had a wonderful support system in my husband, my family, and my friends. In fact, I still feel that my husband saved my life. Before we were married I was self employed and didn’t have health insurance so I kept putting off doctor visits even after I noticed a change in a mole on my leg. It was one of the first doctor visits I made once I had health insurance, thankfully, because if I kept putting it off the cancer could have spread to my lymph nodes.

You can also find support in some places that you might not expect it. It’s important for patients to feel like they’re not alone in a cancer journey and your local pharmacy is one place that you can find extra support. Did you know that Walgreens offers cancer support services for people living with cancer? Their specially trained pharmacists offer tools, educational resources and support services that help make the cancer journey a little bit more manageable.

Walgreens can also serve as a great source for caregivers. With aisles of over-the-counter medications and products that may help with chemotherapy side effects, and pharmacists that are knowledgeable about certain medications and their effects, they can offer solutions that patients might not know about otherwise. It’s important to have as many people in your corner as possible and a local Walgreens staff is no exception.

Walgreens can also work to help find patients a way to better afford their cancer medications and help lower co-pays. They can also help fill out insurance paperwork. This is so incredibly helpful for caregivers and patients alike when you’re going through a health crisis like cancer.

I’ve definitely learned how to make sure my kids don’t hear the same diagnosis.
I had Sophia exactly one year after my Melanoma removal surgery. I had Moreaya just 18 months later. I know how precious my time with them is and I know now how to protect them from ever hearing the same diagnosis. They often point to and want to talk about the scar on my leg. It’s a reminder for myself and them to take care of their skin and always wear sun protective clothing and sunscreen.

A Melanoma diagnosis taught me to put myself first.

While as Moms we tend to put ourselves last, eight years ago I learned that if I don’t put think about myself and my own health, it can have detrimental effects. I often think about “What if I hadn’t gone to the Dermatologist on that day?” I know there is a good chance that the cancer would have spread to my lymph nodes and chemotherapy would have been a necessity. I try to remember this each time I try to put off taking care of my own health. Our health as Moms, wives, daughters, and sisters is so important too!

Thankfully I can say that after that diagnosis eight years ago, I continue to be cancer free. Every year at my skin check-up, I usually have a biopsy done because as I’ve told my Dermatologist, I want to be proactive with my health, and every year it’s a struggle to wait those few days while the biopsy is analyzed. But thankfully each time since that day in 2009, my results have came back benign and I’m so thankful for that!

I love sharing my story of victory over a Melanoma diagnosis to give hope and awareness. I would love for others to learn from my journey so they don’t have to go on one of their own.

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Barrie

Monday 15th of January 2018

First off, may I say you have a beautiful family. How very blessed you are! Secondly, I'm so sorry you had to go through this. How awful but am glad to see that you survived and came out a strong woman. I have more moles than the above average person. I see a dermatologist twice a year for a skin check and wear sunscreen 365 days a year. My daughter is a red head and pasty white as she has NEVER had a sunburn...I made sure of that. Thank you for your story..

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