Posted by: First Mate | October 10, 2014

Metastatic Melanoma….

I was first diagnosed with an in situ Melanoma on my right medial thigh when I was 23 years old living in New York. After the initial removal, there were cells at the medial border so the area had to be re-excised. Darrell Rigel, MD, became my dermatologist and I had the photos taken and was diligent about check ups, chest X-rays and liver function tests. I had a second Melanoma on my lower back when I was in graduate school at Columbia. Another excision. I had a basal cell carcinoma taken off my neck last year. I am 46 years old and I have had several other biopsies and excisions and look a little like an ex-knife fighter in a bathing suit. Or as my new dermatologist says, “you are like a chocolate chip cookie.”

I am genetically very pale with light hair (now ash blond/white) and light cornflower blue eyes. On the Fitzpatrick scale, I am a type I (scores 0–6) Pale white; blond or red hair; blue eyes; freckles — Always burns, never tans.  To say that I am the Sunscreen police now is an understatement, yet even I mess up now and then. I learned too late – as a child I was a swimmer and spent most weekends in the sun or camping at the beach in Mexico. I loved the hot sand, the water and being in the sun – still do. I had one or two bad burns a month. In high school, ‘laying out’ was the thing to do and everyone wanted to be darker… PTHs (peak tanning hours) were when everyone had to be by the pool or in the sun with baby oil or at the most with a sunscreen of SPF 4. The first 19 years are the most dangerous for skin damage. At USC I didn’t want to be the girl without a tan, so I went to a tanning booth during Rush week. In the photos, I looked positively orange. Living in New York, I would go to Amaganssett and Shelter Island in the summers and would wear Coppertone Sport SPF 30, but would still be at the beach or around the water all day in only a swim suit.

I am putting this all ‘out there’ because my friend’s 9 cm lung tumor and lymph tumors are metastatic melanoma. I suspected this, but also feared it. He has had two melanomas in the past, and has missed his check ups in the last two years. You see he is a busy father with a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. Cancer of any kind is overwhelming and just sucks wind.

Huge advances have been made in the diagnosis and care of melanoma since I was first diagnosed. The American Cancer Society estimates that at present, more than 120,000 new cases of melanoma in the US are diagnosed in a year. In 2014, an estimated 76,100 of these will be invasive melanomas, with about 43,890 in males and 32,210 in women.  Learn what to look for, schedule regular exams, stay out of direct sun between 10 and 3pm, cover up with sunscreen, a hat and clothing.  Reapply your sunscreen every two hours.  Note, my first melanoma was caught at a free lunchtime screening at BBDO where I was working at the time. So if seeing a dermatologist is not within your reach, get checked at clinic or by a friend.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: