It’s so important to find a dermatologist you trust and will want to visit regularly. I’m lucky I found a great one right here in New York City, by the famous Flatiron Building and Madison Square Park. His name is Dr. James Briley.
This year, he just may have saved my life.
A couple weeks ago I went for my routine exam: to get my moles checked (I have lots of those) and skin examined. (I spoke with him about dermatographia as well. More on that soon.) During the examination, he noticed an odd looking mole on my right thigh. He keeps track of the size of suspicious moles in my chart, so he compared the size one year prior to its size that day. It had grown by about 2mm. That may not seem like a lot, but for a tiny mole, it was enough. He did a biopsy. I hate that kind of thing–makes me squeamish–but it’s better to be safe than sorry. I was more worried about the scar than the diagnosis, assuming everything would come back negative. How could I, a young healthy woman who takes excellent care of herself, have skin cancer?
About five days after the appointment, I got a call from Dr. Briley saying he wanted to go over the results of my biopsy. “Oh no,” I thought. “They don’t call to give you good news.” So I called him back, and yes, he said with the biopsy they found melanoma cells. “What does this mean?,” I asked. “You have skin cancer,” he replied, “and you’ll need to go in for surgery right away to get it removed.”
I was shocked to say the least. And scared. And sad. And then petrified. Cancer?!? Me?!? Okay, I know it can happen to anyone, and skin cancer isn’t so rare, and I spent a lot of time in the sun as a kid (I lived in Hawaii for a bit, so spent many hours on the beach and in the ocean), but why me? Well, why NOT me? It can happen anywhere, anytime, at any age, to anyone. Nobody is exempt, it doesn’t matter how healthy you are.
The good news is, since I’ve been seeing the same dermatologist regularly, he was able to catch the weird looking mole early and notice it had changed quickly. Turns out, this is the best case scenario for skin cancer (other than no cancer at all of course). Early detection, get it out of there, let it heal, and move on (with lots of sunscreen!). The other piece of good news is that my insurance just kicked in at the beginning of April, and I went in right away. Thanks to Barack Obama, I now have really good insurance at an affordable rate after being uninsured for a year. Say what you will about the Affordable Care Act, but without it, I’d still be sitting here with melanoma in my leg.
This morning I had an appointment with an excellent skin cancer specialist, Dr. Desiree Ratner, and she excised the nasty thing out of my body. Now I just need to let this wound heal and follow up with visits to Dr. Briley every six months in case something reappears. Happy ending to the story, thankfully! And a good lesson for me to stay out of the sun and wear sunscreen.
After this experience I’m suspicious of every little thing on my skin, but I know that I have great doctors on my side, and I’m lucky to have them. I urge you to please go to your dermatologist, and if you don’t have one, please find one you like and trust. Early detection can save your life! I’m a walking example of this.
Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with skin cancer? I’d like to hear about it!
*The image above is what my skin looked after the biopsy, with an echo of the band aid I used. Good ole dermatographia ;’) And don’t those stitches look like a little ant?