Post Surgery Check-In

February 10, 2012 · 89 comments

Slowly but surely, I’m riding the road to recovery from skin cancer surgery.

I’m actually moving mountains over here. I can now dress myself and take my jacket off all by myself. Suddenly, I’m a toddler again, all excited about “doin’ it all by mahself!”

So, now that I’m off my pain medicine and able to focus on something for more than 2.3 minutes, I’ll fill you in on the details. And I promise, I won’t overshare scary gory pictures. I’ll leave links for you nosy guys with strong stomachs if you want to see the stitches 😉

On Monday, my mom took me to 9 a.m. surgery. Once I was settled in the office, my doctor told me I needed three spots removed. The complicated part is that they need to take out an entire centimeter around the spot (the “margins”) to ensure they remove all the cancer. So, although my freckles were teensy, it’s a big piece of skin that needs to be taken out.

Exhibit A: My arm. The diamond eyeball-looking edges is where the doctor cut, and I now have 9 stitches in that puppy.

Since my back spot was a little bigger, it was the worst part of the surgery. I had only local anesthesia, so I could feel tugging as I was being stitched up.

There’s my 10 stitches all bandaged up. If you want to see the stitches directly after surgery before they bandaged me up, you can see them here.

Since they can only do two procedures at a time, I have a third spot on my chest that still needs to be removed. I’ll have that one done in March, which is fortunate, since I can’t imagine having a spot on my right back, my left arm, and my left chest. Sleeping is complicated enough as it is.

mah arm

This week, I’ve been having to change bandages twice a day and sleeping up a storm. I can’t. stop. napping. Apparently, my body is “in trauma” and it makes me sleepy. Even large doses of Badass Coffee can’t keep me awake.

Or the entire first season of 24. GOSH, how did I not get into this sooner? Suddenly, I’m obsessed with Jack Bauer and finding out who on his team is a dirty backstabbing traitor.

original photo via

Jack for President.

For the first few extra painful days, distraction was everything. If I sat around thinking about how much it hurt, it sucked, but if I focused on other things, the pain wan’t terrible. Unless it was time for a new pain pill. I had sweet phone calls from Courtney and my sister, tweets from a ton of sweet readers, and lots of texts from Colleen, Kailey, and my awesome friends. I gotta tell ya, you guys really make me feel loved.

A few of you had questions about my experience, too. I figured it was a good idea to address them here so YOU can all go get checked at a dermatologist.

Julie, not a one. The one on my back was larger, but it certainly didn’t look dangerous. That’s was so freaky about my skin cancer. None of my cancerous spots (especially my chest and my arm) “looked like cancer.” I sincerely wish I had thought to take a picture of them before they were scraped off to show you how normal they really looked.

Instead, I perused old photos trying to find the pesky cancerous arm freckle. Here it is:

See? It’s a baby freckle. This is why we all need to be checked by a professional. Trust me, no one would have thought that little guy was cancerous.

YES, Heather! That’s what I went to the dermatologist for… just a regular old skin check. My friend Jamie went to this specific doctor and raved about how nice she was, and I thought “gosh, I haven’t been for a skin check in a few years. I should go just in case.” So I went, she scraped three freckles to have them tested, and now I need(ed) those three places removed.

Welp, Brittany, my mom and I originally thought I only had 7 in my arm, but after counting during my first bandage change, found a bonus two. I’m rockin 19 with the first two spots removed.

And thanks to my friend Catherine, my personal Facebook timeline is even rockin’ an old fave:

That’s right, cancer. Screw you, dude.

Go get checked — I want you all to prevent yourselves from having to do this. And by all means, if you have any unanswered questions, ask away. There were a lot of really good questions asked in the comments section of the last post.

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{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Paige @ Running Around Normal February 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Glad you wrote this follow up post, Alyssa! I mentioned your first one in my link love today. You’ll be happy to know I scheduled a derm appointment for next week! I had a mole removed 2 or 3 years ago…but haven’t been back since. Eep!
Glad you’re doing well, girl 🙂
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2 Lindsey @ Happy or Hungry February 10, 2012 at 6:51 pm

So glad you are doing much better and are feeling more like your regular self again!
This was a great follow-up post. I had so many questions for you, but you have covered them all. OF COURSE I wanted to see close-ups of your problem moles/freckles before you got them removed… But from those other pics, I am surprised they don’t look bigger. I have made an appointment to get checked because of this – I have never had my skin checked before! Thanks for giving me the push to get it done!
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3 Kailey February 10, 2012 at 6:52 pm

I LUUUUUHHHH YOU!!!!!!!!!!!! Will be texting you even more!!! xoxoxo
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4 sara u February 10, 2012 at 6:54 pm

I definitely scheduled a derm apt for next week. . on V-day. . . I have a feeling I will have some bad new but oh well!! I hope you are recovering fast!

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5 Jana @ Newly Wife Healthy Life February 10, 2012 at 7:04 pm

I am glad to hear you are hanging in there! I know this is tough on you, but it is very brave to share your experience with others to help us prevent skin cancer. I had no idea that you could go to your dermatologist just to have a body check. Good to know! Since your cancer was present on such normal, tiny looking freckles, an appointment with your derm may be the only way to spot it!
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6 Katy @ HaveYouHurd February 10, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Eff cancer.

YOU ROCK ALYSSA! Keep your head up girlfriend, and thanks for passin’ on the useful info. I’ll be making an appointment with the dermy derm soon!
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7 Kace February 10, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Hope you feel better soon! It’s so true about being a toddler again – after my first surgery it was a week or two before I could get out of bed unassisted, but when it happened it was like the big family news of the day. And when I was able to walk without being held up? Even bigger, haha. Enjoy your time recovering…your experience definitely makes me think about scheduling a check in!
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8 katie February 10, 2012 at 7:16 pm

You are amazing and this is SO awesome that you shared this with all of us, it really gives you a reality check! You have to always go get check ups like this, mammograms, and paps because you just never know. Thank you for sharing your story, I need to go to the dermatologist to get checked. Love you and glad you are feeling better xo : )
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9 Amber K February 10, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Glad you are recovering. When I had surgery before I did pretty much nothing but sleep. Rest up girl! And I’m trying to find a dermatologist so I can make sure I’m all good.
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10 Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife February 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Hope you get feeling better! Thank YOU for sharing your story to spread awareness. I NO longer tan in beds and I wear sunscreen all the time. BIG difference from before when I’d be that girl “I tan well” etc. HAH. Whoop. Happy weekend, Alyssa!
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11 Claire @ Live and Love to Eat February 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm

You have such a great attitude/outlook – I’m happy for you that’s all over!
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12 Brittany @ GOtheXtraMile February 10, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Ahh I’m so sorry you are going through this. I’m glad you are getting everything removed though! My dad just had to get like 5 spots removed because he has melanoma. I wish you the best! <3

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13 Karla @myhighonlife February 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm

So happy to see you’re on the upswing, Alyssa! It’s so scary and I will be getting checked asap. Hang in there buttercup 🙂 <3
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14 Theresa February 10, 2012 at 7:53 pm

SO glad to hear you are getting better. my friend went through a similar experience and it was a painful recovery for her too 🙁 and even though ive never been one to tan, ive been religious about slathering on suncreen everywhere…thank you for sharing this all with us.
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15 Heather February 10, 2012 at 7:53 pm

rock.star.
xo.
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16 Anna February 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm

I just made an appointment for my husband and I to go to a dermatologist for a checkup, all because of you. I can’t even remember the last time I was at a dermatologist. Thank you for sharing your story and being so strong, and helping us!!
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17 clare @ fittingitallin February 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm

love that you’re turning this into such a great learning opportunity for the rest of us – glad to hear you’re doing better!
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18 Kaelin February 10, 2012 at 8:21 pm

I am so glad you are doing okay! I really really need to get my butt into the doctor’s for a skin check!

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19 Danielle February 10, 2012 at 8:28 pm

happy to hear you are recovery nicely!! Keep the attitude and strength up!
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20 Chelsea February 10, 2012 at 8:29 pm

I already found a local doctor in my area and am going to get checked ASAP. I have a mole on my head that according to pictures looks exactly like basal cell carcinoma….I’ve always been afraid for that really is 🙁 I already know I’m going to HAVE to have that removed whether it’s cancerous or not.
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21 Jessica @ Stylish Stealthy and Healthy February 10, 2012 at 8:44 pm

So glad to hear you’re feeling better! And how freaky is it having stitches with just a local?? I had a cyst removed from my back twice and both times I got super fainty because it felt so weird. Feel better love, and enjoy my boy Jack Bauer. (PS- does the man not ever have a cell phone or gun in his hand?)
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22 Taylor February 10, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Sooo glad you are feeling better. Those are some BIG spots for such tiny freckles. Wow. I’ve gone with my mom a few times to have spots removed, so I can relate. She’s had some spots that required skin graphs. It’s a bitch of a process. Hopefully, after you get the chest spot removed, you’re done. Fingers crossed! And, amen on Jack Bauer. He’s my favorite TV character, ever! So bad ass.

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23 Kristen @ notsodomesticated February 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Another great post! Mine was on my back, so I had to have my mom change the bandages for me. If I had been living by myself at the time, it would have been an even bigger pain!
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24 Steph @ Will Run For Treats February 10, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Alyssa, SO glad to hear that you are feeling better (and able to dress yourself to boot!). I had a very suspicious mole removed about a year ago (thanks to the good ol’ tanning bed and its best friend oil), but luckily it was not cancerous. I had a few other moles that I thought looked weird at the time but, when checked by the doc, were given the A-OK. Since yours didn’t have any of the “warning signs”, I’m curious as to what prompted the doctors to remove in the first place. If you’ve already answered this, apologies for the repeat question!

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25 Brittany *Sparkles* February 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm

That show is so good it should just be called ‘Jack’!!! lol

When I had leg surgery like 5-6 years ago I rented all the seasons and watched them start to finish — so so good!!!
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26 Julia February 10, 2012 at 9:37 pm

I’m glad you wrote about this! I had melanoma on my left tricep and it was tiny and yes it looks like a little shark bite now! But I played hours and hours of tennis till I was 40 and that’s when I was diagnosed!
Hang in there it sounds like they got them buty life totally changed! And no more noon tennis!

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27 Lena February 10, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Saw this pin and couldn’t help but think of you. Love your site. Hope your doing OK!

http://pinterest.com/pin/84301824244347535/

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28 Talia @ Bite Size Wellness February 10, 2012 at 10:13 pm

You are so strong! Thanks again for being so open and honest about this. Hope you keep feeling on the up and up. 🙂
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29 Lauren February 10, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Great post about this! It’s so important to go get checked. I did for the first time this past summer, and they took a biopsy on a normal looking (but slightly different shape than others) mole. It came back moderately abnormal (pre-cancerous) and removed it. It was a tiny mole on my chest, but with the same surgery as you – it ended up being a 5 inch or so scar (I was really surprised about that!). So glad I caught it early, and now, I’ll definitely go everywhere (especially because of my red hair and pale skin). So glad you’re raising awareness about this.

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30 Robbi Ann February 10, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Is there an age where its recommended for people to start getting checked?

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31 amy February 11, 2012 at 12:10 am

i had a skin cancer check on Tuesday… where I had a spot cut out of my back and one from my groin scraped off… I’m very anxious waiting for the results… all I can think about is “why am I so stupid and stubborn about wearing sunscreen”. no matter the results….I will be wearing SPF every day from now on. thanks for sharing your story.

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32 Lindsey February 11, 2012 at 12:18 am

Glad to hear you’re feeling better. When my sister had her mole removed they also had to remove two lymph nodes from under her left armpit to test to see if the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. They also removed a chunk of skin the width of a softball.

I had my first pre-cancerous mole removed at the age of 20. It is NEVER too early to start getting annual skin checks. I wish I had never used tanning beds when I was younger but you don’t think of these things when you’re young!

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33 Kendalyn February 11, 2012 at 1:08 am

Alyssa, I’m so glad that you’ve been sharing your story and progress (and glad to hear you’re doing better!). I have very fair skin and a few spots that I’ve definitely been inspired by you to go get checked out ASAP. I’ve never set foot in a tanning bed because I have a few family members who have had skin cancer, and I think it’s so great to raise awareness to that issue. Stay strong and keep enjoying the company of Jack Bauer – 24 was such an amazing show!

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34 Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy February 11, 2012 at 2:52 am

I’ve actually never had a skin check, and as paranoid as I am, I think it’s time I go get checked out. I usually check myself for funny looking moles, but this post has scared me into being even more cautious!
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35 Mattie @ Comfy and Confident February 11, 2012 at 3:18 am

Gosh, I am glad you are recovering well. Thanks for the wake up call.
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36 Amanda February 11, 2012 at 4:02 am

So glad you’re all okay Alyssa! Have been thinking about you and praying, so glad you caught those nasty spots early. All the best for your reco kiddo x

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37 Lena @Fit on the Rocks February 11, 2012 at 7:05 am

Glad to see you’re recovering well. Thanks to your original post, I made a derm appointment for next week to get checked. I’ve NEVER gone…eek.
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38 Georgia Mae February 11, 2012 at 8:21 am

Do you have to get radiation or anything like that to keep the cancer from coming back?

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39 Tina @ Best Body Fitness February 11, 2012 at 11:31 am

I’m going to get cute baby video sometime this weekend for you if its the last thing I do. 😉

I love that you still have your great sense of humor in all of this. Keep on being you – the strong, loving person we all know you to be. And when any freak out moments come…feel free to reach out. Love!

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40 Courtney @ Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life February 11, 2012 at 2:30 pm

So glad we had our phone chat that day! You are absolutely amazing, honestly. Talking to you, I would have never known that you were going through something like that. You have managed to remain so calm and upbeat about it all (obviously, with some hiccups, to be expected). But seriously, I admire your courage and honesty, and ability to find the humor with all of this.
That being said…we need another phone chat soon! xoxoxoxoxo
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41 Angela February 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm

I hope you recovery quickly! Thanks for sharing your story & it prompted me to make an appt at my dermatologist, so sincerely, thank you!

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42 Kenda February 11, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I’m glad your doing a little better! I just wanted to let you know, that after reading your post the other day I have set up my first appointment with a dermatologist. Also, I love 24! I am on season 5, and I think season 4 is the best so far. Watch them in order because the characters change so frequently.

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43 Lindsay @ In Sweetness and In Health February 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Thank you so much for posting this Alyssa!! I hope your recovery continues smoothly and quickly! What kind of cancer did they find??
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44 Lindsay @ Lindsay's List February 11, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I’m so glad you’re ok!! Still praying for you!
(btw, loving that new BLEND button – it looks hot. Not loving the fact that I’m not on your blogroll! 😉
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45 Redsfan19 February 11, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Alyssa-

Best of luck on your recovery, and THANK YOU for helping spread the word on skin cancer and prevention. I’ve personally had a few pre-cancerous moles removed (which did not look unusual at all), and my close friend lost her mother very quickly to melanoma last year. You would be surprised how many people don’t know untreated skin cancer can kill you! She would be so proud to see how many people are saying they’re going to make a dermatological appointment after reading your story.

Michelle

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46 Kristin February 12, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Hey Alyssa! I absolutely love your blog and read it daily, but never comment. I am very glad to hear that you are doing well. I watched the video you posted “Dear 16-year old me,” and it really stuck with me. I am a high school teacher, and SO MANY of my students go tanning frequently. I’m sharing the video with them, and hope that it will have an influence! Thank you for posting it, and good luck as you continue your recovery 🙂
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47 Ricole Runs February 12, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Thank you so much for sharing! I have been thinking I need to go to the dermatologist for exactly this reason for months now and hopefully this is the kick in the pants I needed. I hope you feel better soon (and less tired) and have a quick recovery!

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48 julie February 12, 2012 at 8:10 pm

those questions are great! i used to have a giant ass beauty mark on my back that was actually 2 in 1 and the derma took one look at it like 10 years ago and was like NOPE and right then and there just scooped it out. i have a huge ass butterfly scar on my back right now which i was pissed about at the time because there was no warning but i’m grateful now that he took it out!

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49 Rach February 12, 2012 at 9:31 pm

So glad you shared all of this! I was just telling a coworker about you last Friday. She is into tanning beds and was trying to argue that if you use them every so often then you will be okay. I was like “weeell… actually I have this friend…” and told her how you had no way of knowing that you had skin cancer until you went in for a random check up. I don’t know that I convinced her, but at least I hopefully made her think about it a little more!
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50 Rebecca February 12, 2012 at 10:40 pm

I’m making an appt tomorrow to get myself checked! I have a lot of them on my back and freckles all over my arms… my family actually has a lot of freckles, but I’m terrified! I never used to use sunscreen besides on my face but I def am from NOW ON! Quick question: since you got them removed, does that mean that it’s gone for good and you’ll be cancer free, or is there a possibility it could come??
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51 Rebecca February 12, 2012 at 10:40 pm

could come back*!
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52 Kelsey @readysetfeast February 13, 2012 at 3:28 pm

SO happy to hear you are doing well!!
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53 Brittany (healthy slice of life) February 13, 2012 at 3:40 pm

I’m so glad you’re writing about this! As a fellow biopsy afficianado, it’s amazing how the smallest, benign looking freckles can be dangerous. A happy thought- we can be virtual scar buddies! I have scars almost in the exact same places on my back, arm and chest. However, you’ll have to also get them on your face, neck, stomach, butt and leg if you REALLY want to be scar twins 😉 gotta love that skin cancer runs in my family and I have a LOT of freckles.
So glad you’re on the mend- I’ve been thinking of you!
If only we could have Jack Bauer attack skin cancer…
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54 kyrunnergirl February 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Bless your heart! Thank you for sharing your experience and I am so glad that you are doing better. As a long time sun lover, I finally made an appt this month for a screening. I’m terified from all my sun tanning with baby oil and tanning beds. 🙁

Still sending prayers and hugs your way.

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55 Katie February 13, 2012 at 7:31 pm

I won’t lie, this makes me nervous about all my little ‘age spots’ (sun spots)! :/ I have never had them checked. They all look fine according to ABC standards, but who knows. When they do the initial scraping to test, does that leave a scar or what’s it look like? (I’m talking about pre-surgery where obviously it leaves a mark!) I have other skin issues (troubles with skin healing) so I’m afraid to have them cut me up right away . . . *sigh*

The older we get, the more I seem to have a growing list of doctors I need to visit. This is on the list, as is an allergist, but I keep waiting because – life is so dang busy and I never know which to do first (and don’t want bad news)!

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56 Aly April 4, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Oh man. I just went last week and had part of a mole biopsied to see if it was bad or not since it had “changed”. Only 2 stitches and it still hurts! 🙁 I’m going back in a couple days to get them out and find out the verdict. I hope everything is fine for you now–so scary and painful!
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57 Kim Couch April 2, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Glad to know there are people out there putting the word out about skin cancer. I would like to begin sharing my story, but don’t know how. I want people to know that a tan is not worth the pain and trouble it can cause later. Back in September I found a little “flaky” spot on my nose. It was only a little pink. I went in for a checkup, and it was biopsied. Came back that it was skin cancer and I was scheduled for surgery. I ended up having my nose practically completely peeled back from my face and then reconstructed. The cancer had spread to the bone even though nobody but me could even see the spot!! I had a 10 1/2 reconstruction surgery. I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but this has been a nightmare!!!!!

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