Another Surgery

December 10, 2012 · 24 comments

Remember when I had another dermatologist checkup a few weeks ago?

I wish I was reporting I’m in the clear, but even after a very sun-safe summer, I have another spot that needs to be cut out. When my dermatologist called with the news two weeks ago, my heart sank, remembering the all too fun process that’s going to have to happen all over again.

Right when my old scars are just starting to fade…

The good news? It’s not melanoma like last time. The bad news and reason I need another surgery? It’s pre-melanoma.

As you’re reading this, I’m gearing up to have a third surgery on Thursday.*

I don’t tell you guys this to earn your sympathy. As I’ve said before, I want to prevent this from happening to others.

One of my students asked me why I wouldn’t be in school today. “I have surgery,” I told her. She said “On what?” (this particular student is new this year, so she wasn’t present for my skin cancer awareness assembly).

When I replied “skin cancer,” her eyes grew 6 times their normal size.

“I go tanning all the time,” she said.

I pulled up my sleeve, showing her the scar on my arm, and curtly replied, “Don’t. It’s not worth it.”

I have developed this automatic bristle whenever someone tells me they lay in the tanning bed, whether they know about my history or not. I have friends who still lay in the tanning bed, having full knowledge of what I’ve been through. I honestly think this is just one of those things you don’t “get” until you’ve had to do it. And just like most illnesses, we fully believe “it won’t happen to me.”

Once again, I reiterate. It’s not worth it.

You want to be pretty and tan now? How about later when you’re wrinkly and, in my case, scarred?

Sure, I’ve been lucky. In the grand scheme of things, since they “got the cancer all out,” I’m really just inconvenienced. I need a caretaker for a little bit, I have to take a few days from work, I need to miss rehearsal the week before tech week begins (ugh!), I can’t shower or wash my hair without assistance, I can’t be active. I have yet another scar.

Every time I walk into the dermatologist’s office, the receptionist sighs and says, “You’re too young for this.” I hear that a lot.

When I sit in the waiting room, I’m generally the youngest person by about 30-40 years. And usually, I’m wondering if I’m the only one in there who is a sunscreen maniac, who doesn’t have skin cancer history in her family, and who was diagnosed with melanoma at 24.

Not everyone is lucky like I was; not everyone’s cancer is caught before it spreads.

It’s that time of year when everyone begins to visit the tanning salons. Don’t do it (and if you want a tan, there are so many safe alternative ways to get it). I’m beating a dead horse here, but I want to be heard. Don’t lay in the tanning bed. Reapply SPF 30+ when you’re in the sun. Go find a dermatologist and get a skin check. “I’m scared” or “I’m too busy” is not an excuse.

This time? I’m asking for a superman symbol scar. I want to feel invincible.

If you notice an irregularity on your skin especially after extensive tanning its important to consultant a dermatologist,  there are a number of specialists in this at the local private hospitals in Edinburgh.
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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More December 10, 2012 at 8:33 am

Thinking of you right now, girl! My mom has had several bouts of skin cancer so it’s something we’ve taken seriously my whole life and I’ve never gone in a tanning bed (nor do I ever plan to start). It also means when we went to the beach as kids, we were wearing SPF 70… Thinking of you and hoping you’re doing well.
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2 Sam @ Better With Sprinkles December 10, 2012 at 9:02 am

sorry that you have to go through this again Alyssa! It’s awesome that you’re able to turn it into a lesson, especially considering that you work in a school….you must get through to a lot of people! At a young age people always think they’re invincible and take a “it won’t happen to me” attitude. But seeing your story would definitely help them realize it IS possible if they’re not taking care of their skin!

I’ve never, ever been in a tanning bed, nor will I ever try it. I tend to be pretty lax on sunscreen though – I ended up being tested for skin cancer about 2-3 years ago. Thank god it came back negative, but it taught me to be smarter about taking care of my skin.
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3 Brooke December 10, 2012 at 9:11 am

So sorry to hear this girl! I know you’ll get past this and you are such an inspiration for telling your story! As far as I’m concerned, you already are invincible! Sending well wishes your way :)

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4 alyssa - life a la wife December 10, 2012 at 9:22 am

I haven’t gone tanning since you posted about this months ago – not even before my wedding! I also got checked by the dermatologist in February to make sure I was in the clear. Thank goodness I was – but it’s time to start being smart. Hang in there… I know you’re tough!
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5 Val December 10, 2012 at 9:39 am

So sorry to hear your having to go through this again. My sister was diagnosed with Melanoma a few years ago but they were able to cut it all out. Ever since then I have been very serious about applying sunscreen and definitely never going to tanning beds. A spray tan works just as good :) Hope you have a quick recovery from the surgery!

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6 katie December 10, 2012 at 10:11 am

I am thinking of you girl <3

So smart of you to POST about this again, you can never repeat yourself or post when this stuff happens, it could be a wake up call for someone else. You are helping.

Sending you love <3
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7 Corey December 10, 2012 at 10:26 am

I stopped going tanning around 2 years ago. At this time I also became a huge fan of “spf 60″ sun screen and never lay out without it. Good luck with your surgery! Hopefully it’s the last.
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8 Nicole @ Curly Mommy December 10, 2012 at 11:15 am

Hoping everything goes super smoothly, and you get to eat lots of ice cream to recover!!
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9 Rachel December 10, 2012 at 11:24 am

Thinking of you today <3 I hope everything goes smoothly for you… I've actually never been tanning but my cousin does all the time (I keep telling her to stop but she's not listening)
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10 Sarah OUaL December 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Ugh I liked it better when we were just blonde running PR twins. Had (another) premelanoma cut out last week and going in for scar #4 next week. Glad to hear this one is precautionary – heal fast girl, and keep spreading the word. People are listening.

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11 Liz @ IHeartVegetables December 10, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I’m sorry to hear that! :( I’m glad you’re able to share your story though!!!

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12 Melissa December 10, 2012 at 1:26 pm

I’m so sorry you have to go through this again, but thankfully you’ve kept on top of it so well. Your story has definitely made me more conscious of the way I protect my skin when I’m out in the sun, so thank you so much. I hope it all goes well and that you feel better soon.
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13 Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy December 10, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Because of you, I went and got my skin checked last week! Thankfully, I’m the clear, but I will continue to slather on SPF 30 and tell people that it’s not okay to go tanning. I hope that your surgery goes well! As you said, it’s better to catch it now, rather than later!
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14 Kaitlyn December 10, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Thinking of you!!! heal fast!!!!
I am also a sunscreen maniac! Although, I’m not a manic because I had skin cancer. Both of my parents are very fair skinned (we’re norwegian and swedish), very light blue eyes, and of course I have inherited these qualities. Both of my parents were swimmer and lifeguards when they were younger, and seeing what they are going through now is enough to make me slather on 15 coats of sunscreen before I go outside.
I’ve heard tanning be compared to smoking before…..it’s not a “big deal” if I just go once or twice/just have “one or two” cigarettes….but usually, those “one or two” start adding up and enter…lots of health issues. Having never tanned or smoked myself, I don’t know for sure if that is an accurate comparison, but I feel like it’s (may) be a good way to get the message to people these days.

YOU”RE AWESOME for sharing your experiences. Will be thinking of you on Thursday!

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15 Amber K December 10, 2012 at 8:23 pm

I’ll be thinking of you on Thursday! I have never tried to tan before (although as a kid I’m did get a few sunburns), but a tan is certainly not worth cancer.
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16 Erin December 11, 2012 at 1:26 am

I read about your earlier surgeries and it is scary, scary business.
My dad is a melanoma survivor, and it makes me so angry sometimes to see these young people (like I’m so old haha!) tanning and laying out in the sun. It is so scary how your life can change in just an instant.
Glad to see you are super watchful now and that you are using your story to spread the word.
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17 Emily R. December 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Tanning membership was cancelled well over a month ago (and even prior to that, I wasn’t going, just was letting my money go to waste) and I have come to LOVE getting spray tans AND self-tanning lotion!

Best of luck this Thursday, thought and prayers are coming your way for one last FINAL surgery and a quick recovery.

You’re a rockstar! :)

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18 Becky @ Olives n WIne December 11, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Wow, thanks for sharing your story. Dermatologist surgeries are no fun… I’ve been through a few myself and have some horrific scars to show for them!
Thinking of you and hoping for the best!
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19 Losing Lindy December 11, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I used to tan, I honestly miss it. I know it is bad for me, but I miss the boost of fake sun. I have horrible seasonal depression.

I haven’t tanned in 6 years. I am wondering it is an addiction, like smoking..knowing it isn’t good for you, but still longs for it.
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20 Sarah B. December 12, 2012 at 10:47 pm

I’m playing catch-up on your blog, but I must say my heart sank, too, when I saw the title of this post. Thank you for sharing your story and working to spread awareness. I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow!
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21 Alyssa P December 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I used to go tanning and would forget to put sunscreen on all the time. When I met my best friend from college, she had already had a pre-melanoma mole removed at the age of 15. I became a little more conscious of what I was doing, but I admit I still tanned every once in a while, and often forgot to put on sunscreen unless she reminded me. But thanks to your blog, I’ve completely stopped tanning, stay out of the sun, and put on sunscreen. I just got back from a week long fishing trip in Costa Rica, where I was out in the sun for 8+ hours…and reapplied my sunscreen, from head to toe, about every hour. I wore long sleeve shirts and a hat. While a big part of it is wanting to be healthy and knowing that skin cancer can happen (like to my best friend), it’s more than that now. I think because my friend never really talked about what she went through, it didn’t hit me. But because you share all that you’ve gone through, it hits far closer to home. To see someone my age (with my name!) going through it puts it in perspective. Thank you so much for sharing your story – you’ve definitely changed my thought process!

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22 Stephanie December 21, 2012 at 10:29 am

Wow. Reading your blog gives me chills. I am 27 and have had melanoma 3x too — three surgeries within about a year and half — three times hearing those scary words and also hearing all too often ” you are too young for this”. I was only 21 when it first started. I can totally relate to everything you are saying about your friends tanning and what not as sad as this might sound I don’t think it would phase me either if it hadn’t happened to me. Our stories are SO SIMILAR it’s crazy, but comforting at the same time. Good luck to you lady!!!

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