The year is 1997. School’s just released for the day. I head to the gas station and fill up my mustang for a grand total of five dollars. I cruise around town for a bit, I still have 45 minutes before I’m on the clock at the local tanning salon. Bored, I go ahead and head to work. I know just what I’ll do. Grabbing a Playboy bunny sticker and my favorite tanning lotion, I start the tanning bed ready for a quick nap before my shift starts. Twenty minutes later, I’m well rested and a shade darker. Life is good…
Fast forward to 2023 and I’ve just had my sixth, or maybe it’s now my seventh, skin cancer surgery. I’ve debated even sharing this story. But, my overall goal for this blog is to help people. I have dealt with skin cancer since I was sixteen, although I had no clue that’s what it was. I was twenty eight before I was correctly diagnosed and now at forty, I have more knowledge about skin cancer than I ever thought I would.
My first spot appeared on the middle of my back when I was sixteen. Two different doctors misdiagnosed the spot as a busted capillary. I’m sure they probably didn’t think a sixteen year old would have skin cancer at such a young age. This spot was flat, red, a little flaky, and about the size of a quarter by the time I got it removed at twenty eight. I finally saw a dermatologist when my husband would notice dots of blood on the back of my shirt where the spot was. Immediately the dermatologist knew it was basal cell carcinoma, but I still had to go through a biopsy to confirm. She was right and from there I had a full body scan and another small spot was found on my shoulder. Both of these were removed. The spot on my shoulder was pretty easy and I was able to have the procedure in the office. The spot on my back was a little tougher. I went through Mohs surgery and then reconstructive surgery afterwards.
Since then, I have found several more spots. Lucky for me, all but one have been basal cell carcinomas and none have been on my face. I am terrified about melanoma and have only had one spot that was considered an atypical mole with signs of pre-melanoma. I wish that I would’ve photographed the before and after pictures of each spot. None of them looked like what I would have expected skin cancer to be. I’ve had skin cancer on my leg, back, both shoulders, and chest.
5 Warning Signs of Basal Cell Carcinoma
- A sore that just doesn’t heal. This has been the number one indicator for me. Most of the spots I have found have looked like a small sore, sometimes even a bug bite. But it never goes away, even when using Neosporin. It might start to look better, like it is healing, and then it returns!
- A reddish patch of dry, flaky skin. This is very similar to how the spot on my back was. It was often itchy, but never hurt. It was very dry and flaky and red. It finally started bleeding after twelve years.
- A shiny bump or nodule. These bumps can be clear, pearly, or even white. Often, these are mistaken for normal moles.
- A small pink growth. This is similar to what the bump on my shoulder looked like. It was described like a small pink eraser on the end of a pencil.
- A scar-like area. This type is more serious, and can indicate an invasive basal cell carcinoma. The skin can appear shiny and the area is usually flat, white, yellow or waxy in color.
Living with Skin Cancer
If you follow along on our adventures, then you know that I don’t let skin cancer rule my life. We are a family that loves to be outside! We take beach vacations, we spend a lot of time hiking, and we even have a pool. But I have gotten REALLY serious about wearing sunscreen and ensuring that my boys do, too. Just one sunburn can double your chance of getting skin cancer. And unfortunately, even being as careful as I am, I have still gotten a few sunburns since this journey started.
Products That I Love
Unfortunately I was raised in an era that promoted “you look best with a tan.” And even having skin cancer, I still want to have some color. However, you will never find me tanning or laying out in the sun anymore. I mean, I do lay out in the sun but it’s usually under an umbrella lathered in sunscreen! Below, are products that I love that keep my skin protected and offer a little bit of fake color.
This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission, at no extra charge to you, if you purchase any items using the links provided.
- Tinted Sunscreen for Face – Recommended by my dermatologist!
- Body Sunscreen – Recommended by my dermatologist!
- Tanning Foam – This is the best I’ve found. And trust me, I’ve tried it all!
- Self Tanning Mitt Applicator – This is a must have for tanning foam!
- Roxy Rash Guard – Size up
How Can You Protect Yourself?
- When in doubt, have it checked out. If you notice something that seems abnormal, have a dermatologist check it out!
- Check your skin often, from head to toe. Look for new moles or even those pesky patches of dry or flaky skin. Monitor them often for any changes.
- See a dermatologist annually. Make this one of your annual dr. visits. It is always best practice to have a professional check your body. And be prepared, these full body scans are super uncomfortable, but can be lifesaving!
- Be sun safe every day! Stay out of tanning beds, wear sunscreen every day, and seek out the shade if you’re outside. This is the most effective way to protect yourself from skin cancer.
- Share this habit with your friends and kids! Make these safeguards everyday habits with your friends and family. I have probably terrified my kids of skin cancer, they hate seeing my scars. They also hate to stop playing outside to lather up with sunscreen, but I hope that being so firm about this will help them in the future.
Let this be your sign to get your skin checked, especially if you’ve ever wondered about a spot or a mole. If you’re tanning now, please stop! And if you’re headed outside this spring break or summer, make sure to wear that sunscreen and reapply often. I am always happy to answer questions that you may have, so don’t hesitate to reach out.