Friday, May 14, 2010

My Belly Ring Saved My Life

A few years ago, I decided that there was something missing in my life. And, of course, it was a belly ring. Don’t judge me. I was coming upon a milestone birthday….and it was really cute. Anyway, I did want this done in a clinical environment – sterile tools and numbing cream, so I went to see Dr. Stephanie Gafford to perform this much needed decoration.

While there, I had noticed this really ugly little piece of skin hanging on my arm and asked her about it. She told me it was a skin tag….no big deal…and snipped it off. Dr. Gafford then said, “but while you’re here…let’s check you out”. (Meaning my skin.) I’m sure she noticed that I was doing something that I thought was just a way of life…..tanning. My mother owns a tanning bed. And I loved laying in it…it was so relaxing – no phone – no kids – just me killing myself to get a tan.

Dr. Gafford was checking my back and noticed something there. “Let’s get a sample to check it out”. No big deal, I thought. That evening, cute new belly ring in place, we went to the lake…and I continued my process of trying to get more tan.

Let me tell you, I don’t know a lot about my heritage, but I am part Irish, part German, and I don’t think any of my ancestors even held hands with someone with a dark complexion. I am naturally as white as white can be. And Joey is the same way. Our kids practically glow in the dark – which makes it easier to keep up with them at night, haha! My point, I worked to get this tan.

Back to my story – about a week later, I receive a call to get to Dr. Gafford’s office ASAP. It took quite a while for the news to sink in that I tested positive for melanoma – the worst kind of skin cancer. I was quickly sent to Vanderbilt to have a larger spot removed, and thankfully, the edges were clear. Few people are as lucky as I was to find their melanoma in the first stage. That’s how my belly ring saved my life!

I still have the privilege of annual skin checks….to make sure nothing new has popped up. I have had a couple of other places removed. And now, I wear SPF 50 every day! Any tan you may see on me is from sunless tanning creams and foams.

Did you know that tanning beds increase your risk of skin cancer by 75%? I’m not trying to give medical advice…..but since May is Skin Cancer Awareness month, I do feel that I should share my story. Anyway, just my opinion but, when your skin starts becoming the same texture as your leather purse…….that’s not a good thing. =)

NOTE: Please don’t feel the need to show me your strange moles. I really have a weak stomach. If you notice anything changing with your moles or skin, see your physician.