Saturday, November 12, 2011

dear 17 year old me

It will haunt me for the rest of my life. Why did I do such an irresponsible act? Why did I feel like I needed to look a certain way in order to be beautiful? I knew the consequences and shrugged them off. Then it hit...

I was a junior in high school (yep, just 17) when I went to the dermatologist for the first time. I was going for 2 reasons: acne and a large mole removal on my mid-back. I don't remember much about the visit other than Mom's main concern was my acne. It was bad (and still is as far as being an adult). After trying every known acne-prevention product, nothing seemed to work so it was time to call in the professionals.

As I was lifting up my shirt for the doctor to see my mid-back, he noticed a place on my lower back. He said that was the one that needed to be removed, but could remove the other as well. Both were sent out for testing. The mole that the doctor found had precancerous cells. Surgery had to be done immediately to remove the roots and surrounding cells. The surgery wasn't too bad, but they did have to give me a double dose of shots to numb my back. And my dad had to sit down because he got queezy watching. He was there holding my hand. I had about 10 or so blue stitches that prohibited me from bending over. If I did, I would have ripped my skin. That scenario didn't sound pleasing so I did not bend over once during the number of weeks that I had stitches.

A few days later the results from my precancerous cell removal surgery came in: they had successfully removed all of it. But I was under strict orders to lather up the sunscreen and beware of tanning beds for the rest of my life. Did I listen? No. Every bride must be tan at their wedding. Bad mistake...

This past week I went to my 2nd dermatologist appointment specifically for a full body checking. And I had another mole removed, but this time from my stomach. The doctor also measured some on my back. That night I was following my cleaning instructions and I took off the band-aid to find another belly button: a gross one at that. My biopsy spot was at least 3 times bigger than my removed mole and the hole was deep. All I could think about was that I hoped the doctor had removed all abnormal cells, because I couldn't go through another cutting. Thankfully God is looking out for me, because the results were as good as they could be. No additional cutting is necessary, but there is a 10% chance that it could return as cancer. I will go back for periodic check-ups.

I want to challenge everyone to go to the dermalogist for a full body checkup. Skin cancer can pop up without warning. I was a 17 year old who was diagnosed with precancerous cells. Ten years later I am a young adult with continued skin problems and my later years don't look promising. Tanning beds are NOT safe. I will NEVER use a tanning bed again and will only be spray tanned in the future. Please know the facts and myths about tanning. Also use sunscreen with at least an SPF 30. Beauty in your younger years will quickly turn into wrinkles, leather skin, and sun spots in your later years. Please watch the video below. It changed my life.

Dear 16-Year-Old Me YouTube Video