I always told myself, “It’ll never happen to me”. Until it did on October 14, 2019. I received the call that totally turned my world upside down, "You have stage IA melanoma." I remember my heart and stomach sinking at the same time. My unhealthy skin and sun habits flashed before my eyes. I felt hopeless and completely lost. One routine skin exam revealed more than I ever thought I would have to face at 26 years old. A heavy fear, one that I'd never felt before, hung over my body for weeks.
After 4 appointments, 1 surgery & 1 sentinel lymph node biopsy, the melanoma was successfully removed from my chest and the biopsy indicated the cancer did not spread to my organs. I am one of the lucky ones. The skin cancer was caught early, the treatment worked, and I received “good news”, the cancer did not spread. However, my life is forever changed by this diagnosis. This diagnosis was difficult to hear, but even more difficult to accept was knowing I could have done things to prevent the diagnosis. I can say I’m a melanoma survivor for now, but I still have and will continue to have anxiety about it coming back for the rest of my life. Genetic testing and knowing that both my father and grandfather have also had skin cancer elevates my risk. It goes without saying, a cancer diagnosis takes both a physical and emotional toll on one’s body.
I share my story to raise skin cancer awareness and encourage everyone, especially young adults, to have an annual skin check. I never thought this would be my journey, but skin cancer doesn’t discriminate. Since my 2019 diagnosis, I have routine skin check every 3 months. During every three-month skin check, at least 1 mole is removed from my body for additional testing. My routine skin checks cause anxiety and I relive the fear and worry while awaiting results, every single time. Your skin is your most important organ. The moles on your body are unique. Learning about them, though monthly self-checks and annual skin checks with a dermatologist, will help to increase early detection of irregularities or skin cancer. Checking your skin regularly, learning about your body and taking steps to prevent skin cancer has never been more important. Always make sure you advocate for yourself when it comes to your health, it can save your life. My annual skin exam in 2019 saved mine.Ms. Leah Alexis Adams MSSA, MNO, runner, and mighty melanoma advocate/survivor reminds us all about the importance of skin cancer awareness, prevention, and early detection.