Amy Nichole is a skin cancer survivor, advocate, and successful melanoma fundraiser. As a photographer specializing in children and young adults, Amy loves sharing her story to educate and remind everyone, especially youth, about the importance of sun protection, skin checks, and being your own “BIGGEST ADVOCATE” when it comes to your health.
As a ginger with very pale skin and freckles, I wish I had been more diligent about sun protection. When I was 8 years old, I experienced an awful sunburn which resulted in a “birthmark design” on my right arm and across my back. Although my mother promptly took me to the doctor, the doctor dismissed it as a “bad reaction to the sun.” We just didn’t know how dangerous overexposure from the sun could be.
Fast forward to my teens, when tanned skin was fashionable. Being of British, French, and Irish descent, my fair skin never tanned easily. From laying out in the sun for hours covered with oil, to using the tanning spray alternatives, I tried everything to achieve a golden glow. My ill-fated attempts at tanning resulted in the darkening of my “birthmark,” which was medically diagnosed as dysplastic nevus due my bad childhood sunburn, and the appearance of new moles and spots. An appointment with my dermatologist to “take a closer look at these new odd-spots,” led to several biopsies. Every extraction the doctor performed and examined came back as pre-cancerous. Although disheartened by the results, I am thankful this first scare educated me on the importance of constantly checking your skin for any changes.
My 1st skin cancer was in June 2016 on my upper chest, which I discovered during a self-skin exam referencing the ABCDE mole characteristics guide. Two additional skin cancers were found on my arm in February 2019 and March 2019, just inches from each other. They were determined to be melanoma and required MOHS surgery for complete removal. (One of these surgeries took 6 hours to complete.) Since then, I have had over 17 pre-cancer “spots” come up which required surgery for removal.
Today, I visit my dermatologist every 3 months for a full-body skin exam and I
scan myself daily looking for any changes. During every dermatologist visit, I point out which areas on my body need closer inspection and I push for a biopsy (or two!) when I feel it should be done. I still love being outdoors, but I wear long sleeves, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen year-round. Throughout my skin cancer journey, I have learned to have faith in my doctors, but also to have faith in myself. You are the one that sees your own skin 24/7. Protect yourself and love the life you live. Scars are beautiful and they will never define you. And please remember to wear sunscreen and live in the sun with proper sun protection.