I am a survivor of advanced melanoma: skin cancer which spread to my lymphatic system. I was able to receive eight powerful - and expensive - immunotherapy treatments which quite possibly saved my life. It never occurred to me that, should the disease come back, that I might not receive further treatment.
I am consoled by having the ability to share my story in the hopes that it can help others. Whether or not a fellow melanoma warrior speaks openly about their own diagnosis, I can give my perspective, and my new-found optimism, to those who may feel as isolated as I did when I found out I have stage 3b skin cancer.
The sun. It's a beautiful thing, and when it's shining, the streets, parks and beaches get really busy. The city comes alive! But it's not all good. The sun can burn! And, a history of sunburns increases the risk of skin cancer, including melanomas. Sun exposure can also cause wrinkles, dry skin and age spots.
My life was forever changed in one diagnosis: cancer. After 25 years, I had finally learned that the rash on my body was the precursor to a rare form of cancer called for Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma (CTCL) that would need to be treated with full-body radiation. My treatment plan was as unique as my diagnosis.
My daughter saved my life. In the doctor's office for her sore throat, she urged me to have our physician look at my mole. The mole I had had on my hip all my life, the mole that had changed colour and shape over the course of six months, the mole that I would quickly learn had mutated into stage 3b melanoma.
While the beauty and entertainment industries continue to market being bronzed as being sexy, the reality of what sun damage does to thousands of Canadians each year is anything but. To help address some of the most common questions about skin cancer prevention, I reached out to my colleague, dermatologist Dr. Jason Rivers.
After falling asleep on the beach one afternoon I burnt my back badly, and when my skin grew back after blistering, I didn't think about it again. That was of course until I heard the word melanoma and chemotherapy and surgery all in the same sentence. As it turns out, that dark glow one gets from hours in the sun becomes embarrassingly meaningless when you're sitting under a florescent light being told you have cancer.
The majority of sunscreens on the market today are more harmful than beneficial. Sunscreens are designed to decrease your risk of skin cancer and allow you to enjoy the sun without worry. Unfortunately, most modern day sunscreens may increase your risk of cancer and disrupt the functioning of your hormones.
Olympic Skier, Julia Mancuso, is on the slopes every day. While temperatures may be low on the mountain, the sun's rays are still super strong. So, she has teamed up with the Spot Skin Cancer Campaign to help prevent and detect skin cancer early on. Here are some of her winter skin care tips for the slopes.