Hi, I'm Candice Mason, Founder of Desert Camo Apparel and welcome to The Prickly Post. This blog series is dedicated to promoting sun safety, skin cancer awareness and prevention!
Here's my story:
In August of 2017, my world came crumbling down all around me. In college, I had a light freckle pop up on the right side of my nasal wall that took 10-15 years to morph into a questionable mole. I went to see my primary care physician who laughed at me and told me I was fine. We had that type of relationship but in retro spec, probably not funny.
Flash forward to my third pregnancy, circa 2014, I had my first skin check. I made the appointment at the local teaching hospital simply because I grew up in southern Arizona where sunscreen in my childhood was only applied on camping trips at the lake and I maybe hit the tanning salon for less than a months time total in college. The freckle on my face had only an overall minor change in color but did not fully follow the ABCDEs (Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter and Evolution) of skin cancer. The resident dermatologist and his attending confirmed solar degeneration. They took a picture and told me to come back in six months if there were any changes. Six months had passed with no changes. It would take three myears for my freckle to evolve into a mole with a slight hump, large diameter, spotty colors, irregular and asymmetrical borders.
As more and more family and strangers took notice to the giant brown spot on my face, I grew self conscious. I decided to go see a plastic surgeon to have the mole removed. Being it was on my face and I did not want a jacked up face. Reminder, three doctors over the years reassured me everything was fine. The plastic surgeon asked if I wanted to have the lesion sent for biopsy and I replied, "Yes, does insurance cover it?" You see, I already had to shell out money from my own pocket for "cosmetic services" to have the mole removed.
A week and a day after the removal, August 17, 2017 to be exact. I got the dreaded call at work. The plastic surgeon read me the biopsy results "stage pt1a, superficial spreading melanoma, 0.96mm, Clark's level IV". I burst into tears. He told me not to worry and he referred me to the ENT specialist at Banner UMC who specializes in malignancies of the head and neck, including melanoma.
After the initial meeting with the ENT doc, she recommended complete lesion removal because the first removal did not yield clean borders and a Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy. My surgery took place in September. I had four lymph nodes removed and one came back positive for micrometastisis. I underwent immunotherapy for six months and suffered minor side effects. I am now a cancer patient for the rest of my life. Yearly skin checks and body scans are now a part of annual health maintenance.