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May is Melanoma Awareness Month at Keys

It is Time To Get Wise!  by Wendy Steele, Keys CEO and Melanoma Survivor

wendy_glowThose of you that know me, know that it is my fault for the creation of Keys.  Well the truth is, it was a diagnosis of my Melanoma and a reaction of prescription products and over the counter chemical laden products that created the need and our inspiration.  That is not why I write today.  It is the fact that May is Melanoma awareness month here at Keys and throughout the world.  It is the beginning of sun season and that is why May is the month to celebrate and to inspire.  It is a time to celebrate all the lives that have been save and time to become aware through education so that we can save many more lives.

It is now over 20 years since Bob discovered the Melanoma on my left ankle.  My legs are long and it was impossible to see it myself.  He asked what the waxy stuff was on my ankle.  Holding a mirror up for me to see, it looked like a drop of hot wax was dropped on my ankle.  A few weeks later, it turned bright red and through a friend, we got an appointment with the top Mohs surgeon at Scripps Clinic in San Diego.  Hugh Greenway took a look and said, “This is not good.”  After a biopsy, he had me clear my schedule for Mohs surgery.  It was Melanoma.  This was the beginning of my advocacy for 365 days a year Melanoma awareness, skin cancer education and ways to prevent skin Cancer.

I wrote an article in 2007 called Solar Flare  Please read it.  In 2011, some suspect “ugly duckling” moles sent me to the Mayo Clinic where I realized how out of touch even the top clinics are when it comes to the dignity of people and skin cancer.  Read “Hold The Mayo” as well.  Please!

Now that you have done that, start to realize how delicate your body is and that the skin being our largest organ is bombarded daily by UV, pollutants and all sorts of allergens.  Our skin takes care of us, if we take care of it.

New_CancerCard_BackSo lets start here with this image of a card we produce that will help you identify strange and unusual moles.  Remember mine was clear and about the size of a pencil eraser.  So please look at this image and check out any unusual moles you have on your body.  Click on the image and save it to your smartphone to use as a comparative tool.  Better yet, have a friend check you over.  It can be fun if you let it be, but it is serious business.

I have literally hundreds of moles on my body.  I am fair, Germanic/Hungarian and very prone to skin cancer.  If you can count more than 50 moles on your body, you are a candidate for very close examination.  Don’t wait for the dermatologist visit.  Become your own sleuth and be aware.  It just might save your life.

20 years later, I have had numerous basil cell cancers removed and I have found them all myself and Bob’s vigilant eyes.  Know yourself and know your skin.

An interesting thing to really let sink in is that your body talks to you.  In my case, five years before discovering my Melanoma, I was on a vacation with Bob in Eleuthera.  I became sort of ill without a good description of what was wrong.  We got back to the mainland and I went to an internist who discovered a small red dot on my ankle.  For a while, he thought it was a tick bite and I had symptoms of inflammation in my blood test.  They suspect rheumatoid arthritis.  I knew it could not be a tick bite, but I always wondered what it was.  Five years later, it was exactly the same are that we discovered my Melanoma.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.

Finally, lets say you find something.  Don’t play around.  Get to either a dermatologist or Mohs surgeon.  Insist on a biopsy.  Do not take no for an answer.  If you can, find the youngest most technically savvy doctor you can.  Tell them what it is you discovered and that Wendy Steele said to not fool around scraping, burning or freezing.  If they refuse, find another doctor!

My own experience is that universities like Stanford and Johns Hopkins are on top of their game.  If you are in the EU, you are luckier than we are in the US because awareness and prevention are paramount.  One of my tricks is that when I am traveling and want something checked, I ask the doctors office is they have a Dermascope® that they use.  If yes, this tells me they are on their game and my trust level goes up significantly.

I cannot say it enough that if you have moles, you must become your own best expert.  Follow your intuition based on a lifetime of study.  Early prevention can and will save your life.

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