Never in my life would I have ever imagined developing skin cancer. My name is Lynsey, I am a Tri Sirena Luminary and as of May 2018, I will have developed 18 skin cancers, countless pre-cancers, and well over 120 biopsies. Last month I turned 35, my battle started in 2001 at the age of 21. I will never give up, I will never stop fighting, and I will never stop spreading awareness.
I NEVER wanted to think about skin cancer, I know you probably don’t want to either. People tend to shrug it off as JUST skin cancer, an easily cured grandma disease – and that ugly stigma attached to it drives me BONKERS. Over the years hearing people say things like “It’s just a little mole that can get zapped off!” “Wow, what is that? … A scar from your melanoma? Sure your doctor know what they’re doing?” or “Just heard about your melanoma. Good thing it’s just skin cancer, right?” makes me cringe. There’s a dangerous misconception that melanoma is JUST a cancer of the skin that is a minor and easily treatable condition. I am here, standing tall on my soapbox, to tell you it’s NOT JUST SKIN CANCER and it can happen to you!
The reality is this -- melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and a life-altering disease that affects approximately 178,000 Americans per year. Of these, 9,000 will die from melanoma in this year alone (Melanoma Research Alliance).
That’s one person every hour of every day.
Unlike other cancers, melanoma can often be seen on the skin, making it easier to detect in its early stages. Keeping track of the changes to your skin and seeing a dermatologist on an annual basis can be a lifesaving event. If left undetected, however, melanoma can spread to distant sites or distant organs. Once melanoma has spread to other parts of the body (known as stage IV), it is referred to as metastatic, and is very difficult to treat. In its later stages, melanoma most commonly spreads to the liver, lungs, bones, and brain; at this point, the prognosis is very poor. I’ve been VERY fortunate to catch things early, but there is always that limbo period after a biopsy that leaves us wondering “is this going to be the time we weren’t quick enough to catch it in Stage 0 or 1!?” Again…it’s not JUST skin cancer.
My fellow Melanoma warriors, my Mela-Homies, we KNOW it’s not JUST skin cancer, we understand that it is a cancer every bit as nasty as any other cancer. We know that a lot goes into managing our treatment. When dealing with skin cancer, bad days can come in all shapes and sizes -- some of us may be recovering from a procedure, while others may be accepting a new diagnosis, and flat out – IT SUCKS. There is nothing fun or easy about getting CHUNKS cut off of you, being left with dozens of stitches and disfiguring scars. How about the anxiety that a diagnosis can ignite, that’s certainly not fun or easy. After going through intense treatment or surgery, the emotional impact of skin cancer is just as valid as any other cancer diagnosis.
So what’s the lesson here -- if I still haven’t been able to lovingly smack you in the face with it!? If you are one of those who have brushed skin cancer off as a harmless freckle/mole/sunburn – STOP! Don’t minimize this! Skin cancer comes in many forms and for numerous reasons. Your job is to protect your skin. Our skin is the biggest most vital organ we have to care for. We can’t live without it and it can’t be replaced. It’s ours for as long as we live so we need to take care of it.
Look for changes and recurring issues to your skin even in areas that never see the sun, see a dermatologist on a regular basis and make sure to wear sunscreen and sun protective clothing all year around. Remember it’s not JUST skin cancer especially when it can kill you. It’s a serious topic and I feel so very fortunate to be able to share my personal experience. So join me, my beautiful team of Luminaries, and fellow badass Melanoma Warriors as we continue to #coverupbuttercup and start taking these opportunities to teach #itsnotjustskincancer!
Written by Lynsey Capone-Smith, Siren Luminary
Follow Lynsey on Instagram! @lynsey.trisirena
Learn more about how you can help provide FREE skin checks for outdoor athletes through the Tri Sirena Skin Cancer Association.