The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal

MAY 2012

The 2012 edition of The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal features medically reviewed, reader-friendly articles such as tanning, the increasing incidence of skin cancer diagnoses among young women, & the prevalence of melanoma among white males over 50.

Issue link: http://skincancer.epubxp.com/i/65757

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From Terminal to Cancer-Free: A Melanoma Patient's Story BOBBY HARSH I remember the phone call like it was yesterday. My plastic surgeon called at 9:00 AM and said, "Mr. Harsh, are you sitting down?" "Should I be?" I joked. He then told me something that would change my life forever — that the results of my recent skin biopsy showed I had melanoma. My wife and I are both in the medi- cal fi eld. Donna is a registered nurse and I have been a fl ight paramedic/ state trooper with the Maryland State Police for 22 years. Yet this diagnosis caught us both completely by surprise. My ordeal started in fall, 2007, when Donna noticed a spot on my left cheek that didn't look right. It looked like a pimple but wouldn't go away. At Photo: Harsh and his wife, Donna I had suffered a few sunburns when I was younger, and just one blistering sunburn in youth can double your lifetime chances of melanoma. my wife's insistence, I went to see my family doctor, who thought the spot was a basal cell carcinoma, the most frequently occurring nonmelanoma skin cancer. He biopsied it and I was referred to a plastic surgeon who removed the lesion and sent a skin sample for a second biopsy. This sample was identifi ed as melanoma. Because the tumor was deeper than four millimeters and ulcerated (an open wound), I was diagnosed with Stage IIc melanoma. This meant I was at "high risk" of the cancer recurring or spreading. [Cancers are classifi ed as stages I, II, III, or IV, with stage I cancers the least advanced, and stage IV cancers the most dangerous, having spread throughout the body.] Over the next few days Donna and I read everything we could about melanoma. We learned how deadly it could be. Why me? My family had no history of melanoma and I had no risk factors/ behaviors such as tanning bed use or excessive sun exposure as an adult. However, I had suffered a few sunburns when I was younger, and just one blistering sunburn in youth can double your lifetime chances of melanoma. Within weeks, I had had a 10-hour surgery to remove more skin around the initial excision site on my face, a 57

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