Do you put yourself last? I DID, but won’t anymore…
In the busy moments of being a wife, mother of 6 children, realtor, and full-time volunteer, I am consistently putting myself last as many other moms can relate. I am normally the last to eat, the last to get to bed, and the last one to get sick. I am also the last person in the family who will call a doctor if I need to be checked out, which is what has compelled me to write this story and share my experience.
The Day that Changed Everything
About a year ago I noticed a mole on my back that I have had ALL of my life and wondered if it looked a little darker than in the past. My husband Scott and I both determined it did not look any different, but we snapped a picture of it and vowed to “keep an eye on it” just in case. I am not much of a sun lover and never have been. I have fair skin, so I burn easily. And I have 6 kids, had an emergency hysterectomy, and well, my body is in no shape to be sporting a bathing suit. If you do convince me to wear one, I am the person lathered in sun screen under the umbrella.
We watched the mole, snapped additional pictures for comparison, and finally agreed it was indeed getting darker and uglier, and maybe it was time to get it checked. Ironically, I have a 17-year-old daughter, Chandler, with a mole in the exact same location as mine, and it looks just like mine did when I was younger. As with everything on my body, I felt this too was just part of aging. The dermatologist was called, and the appointment scheduled. I even cancelled the appointment once, which caused me to see a new doctor versus our regular one.
The day came for my appointment and words I never imagined hearing came out of the doctor’s mouth – This needs to come off of you now; I think this could be melanoma. I tried not to panic at the sound of that word, and even began to explain that I had this mole since I was a kid and my daughter has the exact same mole. She happened to have her regularly scheduled face check-up one hour after my appointment, so in an attempt to defend my ugly mole I insisted they look at hers. Sadly, within minutes of them seeing her mole, she fell to the same fate. It must come off now for testing. They told us in seven to fourteen days the pathology results would be in.
The small holes left in our backs didn’t cause horrible pain, but more an uncomfortable burning and the inability to sleep on our backs for a few weeks. Husband/Daddy was on full bandage control, and we began to heal.
Devastation & Diagnosis
Hurricane Harvey was quickly approaching the coast, and we were no strangers to the power and impact a hurricane can have on a community. We lost our home in 2005 due to the wrath of hurricane Rita. As we watched the news in anticipation of what was coming to our area, the calls came in on the pathology report. Chandler’s first – Severe Atypical Dysplastic Nevus. We were told she needed to see a surgeon and have more of the borders removed around the area to make sure the site was cleared. Severe… Atypical… Dys.. ?? Nevus… Google?? NO… don’t Google… EVER!!! Her surgery was scheduled, and my mind went wild! Mine was darker, bigger, uglier… What in the world would my results be?
Hurricane Harvey had everyone in watch mode, but quickly that turned to panic as the weather reports told us that this was serious and the impact could be great. As I shifted my mind to full hurricane preparedness mode, the call came in. Unfortunately, your mole is melanoma and we need to send you to MD Anderson Cancer Center immediately. My heart stopped in its tracks at the sound of the “C” word. My head began to spin, and the next month would bring challenges and fears I didn’t know or comprehend how to handle. MD Anderson called, and my appointments were set. Harvey poured his fury down on Houston and loss was immeasurable. Harvey didn’t discriminate on who was affected, just like Hurricane Rita didn’t, and Cancer doesn’t. Remember I DO NOT like the sun, I don’t tan, I spent very little time as a child in tanning beds, but my mole was Cancer. I have officially become part of a group of people I never imagined I would join.
Surgery for Mother & Daughter
Chandler’s surgery day came, and to our surprise, “clearing the borders” meant a 4-5-inch incision in her back. It crushed me as I sat listening to the doctor explain to us the stages of moles and that her mole was one step from being a melanoma. ONE STEP? We weren’t even checking her mole. My heart tore into a million pieces watching my remarkably brave daughter go through this and wondering how I missed this on her, and more importantly, on me! There was a level of guilt that washed over me when I realized that this was something I could SEE; not all cancer is visible … but this mole was. I was “watching” it because I suspected something wasn’t right, yet I waited over a year to have it looked at. I let my concern for myself fall last, and I potentially was facing a very long and hard road ahead.
MD Anderson is a remarkable facility; the efficiency and care given is like no other I have ever experienced. I was shuttled from one floor to the next running tests, taking blood, identifying lymph nodes, and preparing for surgery two days after my initial appointment. The wait began on the pathology report to see if the cancer had spread, and my faith was tested. Fortunately, my results came back quicker than expected and the lymph nodes were clear and all evidence of the tumor was removed.
Lessons & Warning Signs
I am beyond blessed that we caught the melanoma when we did, and in retrospect, I think there are several reasons for this trial…
- It enabled our doctor to find the mole that was one step from being cancer on my daughter.
- I now am able to make others aware that the “just a mole” MUST be checked regularly.
- I cannot continue to put myself last, but rather first when it comes to my health. My loved ones need me to be healthy and to take care of myself. My neglect due to busyness could have had a much different outcome.
If you or anyone you know has any moles, take the time to see your dermatologist for a 15-minute mole check. I can’t emphasize the importance of those 15-minutes enough.
About Courtney D.
Courtney has been “just” a stay at home mom for the past 25 years with a heart full of love for her husband and their 6 children. Once her children were a little older she became a Real Estate agent to give her the freedom to still do the volunteer work she loves, and still be available to her family when they needed her. She enjoys volunteering at her kids schools, painting, spending girl time awesome friends, and reality TV.