Stage IV melanoma survivor Jamie Goldfarb writes about the importance of early detection.
“The only constant in life is change.”
My primary melanoma tumor was a birthmark on my thigh that changed over time. For at least a year, my father urged me to get it checked because he thought it looked different. But it was a spot that had been with me since birth and my eyes were closed to its change. And because, at the time, I subscribed to the pervasive world views of “nothing bad will ever happen to me” and “what I don’t know can’t hurt me,” I did not heed my father’s advice. Finally, after about a year of constant urging, I went to the dermatologist. The result was, you guessed it, melanoma. I was diagnosed Stage IIB, I had surgery, and I thought I was finished with cancer. Two years later I was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma.
The 5-year survival rate for Stage I melanoma is 97 percent. The 5-year survival rate for Stage IV melanoma is approximately 15 percent. And the mediating factor between those two vastly different chances at life is early detection. While I am not a world-renowned scholar, I propose to add one more constant to life as we know it—the sun. And when you put those together, the inevitability of change coupled with constant exposure to the sun, the importance of regular dermatologist visits is abundantly clear.
Even if you, like my younger self, also cannot imagine anything bad really happening to you, if the stats don’t scare you, if the thought of undergoing horrendous treatment doesn’t seem real, if you don’t truly understand the extreme stress of living with cancer, then please listen to those of us who do. We are here to loudly and passionately remind you that the best way to survive melanoma is to prevent it with sun safety and to stop its spread by catching it early.
So please, listen to my dad, call your dermatologist.
Written by Jamie Goldfarb, Stage IV melanoma survivor and advocate. She is pictured above with her husband, Jeff, and three-year-old son, Kai. Follow Jeff and Jamie on Twitter at @MelanomaMom.
From the MRF:
Research shows that catching melanoma early is one of the most important factors in improving a prognosis (or outcome) of a melanoma diagnosis. To raise awareness of the importance of early detection, the MRF launched a campaign called #GetNaked. Click here to share important messages and images to help educate others about checking their skin regularly.