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Melanoma Awareness Month: Eva’s Story on Learning to Love her Skin

Guest blog from Eva Cook, a melanoma survivor who shares her struggles of trying to live up to beauty standards at a young age and learning to love the skin she’s in:

EvaStocktonGrowing up in the south, there is no shortage of hot summers and time spent in the scorching sun. I lived in Miami for the first 12 years of my life and then moved to Atlanta where I spent the remainder of my elementary, middle and high school years. Although high school was pleasant, the bulk of my insecurities seemed to thrive from being compared to other girls. I was often made fun of for being the palest girl in the group, never being able to hold a tan or any form of color except when my face would turn red during class presentations. One girl took side by side photos of our legs and posted about how much tanner she was than I and how hilariously unfortunate I was, thus kickstarting teenage insecurities. I started making a conscious effort to change the way my skin looked, from self-tan products, to tanning beds, to hours laying out under the sun in our driveway any chance I had. My skin would burn, blister and freckle from the intense exposure I was giving it, trying desperately to achieve that perfect glow, or be that “bronze goddess” all the magazines were telling the young girls they had to be.  

blog postThings changed once I got to college, thankfully. I found new and improved friendships that didn’t focus on how I looked. The anxiety that was caused by how “pale” I looked every time I put a pair of shorts on slowly declined and I started focusing on more important things in life. Unfortunately, the sun damage I had done to my skin has left me with many moles and freckles from head to toe. I was always aware they were there, even the weird looking ones, but I never paid any attention to them. It was not until March of 2020 my now fiancé pointed out a specific mole that looked unusual. The mole was on the side of my left thigh, and it had grown and developed odd coloration. My fiancé basically booked my appointment with a local dermatologist for a full body scan. A few days after a biopsy of the mole in question, I received a phone call from the dermatologist explaining how they had found it to be stage I melanoma. I was alone in my apartment at the time, and remember immediately falling to the floor from shock. I was terrified and confused. I did what most people do and started Google searching what melanoma was. I read countless articles about treatments, recovery and prevention. I realized how much I was scaring myself and quickly drove to my fiancé’s house for company and support. A week later, I had my scheduled surgery to remove the cancer and make sure the borders were clear. My amazing fiancé was able to be in the room with me and held my hand the entire time as they cut and stitched me back together. Sixteen stitches later, I have a four-inch scar running across where the mole used to be.  

melanoma scarAt 25 years old, I would never have imagined I would be diagnosed with skin cancer. I regret my behavior and carelessness during my younger years, I should not have succumbed to the peer pressure and hastiness of the girls in my grade school. Now, I embrace and love my skin the way I was meant to; no more tanning beds, sunburns or even casual sun-bathing. Sunscreen has become a new member of the daily skincare routine, along with frequent mole checks and yearly blood work. I could not be more thankful for my fiancé who, essentially, saved my life. I am even more thankful they were able to remove all the cancer, and the only memory is a thin pink scar.  I realize how lucky I am to have caught it so early, because so many men and woman are too late.  


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