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Melanoma Awareness Month – Jessica Strange

Guest blog from Jessica Strange, Melanoma survivor who was first diagnosed in 2021:


I was first diagnosed with Melanoma on March 24, 2021. I was 33 years old at the time, and a newly married mother of two daughters, ages 4 and a newly turned one year old! 

My melanoma was located on my outer right calf. I noticed it when I was shaving my legs. It started to change colors and then kind of scab a bit. I just thought dry skin, my husband and I were just married on a beach in North Florida, so I didn’t think much of it. Maybe two weeks later the spot started to internally itch, its very hard to explain, and I made a dermatology appointment with the first office that could see me. I hadn’t been to a dermatologist since I was in my teens.  

The dermatologist told me it was nothing to worry about and didn’t want to biopsy it at first. I pushed and told him I wasn’t leaving the office until it was biopsied, as I felt it was “textbook” melanoma. The ABCDE’s, everything in the melanoma brochure was ME! The dermatologist told me I would have my biopsy results in about two weeks or so. I received a phone call about two days later. The words “You have melanoma.” My brain stopped working. A lot more was said and discussed, and surgery was scheduled. I had no idea what that meant or entailed. I called my husband, and he asked me so many questions I didn’t know the answer to.  

April 6, 2021, I went to have my Wide Local Excision, and to be completely transparent, I had no idea what that meant. I was awake, and a plastic surgeon came in with a nurse, they laid me out on a table, and injected a ton of lidocaine. The surgeon


stated he would make the incision a bit larger than necessary to close with stitches. My incision ended up being approximately 6” long by about 2” wide, I cannot tell you how deep.  I watched the whole entire procedure as if it was not my leg. I had a one-year-old daughter, a 4-year-old daughter, two dogs, and a husband at home; how could this be happening to me? I am fair skinned, light eyes, but I was only 33 years old. I always wore sunblock, I always had cover ups and hid in the shade growing up, I only used a tanning bed twice and got so burnt that I never went back. I kept questioning everything. The pathology report staged me at Stage 1A with a Breslow depth of .35mm.

My incision ended up getting infected, I went back to the office about three times telling them something was wrong. They kept telling me it was normal leg wound healing, as its far from the heart. I went to urgent care, they told me I needed to go back to the original office, as it was infected and needed to be debrided. They finally listened to me and swabbed it; it came back positive for staph infection. The healing process started all over again. This is also when I searched for a new dermatologist. 

In May 2021, I had switched dermatology offices, they helped my wound heal without needing another surgery and I have been affiliated with them since. I have had several biopsies. I was recently diagnosed with Dysplastic Nevi Syndrome. 

My biggest takeaway is to always advocate for yourself. No one knows your body better than you. No textbook, no dermatologist, no doctor. Only you. If you have a practitioner that doesn’t value you and your concerns, find a new one.

I am approaching my three-year NED-iversary! Everyone in the melanoma world would understand how important that milestone is! My family has been extremely supportive in calming the anxieties that come along with a cancer diagnosis and every appointment I have had since and will have in the future. I have encouraged many friends and family members to seek dermatology body checks, and I hope to continue to do so.