A 20-Something Melanoma Survivor Goes Under The Knife Again

meghan

Meghan Rothschild is a melanoma survivor, activist and the founder of the non-profit organization Surviving Skin. In this essay, originally published on Surviving Skin’s Facebook page, Meghan talks about having to undergo another minor surgery after her dermatologist finds a potentially dangerous mole on her body. You can read more about Meghan’s story here.

As I’m laying up staring at the unflattering, nasty, neon “doctor’s office” lights today, awaiting my appointment with the derm, it dawned on me — I should write about these shitty experiences. I go out and speak every chance I get, so why not share the gory, messy stuff too?

Once you’ve had melanoma, for lack of a better way of putting it, you’re screwed. You’re more likely to get it again, you’re subjected to endless surgeries, mole removals, and your body basically becomes “Swiss cheese.”

Since my original diagnosis I have had over 30 moles removed. Some have healed up nicely, some have bumped up and become “keloids,” and my personal favorite: some have split the fuck open and become infected. That’s always a treat — when your incision rips open, starts to ooze and the next thing you know you’re back at a doctor’s office and they’re sticking a Q-tip into your open, bleeding wound.

Sometimes your biopsied moles come back as “just a freckle,” sometimes you get a “moderate dysplasia,” and sometimes, hopefully not often, you get one that’s “severely dysplastic.” All of these diagnoses are better than the dreaded “M,” but the severe one sucks too. That’s what I had to go back in for today. And that’s when it hit me: you never get used to this shit. As a melanoma survivor I’ve been poked, prodded, cut open, injected, filled with radioactive dye, stitched up — and you never get used to it. Ever.

Every time is seemingly the same. The derm comes in, reviews your file, then pulls out the needle and starts shooting you up with numbing solution. If you’re as “lucky” as I am, your body starts to shake post-injection, your heart pounds, your chest tightens. You can feel your body’s anticipation to what it has come to know as “normal.”

And then the derm leaves you. Leaves you laying there, by yourself, waiting for the dreaded cut. It’s here where I usually lose it. I feel the tears burning the back of my eyes because it’s not just the worry about whether or not you have another melanoma. It’s the fact that this is another scar on your already damaged body. The whole reason you’re here is most likely because you were so vain you just “had to have that tan” and now your skin is being destroyed in a whole other way — scarring.

Then comes the actual removal of a chunk of flesh you were wishing you could hold on to. You’re numb so you don’t feel the pain, but you feel — and hear — the cutting, the pulling, the sewing motion as the doctor stitches you back up and laughs about your Frankenstein-like appearance. “This one won’t heal as well as the first time,” he says. “This is one of the worst places to get a mole removed due to the tightness of the skin.” Thanks, jackass.

And then you’re on your way, left to care for the wound for the following two weeks. Depending on where it’s located you usually have to adjust your sleeping style, stop working out and refrain from lifting anything above 15 pounds. It’s not just the day of that you’re affected, it’s weeks after you’re left changing your lifestyle to accommodate this stupid condition.

So that’s that. Another day in the life of a melanoma survivor. I’d do it 100 times over to prevent anyone else from having to endure it. But is it worth it for vanity? No. So if you’re reading this, thinking “It won’t happen to me,” or “I have a tan complexion, I’m fine,” ask yourself: does any of this sound fun? Because if it doesn’t take the hint — and start protecting yourself.

Share This Post:
    • Melissa

      It’s so great to hear someone describe just what it’s like. Sometimes I wonder if others know just how horrible it is to have to go back time and time again, always wondering if the doctor overlooked one, and yes …. feeling like swiss cheese. I personally refer to it as feeling like a human pothole. I’ve had 7 or 8 removed … I lost track now. My first one was the worst, it was malignant. I was 24 and I’m now 30. They took a huge chunk out of my lower back and it left a major scar. I had one grow back which they removed again. Just waiting for the next …

    • Brianne

      It is nice to know I am not alone here. I just started this melanoma journey and have had three incisions in less than 2 months. My 3rd incision (under my armpit) busted open so bad. I am currently still healing from this one! What gets me the most is that all my biopsies have been due to MY request at the dermotologist. The first one came back as melanoma. So off to the plastic surgeon I went. After testing that tissue they determined the margins weren’t clear and they wanted to go deeper. Know I started to worry. I went back to the dermotologist for a full body scan. She assured me nothing looked alarming. I then proceed to say really, not even this one under my armpit, in which her response was “well are you going to be worried about it? Ok then I will biopsy it for you.” For me?! Thanks. result of that biobsy… Severe dysplasia. I have lost all faith in the dermotologist. I realized I need to be aware and presistant with my biopsys. I am currently awaiting two more results from my breast we shall see.

    • Robin

      No one could ever summarize what I’m going through better. I have all of the support in the world, but few understand the struggle we go through to fight this. And yes, I’m putting up quite a fight. Thanks for sharing this… it gave me comfort when I needed some :)

    • Letha

      I was recently diagnosed with malignant melonoma.. I am 63 so i a lot older when i got it…….It was a mole on my leg. my leg has been cut on 3 times i have two ugley scars… 5 lymph nodes removed but cancer had not got into them. i dont know yet about treatments until i see cancer dr., i am scared of melonoma i have lost two friends to it i know what it can do……………. it comforts me to read what others are going thru also……………god bless you all

    • Brianne

      God bless you too Letha!

      UPDATE

      One of the two biopsys came back as severe dsyplasia. It is the same breast as the one I had the Melanoma. I have surgery on tuesday so there goes another scar :( I been going crazy with trips between the plastic surgeon and dermotologist. I had two more moles (these ones on my stomach) biopsied today. I will have results in about 10 days so I will keep you guys posted.

      Good Luck everyone!

    • Brianne

      The two on my stomach came back as mild dysplasia, so I did not have to have surgery on those. But just got diagnosed with Severe dysplasia on my left thigh. So here goes another scar. I am very torn. I been having tons of spots biopsied. I fell like I am being a little over the top with the biopsies, but they keep coming back dysplastic. I don’t know if I should take a break on the doc appoints or just keep trucking forward. …..?????

    • Fiona

      As others before me have said, it is great to hear someone describe the experience. Growing up in Qld, Australia, I spent alot of time on the beach and in the sun. This year, aged 48, I had my first melanoma removed from near my knee. Was so much worse than I thought it would be. Could hardly walk. Have another mole that doctor wants to remove and am dreading it as I don’t want to go through same experience again but realise there will probably be a few more to go.

    • Cat

      I had a mole removed and am currently waiting for the results. Getting my stitches out on Thursday. My doctor and an intern performed the removal, so I kind of felt like a guinee pig. Doctor to intern “You have done this before right?” Intern “yeah…once maybe twice”. The doctor also mentioned to the intern, while the intern was nervously stitching me up, that the skin on the back is one of the trickiest to stitch up so “don’t worry if you are struggling”. Luckily I am a good sport, and a teacher, so I am all about education but…it all felt surreal. My father has had bacel cell removed from different parts of his body since before I was born and my grandmother had melanoma so I grew up educated about sun safety and have been monitoring my moles since I was young. That being said, I also grew up terrified of the possibility of developing skin cancer. Crossing my fingers for good news on Thursday.