More than skin deep: The ultimate price of skin cancer
Updated On: Mar 01 2013 05:53:07 AM CST
Statistics show that one person dies from melanoma every hour. Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer.
Megan and Ryan had been dating since college, getting ready to settle down. "When we were getting ready to buy our house and move out of our apartment, he had this mole on his right arm and he was like 'Megan this mole keeps getting weird and oozy, I think my shirt is just rubbing against it,'" said Megan Diehl.
Little did they know, that oozing was a sign of skin cancer. The then- 30 year-old Ryan was diagnosed with stage three melanoma in early 2010. He underwent surgery and began chemotherapy as a precaution.
Things were going well until fall 2011, right before they got married. Then, Ryan started having headaches and noticed a lump on his back.
"We had a great wedding and vacation and two weeks after we got back, he had it removed and it came back melanoma," said Megan.
This time, it was stage four. The melanoma had spread to his brain, causing brain lesions, and eventually leaving him paralyzed on his right side.
"We were positive most of the time. We were like you're going to beat this, you're young, it's fine," explained Megan.
However this time, he didn't beat it. Ryan passed away in May of 2012.
"We got married and he passed away within six months," said Megan. The 27-year-old widow said it's been a hard last few years, but that this experience has left her wanting to spread the word. "I really try to educate people by talking or writing and teaching them that it's not just skin cancer-- it can take your life, it's serious."
It's so serious in fact, that one person dies from melanoma every 57 minutes.
Dr. Sanjiv Agarwala, chief of oncology and hematology for St. Luke's University Health Network, said, "The best way to prevent skin cancer is if you go in the sun, which of course you can and you should, is to use sunscreen and we recommend an SPF 30 or higher."
While he admits that not all cases of skin cancer can be prevented., he says early detection is the next best thing. "The most important thing to look for is everyone has moles, or nevi, and a changing mole is important because that could be a precursor to a melanoma," explained Dr. Agarwala.
He said things to look for in moles include asymmetry, uneven borders, multiple colors, changes in shape, and any oozing or bleeding.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends you do a self-check every month and get looked at by a professional every year. You can even ask your primary care physician when you're there for a routine checkup. They'll either look at you or refer you to a dermatologist.
"I'm fortunate because I'm here today to talk to you about it," said Megan. She has a blog in honor of her late husband. She said it's helped her connect with others and to spread the word to about how deadly melanoma can be.
"If I can help maybe just one person, that makes me feel good," said Megan.
A reminder that this series, More than Skin Deep, is the launch of a year-long campaign by 69 News to promote sun safety. Throughout the year, we’ll have information available and giveaways at many of our public appearances.
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