I was diagnosed in 1995 at the age of 31, just after the birth of my first daughter. I had a mole on my shoulder that had always been very large and dark in color, and noticed that it was becoming larger and changing colors. I had my sister, an internist, look at it and she was pretty certain that it was a melanoma. I had it removed a few days later by a local dermatologist who was also a clinical professor at Penn. He insisted that I be seen at the Pigmented Lesion Clinic there.
I went to Penn for an initial evaluation and received a treatment plan, but opted to have my surgery done locally for convenience sake. I was lucky. Since the lesion was only .57 mm thick, surgery was all that was required. I had follow-up visits every 3 months for the first year, then every 4 months, alternating between Penn and my local doctors.
I was advised not to become pregnant for at least 2 years, as a recurrence was most likely during this time. I became pregnant shortly after my 2nd anniversary, and resumed follow-up visits every 3 months during that time. My pregnancy was complicated by factors other than the melanoma, and my daughter was born prematurely, but big and strong enough to come home with me. (Good thing! As a NICU nurse, I would have gone bonkers if I'd had to leave her in the hospital!)
Two years ago, I moved back home to the Chicago area. I opted to see a private dermatologist rather than a Melanoma Clinic, as I was 4 years out from my diagnosis at that time, and considered very low risk. I have found a dermatologist that I dearly love, and he sends yearly updates to Penn so that I remain current in their records, and could return there if the need ever arises.
Thankfully, I remain healthy. My biggest concern now is my 2 blond, blue-eyed, fair-complected girls. They don't see the light of day without SPF 45, and in the summer I try to keep them out of the mid-day sun. We eat an early lunch and take naps or go shopping or to the library between the hours of 11:00 and 2:00. I've also purchased some clothes from the Sun Precautions Catalog, which I really like. Their clothing all has an SPF of 30 or greater and provides an alternative to always being "greased up" like a Butterball turkey!
That pretty much sums up my story. I'm thankful for my health and the outlook that this disease has given me. I'd like to hear your experience, and will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.