Healthy Summer Skin: Sun Protection from Skin Cancer
"I had to deliver my baby a month early."
-- Sarah Dupret Aasheim, 37, Belchertown, Massachusetts
Age diagnosed: 28
I was 32, and 19 weeks pregnant with my daughter, when I found a lump in my groin and was diagnosed with stage III melanoma. My doctors gave me a 50 percent chance of living for more than five years.
When I was 28, I'd had a mole removed from the back of my thigh that was diagnosed as stage I melanoma, and this was the origin of its spreading.
I had surgery to remove the cancerous lymph nodes. I was concerned that the cancer would spread to the fetus, but the doctors told me there was minimal to no risk of that happening.
My husband and I had undergone fertility treatments in order to get pregnant. Since the immunotherapy I needed to reduce the risk of recurrence could have harmed the fetus, we decided with our doctors to delay the treatment until the baby was born. I delivered my daughter a month early so that I could start the 12 months of drug therapy as soon as possible. I have been disease-free since 2002, and I continue to have body scans regularly and to see my dermatologist and my oncologist several times a year.
You never do a touchdown dance with this disease, because there's always the risk of recurrence. As a teenager, I bought into the ridiculous idea that getting a base tan would make it safer to tan at the beach. Now I'm religious about sun protection. I'm a marathon runner, but I run only in the very early morning, completely covered in sunscreen and wearing a hat -- even in the winter. I know now that the sun's rays are just as present and can do damage in the winter, even though you might not get a sunburn.
My husband -- who had a melanoma removed in 2003 -- and I talk with our daughter about the importance of sun protection. She will grow up with these habits, and hopefully she'll never go through what we did.
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