I was 28-years-old when my physician’s assistant at my dermatology clinic found my Stage I Melanoma on my left upper thigh. I probably would not have caught it and been so proactive if it weren’t for Amy. I was a television reporter for KTVB in Boise, Idaho, and I covered Amy’s story after she passed away. I’d always been covered in “spots” as I like to call them, and I always knew I should get them checked and even biopsied. But I was scared. Of needles. Of stitches. Of just knowing it could be something bad. So I had largely ignored those spots (and my parents’ advice).
After I reported Amy’s story, I thought, “Okay, this is a young, active lady like me… I’ve got to go get checked.” So I went to my mom’s dermatology clinic, Gem State Dermatology. I then had several spots biopsied over the years, with everything being either normal or “just” pre-cancerous.
Then came summer 2014 when I had one of my twice-a-year check-ups. I’d just accepted a fabulous new job teaching journalism at the University of Missouri and had a camping trip planned that weekend. My PA saw three spots he wanted to biopsy – two he thought were odd, one I thought was new. I whined about my camping trip and not wanting stitches so I could get in the river. He said I could come back in a few months if that’s what I wanted… Then I was getting ready to leave and thought, “The one on my leg is tiny. He can do that fast.” I begged to go back and have just that one removed (he was booked up).
Finally, I went back, pulled up my dress a bit, and it was biopsied in three minutes. Easy, in and out. This spot was so small (but dark), it looked like someone had just taken a Sharpie and touched it to my skin. So small I didn’t even need stitches this time.
Then I emailed Amy’s friend Libby. I’d been meaning to for a long time. I just wanted to let someone close to Amy know that she’d made an impact and I’d been getting checked. I went camping and expected the usual call… “It’s nothing. See you in six months.” But that wasn’t the call I got. Instead, I was at work and got a voicemail… from my PA directly. I knew something was up and frantically called back. It was melanoma, and I needed surgery that week.
Libby responded to my original email right after that, and it was such a weird feeling to write back, “After I emailed you I found out I have stage 1A melanoma.” And I told her it was Amy who made me get this taken care of. It’s surreal to look back at those emails now, but it absolutely proves the impact Amy had on me, even though I never met her.
For a while, I was terrified of the sun. I wore long sleeves running and even in the pool. Now I’m always the friend who has sunscreen but still enjoys the outdoors. Like Amy, I’m a runner, and I won’t let fear of melanoma stop that (I’m just always slathered in SPF 50, and I’ve got a sweet hat collection). I’ve had a few other removals since then, but all have been clean.
I wasn’t a total sun worshiper or spending hours in tanning beds. I did grow up on a lake and played sports outside, so I definitely got some exposure. This likely had more to do with genetics, but who knows… The point is that I truly believe from my story, Amy’s, and others, this can happen to anyone.
Amy probably saved my life and also the life of a close friend in Boise who’d watched me go to the dermatologist all the time and caught a melanoma right before mine. I’ve also had family members and friends go get checked after my diagnosis. I feel forever tied to Amy and her story. I am also grateful to Libby and Get It Dunn for keeping Amy’s story alive, encouraging skin cancer awareness, and supporting me when I was diagnosed. As the saying goes, “Spot it early!”