My co-worker was reading the local newspaper this afternoon during her lunch break when she came across this heartbreaking letter to a local doctor. Apparently the young lady mentioned in the article had a biopsy of a mole years ago, continued to tan despite knowing the risks, and died at age 33 of melanoma.
The letter left me feeling a lot of emotions: sadness over this loss of life, frustration that this may have been prevented had she learned with the early biopsy, and anger that there is so much more that we need to do to make people aware that melanoma is not just skin cancer.
I'm trying to put myself in the shoes of someone who had to have a biopsy, everything came back fine, and I was able to continue on with my life as before. Would I have embraced the pale skin? Would I have refused to step foot in the tanning bed again? Would I consider buying stock in sunscreen since I buy so much of it? Of course I don't know the answer to that. I would like to believe I would have had the shit scared out of me by the experience and by my doctor so I would have made the necessary changes, but who really knows the answer? Considering how uneducated I was on the seriousness of melanoma, maybe I would have been just like this girl. Maybe, I, too, would have believed the rules did not apply to me.
Dr. Camardi responded to the letter perfectly. He expressed his sympathy, yet he used this opportunity to educate our little town on the seriousness of melanoma. Dr. Camardi fully explained the ABCDE's of melanoma, and states: "The challenege in all of this is to 'get it right' and biopsy only the cancer. Frankly, that's impossible. I'd rather do 10 normal biopsies to find one melanoma and treat it at its earliest stage."
Yes, Dr. Camardi, I agree! As a patient, I would rather have 10 brand new scars if that means we catch the one melanoma in the earliest possible stage. Don't get me wrong, I don't like scars--didn't even have any before all of this melanoma craziness began--but scars beat cancer any day!
While it is important to biopsy any suspicious mole, we have to agree with Dr. Camardi, prevention is the best medicine. Lather up the sunscreen, seek shade between the hours of 10 and 4, and throw on a fancy hat and some big shades! No one is saying you have to avoid the sunshine. We just suggest that you safely enjoy it!
This young lady, this free spirit who loved people and loved life, was obviously loved by the author of this letter. While it hearts to think of another life taken from this cruel disease, it breaks my heart for the author who is so right when he/she wrote: "She just did not have to die so young."