Summer M's story | aad.org

Summer M's story

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Being diagnosed with melanoma was a huge, eye-opening experience. My story is very interesting because if I had not been in the right place at the right time or if I hadn't been educated by a local dermatologist I may not have survived to tell my story.

I was a 24-year-old medical student who was shadowing a dermatologist. I was listening to him educate patients about the ABCDEs of melanoma, with the most common places for melanoma being the back of the legs in women and on the backs of men. I still remember the exact moment later that evening when I was at the gym, taking a body pump class and I looked at the back of my legs in the mirror. My stomach started turning and I remember feeling sweaty. I knew in my gut that the lesion on my leg was melanoma.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to speak to others about how early detection and treatment literally saved my life.

I quickly made an appointment with a dermatologist who performed a full-body skin exam and paid particularly close attention to the lesion on the back of my leg. Although it violated the ABCDEs of melanoma, he said the lesion didn’t look like a typical melanoma. He was willing to take a picture and watch the lesion for a month. About a week later, I received a call asking me to come back in because after thinking about the lesion and considering that I didn’t have anything else like it on my body, he decided to conduct a biopsy to be safe. A punch biopsy was taken and sent off to the lab. A week or so following the biopsy, I received the frightening call that it was malignant melanoma and was immediately scheduled for surgery.

The morning of surgery an enlarged lymph node was palpated in my groin on the same side as the lesion. Taking into consideration my age at the time of diagnosis and the location of the enlarged glands, I was referred to Moffitt Cancer Center. Fear, anxiety, and tears overwhelmed my soul as I walked through Moffitt. 

It was suggested I either undergo a sentinel lymph node biopsy or an ultrasound for the enlarged gland. After reviewing the literature on sentinel lymph node biopsies and thin melanomas, I opted for the ultrasound. The ultrasound’s result suggested inflammation and I was instructed to keep an eye on the node and have a three-month follow-up appointment per melanoma diagnostic protocol.

It has been a year and 7 months since my diagnosis. I have had one dysplastic nevus since my original diagnosis. I feel extremely lucky to be alive and healthy. Otherwise, I am disease-free, having caught my melanoma in time. Since then it has been my passion to educate everyone on the ABCDEs of melanoma and the most common locations for them to appear on men and women. It also has been my goal to educate the younger generation about the dangers of tanning beds and sunburns. I am so grateful for the opportunity to speak to others about how early detection and treatment literally saved my life. 

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