I was diagnosed with melanoma in July 2004 when I was seven months pregnant with my son. My "guardian angel," my friend Lori, practically forced me to see a dermatologist after noticing an irregular mole on my right forearm. I had had this mole for as long as I can remember. I called it my "butterfly mole," because it resembled a small butterfly. It was just a little darker than my skin, and didn't look at all like the pictures I've seen of melanomas. At the time of my diagnosis, Lori and I had 4-year-old daughters in the same dance class. We would sit in the lobby and chat during their class. One morning, Lori asked about the mole on my arm, saying she'd been diagnosed with melanoma a few years earlier. I admitted that I hadn't had it checked and she suggested that I call my doctor as soon as possible. The next week, she asked if I'd called a dermatologist. At the time I was six months pregnant, and didn't want to bother with another check-up. In the next weeks she gave me her doctor's card, and again asked me to make an appointment. The following week, when I told her I hadn't called yet, she made the call from her cell phone and handed me the receiver! At my appointment, the dermatologist called my OB for permission to remove the mole-exactly one week later I received the news that I had a malignant melanoma and would need additional surgery to ensure clear margins and removal of all cancer cells. There I was, seven months pregnant and being told I had cancer. Looking back, it's no wonder. I was a sun goddess who spent most of my teen summers lying on the beach covered in baby oil or going to a tanning bed. I now see my oncologist and dermatologist regularly and have chest x-rays annually so that I'll catch a recurrence early. I am so grateful for my "pushy" guardian angel-she most likely saved my life.
Kimberly Arzberger, Puyallup, Wash.
I'd like to share our daughter Kim's inspiring skin cancer story. On Christmas 1997 she and her family came to visit us from Seattle, Wash. One morning Kim and I were catching up on things when she tentatively said she'd like to show me a mole on her back. I was shocked at how dark and ugly it looked, and although I didn't know much about irregular moles or skin cancer, hers didn't look good to me. She told me her doctor in Seattle had looked at it and thought it was nothing to worry about, but I told Kim I would get it taken off anyway because it was raised and could catch on her clothes. After she went back to Seattle, Kim didn't make an appointment with a dermatologist until her OB/GYN saw the mole and told her she should see a dermatologist right away. Kim was diagnosed with melanoma, and further tests showed it was in stage III. In April of 1998 she had the lymph nodes removed from under her arm. We were there when she had the surgery, and that's when my husband and I really found out how serious melanoma was. We didn't know you could die from skin cancer. It was very troubling time for our family. After therapy and more treatments, she recovered and was able to go back to work. She sees her dermatologist on a regular basis, and it's been nine years since her diagnosis and she has had no recurrences. We feel God has blessed her and healed her body. She thanks Him every day that she is alive and still able to enjoy her life and her family.
Tina Scozzaro, West Hills, Calif.
My 20-year-old daughter, Shawna, saved my life. We were relaxing, my legs crossed across her lap, when she noticed a mole on my leg. She said, "That mole doesn't look right, you should get that checked out, Mom." About a month later she asked if I made an appointment (which I had not). She got mad and told me to make one that day. I finally did, and was diagnosed with melanoma at age 41. I had to undergo a wide excision surgery, which included a very painful skin graft, as well as a biopsy of a node in my groin. I now have a 2" crater-like scar on my lower leg and a skin graft scar, but it's a small price to pay for my life. I am alive today because Shawna was persistent and made me got to the doctor. Thank you, baby!