Few things are more eye opening than being told you only have six months to live. Especially if the disease that is killing you is one that you previously didn’t even see as deadly.
Sun protection and skin cancer awareness were never an important part of Diane Morris’ life. Until a melanoma caused by a severe sunburn almost ended it far too early.
Through early detection and an amazing surgeon, Diane was able to win her battle with melanoma. But, her perspective on the importance of sun protection was forever changed by her brush with the beast.
This is Diane’s story:
“My family was at a water park and my husband saw a bruise on my back. He asked me if I had hurt myself somehow, but I didn’t remember an injury and the area did not hurt when he touched it. A day or two later he said the bruise was a little bigger and that it was around a mole.
My husband told me to go to the doctor to have it looked at. I went to my family doctor who had seen me since I was two, he didn’t think it looked like anything suspicious, but said he would take it off if I wanted him to. I told him my husband wanted it off, so it came off and my doctor went ahead and sent it to the lab. Twelve days later my doctor called me at work, frantically telling me I had malignant melanoma. He had already made me an appointment to see a plastic surgeon the following day and made me promise to go. I was a 28-year-old mother of two young boys, I really had no idea what malignant melanoma was—in fact, I called my mother so she could tell me what it was. I kept my promise to my family doctor and went in the next day.
It was Tuesday, July 17, 1984. The surgeon looked over my back and the stitches, he asked me if I ever remembered getting a severe sunburn. I recalled that the day after my senior prom I went to the beach and had a terrible sunburn from spending the day outside with no sunscreen or sun protection. Next, he told me how he planned to cut out the rest of the tissue and that if necessary he would pull skin grafts from my thigh to close the wound. He scheduled me for surgery on that Thursday morning telling me he would fit me in, in-between other surgeries. In my naivety, I told him I had no more sick days from work and didn’t think I could make it. He looked me straight in the eyes and said: “If I don’t see you on Thursday, you have 6 months to live.” That was when my eyes were opened to how serious melanoma cancer is.
I was very blessed to have the surgeon I did. He removed half a softball size of cancer out of my back that Thursday morning and my perspective was forever changed. As a 28-year-old, I didn’t think I would have to look death in the face. My surgeon was able to remove my stage 2 cancer without having to do a skin graft to close the wound. At my post-op appointment, he told me not to get pregnant for two years; that pregnancy hormones could trigger melanoma cells to grow. He also explained that I would need to have full body skin checks quarterly for the first 2 years following my surgery and then, depending on what they find, once or twice a year for the rest of my life. I am 64 years old and have not had a melanoma relapse. I feel truly blessed.
I have had numerous squamous cell and basal cell cancers taken off but no recurrence of melanoma. I was able to have another baby 3 years after my surgery and feel so blessed to have been able to add her to the family. I have been able to see my sons and daughter marry and I am the proud and blessed Mimi of 12 grand-darlings.
As a teenager, I didn’t give sun protection a single thought until I had that super bad burn. It was miserable. After that burn, I was more careful in the sun and I knew I should put sunscreen on my children, but I still didn’t realize the true importance of protecting my skin until that appointment with my surgeon. During the first few years after my surgery, I was so paranoid to go outside. I would wear long sleeves, hat, and long pants. The Texas summers are really hot so I mainly stayed inside. Now I wear sun protection clothing when possible. I wear a hat and sunglasses when at the pool or beach. I like certain brands of sunscreen that are not greasy. We put shade tents up when we go to the beach or a canopy over our pool at home. I’m grateful for the clothing choices we have now. My grandchildren have the cutest UV protection swimsuits to wear. There are many blouses, shirts, pants, and hats now that make protection easier and fashionable.
Whenever I hear people say that melanoma won’t happen to them, I tell them to smarten up, none of us ever think it will happen to us until it does! I am forever thankful to my husband for making me get checked. I got through this experience with him and my faith in Jesus Christ and His plan for us as His children to have faith-building experiences to draw us closer to Him.”