Leah from Cleveland Ohio in the United States. She is a Program Manager for the National Kidney Foundation Serving Northern Ohio, but today her life now has been dedicated to doing a lot of advocacy around skin cancer, melanoma and sun safety.
Leah began her story with the phrase “it’ll never happen to me”, but the doctor's diagnosis said the opposite.
"Until it did on October 14, 2019, I received the call that totally turned my world upside down "you have stage IA melanoma". I remember my heart and stomach sinking at the same time, all of my unhealthy skin and sun habits flash before my eyes and feeling completely lost. One routine skin check revealed more than I ever thought I had to face at 26 years old. I felt a heavy fear that I've never had before take over my body for weeks. After 4 appointments, 1 surgery & 1 sentinel lymph node biopsy, I found out the melanoma was removed from my chest and the test indicated the cancer didn't spread to my organs. I am one of the lucky ones who received good news and the cancer was caught early through treatment."
Although melanoma was found at an early stage and the treatment was effective, it could not but affect the inner state of the heroine.
"However, my life is forever changed from this diagnosis. This diagnosis was difficult to hear but even more difficult to think of all the things I could have done to prevent it. I can say I’m a melanoma survivor for now but I still have & will have the anxiety about it coming back because there is a chance of skin cancer recurrence for the rest of my life. I don’t think there’s anything to gain keeping this experience to myself. We all had or will have seasons of life like this. Times that feel impossible, unbearable or unfair. But they pass & then you’re left with a battle scar that will tell a story. No matter what kind you have, any type of cancer diagnosis takes both a physical and emotional toll on one’s body".
Leah runs an Instagram blog where she talks about her journey and hopes that no one will ever have to go through what she did with skin cancer.
"I share my story to raise awareness encourage everyone who hears it to go get checked at an annual skin check. Unfortunately after doing genetic testing and knowing that both my father and grandfather have also had skin cancer, there is a chance of skin cancer recurrence for the rest of my life. Since my diagnosis in 2019, I have to go to a routine skin check every 3 months. At every 3 month check there has been at least 1 mole removed off my body for additional testing. These skin checks are anxiety inducing and I relive the fear and worry from October 2019 every single time. I never thought I would have to go through this journey but skin cancer doesn’t discriminate. So moving forward, I use my story and my journey to make others aware of their most important organ; their skin. The moles on your body are unique. Learning about them will help to increase early detection rates of skin cancer. We’ve been given lots of guidelines and rules to live by at the moment. But checking ourselves regularly, learning about our bodies and taking steps to prevent skin cancer has never been more important. Always make sure you advocate for yourself, it can save your life; my skin check in 2019 saved mine".
By tradition, I asked to share to give advice to readers: how to protect yourself from skin cancer?
"We (melanoma warriors) need to do more education and awareness raising at a young age so that people understand the severity of melanoma. Use sunscreen daily, wear clothes with a protection level of 50+, check the condition of the skin annually and protect your biggest organ - the skin".