Melanoma warrior story: Nicole

Nicole lives in the USA, on the east coast. She is a teacher, writer and yoga instructor. She has a beautiful dog, and she also found out about melanoma the day before her birthday.
We met at the end of 2021. One autumn evening, she sent a message to our WhatsApp with a desire to become a warrior chat operator. Nicole is a vivid example of how skin cancer can disguise itself and one day change lives.

"I had no idea that what I believed to be a freckle on my cheek was of any concern, so you can imagine my shock when I found out it was not just skin cancer but stage 1 melanoma. I had been traveling in the sun for the previous two months and September is typically a transitional month for me work-wise. September of 2021 was transitional because I had to fight cancer."

It is worth repeating that melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer that quickly metastasizes throughout the body, but the most terrible tumors are in the lungs and brain. According to her, she still cannot describe her condition at the time of receiving the diagnosis, especially in the first days.

"My emotions were all over the place and I became more worried about how this might affect others just as much as it might affect me (possibly more). I took a leave from work as I was told I had to have surgery as soon as possible to remove the melanoma, in addition to plastic surgery to reconstruct my cheek due to the depth and superficial spreading."

In Nicole's family, her grandmother faced skin cancer, but since she is no longer alive, it is impossible to accurately determine the type of oncology. Since the fight against melanoma does not end with one removal, the heroine still hardly tolerates regular examinations - even the thought of a dermatologist causes her emotions and stress.

"The three-month skin checks are frightening and I, along with many other melanoma survivors, have to have biopsies of suspicious moles found during these checks. I also have to have my eyes checked for ocular melanoma every six months, as I have moles in my eyes (who even knew that could happen?!). I have only passed one 3-month skin check mark at which one biopsy was taken. It was unfortunately an atypical spot, so I had to have a wide local excision to remove it."

However, do not think that the world has become painted only in black. Nicole set her priorities in a new way, took a different look at life, and realized what was most important to her.

"I’m still me, with some scars, but I am more clear now than I ever have been about what’s important in my life. My faith, family, friends, and resilience got me through months of fear, doubt, and uncertainty."

On her Instagram page, the melanoma warrior urges people to keep an eye on their moles and spots on the skin and not underestimate melanoma.

"My focus now is on melanoma awareness as it is misunderstood by so many as being “just skin cancer,” and I know others who have been diagnosed have also heard this comment. With knowledge and understanding, there is the potential for change. I want to be a voice for others with melanoma, as well as fundraise for research, as I am grateful every day that my cancer was caught early and I am here to be that voice."

In confirmation of the seriousness of her intentions, Nicole organized a mini-business selling bracelets, in which there are 2 beads that are sensitive to ultraviolet light. Half of the proceeds from the sale goes to melanoma research. So far, this is the first of a series of conceived projects.

"It has become my goal and hope that I can not only spread awareness about the importance of taking care of our skin, but also be an advocate and support for others in my shoes. The melanoma survivors community continues to support me and my small business, LUV Beads, and I want to do the same. LUV Beads creates bracelets that change color when exposed to UV light from the sun, serving as a reminder to apply or reapply your sunscreen."

At the end of our conversation, I asked Nicole to give advice to readers - "how to protect yourself from skin cancer?"

"Sunscreen, UPF clothing, hats, sunglasses, and LUV Beads of course! Also skin checks and amazing at-home tools like NOTA mole tracker can provide early detection."

P.S. It would not be superfluous to add that you can support Nicole and purchase her bracelets. This can be done both on the official LUV Beads page and in our NOTA catalog.
The interview was conducted by Karina Kibo, COO Artes Electronics
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