This morning I woke to a dreary, rainy day. My training plan called for a 40 to 50 minute easy run in zone 2 and then a swim. I ran 40 minutes easy. Usually I go for the longer time when given a choice. Today I felt like taking it a bit easy. Tomorrow is a 20 mile run, so I don’t think cutting 10 minutes off of my run today will hurt. After my run I changed and made my way to the pool for an endurance swim that focuses on maintaining the same pace for all interval distances. I made it two thirds through the swim before my calves and feet started cramping. After completing 2,000 meters I decided to stop. For the swimming I did, I was fairly consistent at swimming a even pace. Next week I will work to add the last 1,000 meters. My cramping I think came as a result of several things. I ran right before, I ran last night, and, as I have mentioned, I have been dealing with stress and anxiety which manifests itself physically in many ways. Most of my concerns have been addressed, and I think my body is releasing the tension – in the form of cramps.
So – the source of my concern – now I am ready to share. Back in July I found a small, but very dark, mole on the back of my upper right thigh. My father has had several cancerous moles removed so I didn’t take this lightly. I went to my dermatologist right away. The technician who saw me did not think it was a concern but told me to keep an eye on it, if it changes to come back. Because of its location, keeping an eye on it would not be easy. I asked if I could have it removed anyway. That was not a problem, but the doctor did not have any openings until October. Since it was not considered a “bad” mole, waiting from July to October was fine. I put it out of my mind until I had to go back in.
A week ago Tuesday I had a full body scan first. This is the second year in a row that I have had this done by a dermatologist. Nothing else looked suspicious so all that was addressed was the mole which did not appear to have changed. This time the doctor looked at it and agreed I am making the right decision. It was by far the darkest mole on my body. I am fair skinned with auburn hair – and I burn easily without sunscreen. The procedure itself did not take long but the wound hurt an entire week. I had to keep it covered, but as anyone reading my blog can tell, it didn’t stop me from training. Waiting for the results was hell. That is the best way to describe it. And I did what everyone says you should not do. I went on the internet. The statistics made me sick. To top it off, the most deadly form of skin cancer is melanoma and usually starts in the form of a very dark mole and women are most likely to get it on their legs. Ugh. It took nine days to get the pathology report back.
I finally got the call Thursday morning. There are basically three broad categories the diagnosis could fall under. Benign, pre cancer, or cancer. I wanted benign, who wouldn’t? I got pre cancer. Within the category of pre cancer it is further broken down to mild, medium, and serious. Mine is officially diagnosed as mild pre cancer and all was removed. I was told there is no reason to be concerned, but I have to go every six months to be checked, especially where the mole was. Later that day I had my stitches out too. I asked more questions – the most important thing I learned that I want to share is that had I not done anything about it, in time it would have grown into cancer. What kind, I don’t know, but in time skin cancers gone unaddressed could be fatal. The anxiety of not knowing what I had is gone, but I am still processing it all. A doctor friend I train with is going to read the pathology report to give me a better understanding. Limbo is misery. Knowledge brings me peace.
A few things to know – first our largest organ is our skin, yet we rarely treat it like such. Prevention in the form of sunscreen, especially multi sport athletes who are in the sun so much, is essential. Anything less than SPF 15 is a waste of money, I use SPF 30 on my body and SPF 55 on my face. Areas that have been burned more than once are more likely to develop cancers – like the top of my legs. Annual dermatology visits are important – they know where to look that we wouldn’t think, not to mention areas that are hard to see. Just a few points:
- Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.
- Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidences of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, and colon.
- One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
Please click the link for the complete list and other information at SkinCancer.org.
I write so often about how we only have the day we are given. I want to enjoy each one and live it to its fullest. To be honest, I am selfish too – I want many more days besides today. So much is out of my control, but the things that are within my control, I will do to hopefully bring a tomorrow. Fitness is a wonderful way to keep a body healthy, but so is preventative care -like breast exams, physicals, and yes, dermatology visits too. Unfortunately cancer is not discriminatory. Be careful out there, and look out for your skin.