Posts tagged “Sunscreen

Dear 16 Year Old Me saved my life

By Rebecca Maskevich

rebecca maskevichWhen “Dear 16 year old me” started making the rounds, it was two days before I would receive the results for an abnormal mole I had removed on my side.

To give you a little bit of a back story, I’m a fair skinned girl who has tons of moles…just tons. I had my first weird looking mole removed when I was a kid. My doctor explained to me why I needed it to be taken off and tested and what I should look for. He told me how important it was to talk to my doctor if I noticed anything on my skin that looked strange. Since then, I’ve always kept an eye on my skin and brought any weird looking or changing moles to my doctor (nine to be exact) and had them removed. They always came back clean. I honestly didn’t really worry too much about them. It never really occurred to me to be overly concerned because I’ve always paid close attention to my skin.

About 3.5 years ago, I changed cities and family doctors. On my first visit with my new doc I showed him two moles on my stomach. They caught my attention because they were new moles and they had been slowly getting bigger. He took a look, said they were fine.

I kept an eye on them and made sure to bring them up to him every single time I had a doctor’s appointment. I would tell him that they are changing shape, getting bigger, that there was a change in colour… all textbook signs of melanoma. Every time he said it was fine and I left feeling like I was overreacting.

In December of 2016 I went in for my yearly checkup and, lucky for me, there was a resident who was doing training and would be the one to take point on my exam. I showed her the moles on my stomach yet again as well as a weird looking one that was on my side. My doctor agreed to let the resident take the mole off my side but not the ones on my stomach because, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, they were “fine”.

The mole on my side was removed and I received a call a week later that it came back abnormal and that I needed to come back in. The doctor couldn’t see me for a month so I used that timeline to keep calm. I felt if it was something serious, they would need to see me right away. I was also under the false impression that if it did come back as skin cancer, it wouldn’t be a big deal (boy, was I misinformed!). I was a little bit of a basket case (but only a little) waiting for the results but I was holding it together and trying to not think about it.

I was checking Facebook two days before I was scheduled to go in to get my results when I came across “Dear 16 year old me”. Cue tears, panic, a sense of dread, and googling photos of all three kinds of skin cancers to see if the mole I had removed matched any of the photos. If it was anything, it was a melanoma.

At my appointment I found out it was something called a Clarks Nevus, which isn’t really something to worry about. I’ve never been so relieved in my life. I still couldn’t shake the feeling that the moles on my stomach were an issue and keeping “Dear 16 year old me” in mind, I insisted this time that my doctor remove them. Even as he was cutting them out, he kept telling me they were fine. He was humouring me.

I bounced out of that appointment feeling great and not actually worried that my results would come back as anything. A week later, I received a phone call saying the doctor needed to see me that day. My heart sank. I knew what the news was going to be. Both were melanomas.

I was referred to a wonderful surgeon who informed me that luckily, one of them was what is called a melanoma in-situ. They needed to take out a little bit of extra skin around it to make sure that they removed all of it but no further treatment was needed.

The other one, unfortunately, was not in-situ and had started to gain the wonderful ability to spread to my lymph nodes and from there wreak havoc on all my internal organs. My surgeon was pretty confident that it had not spread but because my family doctor let it go as long as he did, it was recommended that I get a sentinel node biopsy.

If you don’t know what that is, let me tell you about the world of fun that goes along with it. Because my mole was smack dab in the middle of my stomach, there were four different lymph node sites that (if the cancer had spread) it could have gone to. To identify which area(s) the melanoma would most likely visit, I was injected with this dye that feels like 100 bees are stinging you at the same time. Not fun.

Turns out that my body is a bit of an over achiever and I had two sites (one in each armpit) where they would need to go in and remove some lymph nodes to confirm that the melanoma had not spread. Do you have any idea how many nerves are in your armpits and how much it hurts if someone were to slice into them?!? Thank goodness for post-op pain killers.

Lots of post-surgery checkups and some killer scars later, I received my clean bill of health. I now have a life of slathering on sunscreen with reckless abandon, stylish hats, and constantly being way over dressed for the heat. Basically, I’m a greasy, sweaty mess who rocks hat hair.

Had I not known what I was looking for and actually listened to my family doctor, I most likely would have caught it too late. The key to fighting this cancer is timing and awareness. Your family doctor is not the be all and end all for medical knowledge. Inform yourself. Advocate for your health and the health of your loved ones.

I want to thank the David Cornfield Melanoma Foundation and those involved in making “Dear 16 year old me” for giving me the resources I needed to advocate for my own health and for making me realize that it’s more than “just skin cancer”.

I will now live a long, pale, and very greasy life that I couldn’t be more thankful for.

Thank you for putting that video together and all the amazing work that you do.


Sun Safety from the bottom of the world

IMG_4596_panorama of field cape evans ice wall-2

By Anne Todgham, Assistant Professor of Animal Physiology, University of California Davis

For the past two years, I’ve been leading a research team in Antarctica as part of the United States Antarctic Program to understand the vulnerability of Antarctic fishes to future climate change. I’m specifically interested in understanding how ocean warming and ocean acidification (the absorption of CO2 by the ocean causes it to acidify) impacts the development and performance of young fishes.IMG_1166_team photo at MCM sign

Antarctic organisms have spent millions of years at stable, sub-zero conditions and have tuned their physiology to be able to survive in polar waters. Unfortunately, this tuning has resulted in them having a physiology that is very susceptible to warming and therefore scientists are concerned that polar species will not be able to tolerate future ocean conditions. This is worrisome given that Antarctic fishes in particular are largely only found in the Antarctic and are very important food for seals and penguins.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The feeling of arriving in Antarctica for the first time never goes away – utter amazement at the vast expanse of whiteness and how lucky you are to be able see such remarkable beauty in its simplicity. Now don’t get me wrong, Mother Nature can be fierce in Antarctica and there are many times we wonder how the early explorers, like those on the Shackleton and Scott expeditions, were able to cope without the extreme cold weather (ECW) gear of today. Unlike the fishes I study, we are clearly not tuned to survive Antarctica’s climate! Being prepared when you go outside is the key to success on this harsh continent.

DCIM100GOPROBefore we deploy from the US and head to the bottom of the world, we get a thorough set of medical exams to ensure we are in top shape. Part of the paperwork is a reminder about the importance of sun safety. As the sun’s harmful rays are reflected from the snow, the US Antarctic Program takes sun safety very seriously insisting all program participants wear sunscreen and sunglasses. We are advised to bring multiple pairs of high quality UV protective sunglasses from a list of recommended brands (in the Antarctic you always need back up of important items since you just can’t go out and buy more on a moment’s notice). When we arrive in Christchurch, New Zealand for our final briefings and clothing issue, we are given two bags of ECW gear. This gear includes an extremely warm red Canada Goose coat (“Big Red”), snow boots, snow pants, long underwear, fleece, hats, mitts and a pair of UV protective goggles.

IMG_1363_Hand washing & sunscreen go hand in handMy research team conducts fieldwork outside most days, in good weather and bad, and there isn’t a day that I don’t apply sunscreen throughout the day and wear my sunglasses. Remembering sunscreen is not hard to forget at McMurdo Station, the largest of the US research stations in Antarctica. There are sunscreen stations at the doors of most main buildings of the station. At the entrance to the galley, there is a hand washing station for when you go in and a sunscreen station for when you leave.

Our three-month field season is about to end. It is starting to feel a little like “summer” in Antarctica. Temperatures get above freezing during the day and McMurdo is turning into McMudhole, as the snow begins to melt and the ground thaws. Time to return north for the holidays, just in time for a sun-safe winter in North America!


  • Medical Disclaimer
  • |
  • Registered Canadian charity 835241415 RR 0001
  • |
  • © 2017 The David Cornfield Melanoma Fund. All rights reserved.