By Caroline Blanchard, RN
As a registered nurse and nurse practitioner student, I am diligent with all my annual checkups and examinations. My caution is due to my education, but also because of my personal cancer experiences. In my early 20s, I was diagnosed with my first melanoma, which was found and removed. I was concerned yet relieved to put this chapter of my life behind me, but little did I know my fight with the disease was just beginning.
The next month at a follow-up appointment, I knew something was wrong when all of the clinic’s dermatologists came in my room to break the news: I had two more cancerous moles. We were all puzzled: how can a 24 year-old healthy female with no real skin cancer risk factors have melanoma three times? And why?
When I was referred to a specialist, my training as a nurse prepared me for the worst. My brother-in-law, Ben Blanchard, had just recently passed away after a courageous battle with Ewing’s sarcoma. His slogan of “Never Retreat, Never Surrender” gave me the strength I needed to face my diagnosis as I faced my disease head on. When I checked in to my appointment, I saw a sign that read the Ben Love Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center, confirming that Ben was watching over me.
Fortunately, all of my instances of skin cancer were caught in an early stage and they had not spread. After my first diagnosis, I had routine body scans every three months. I now have scans every six months and no other cancer has been detected.
Early detection for all cancers is crucial – I know this as both a cancer survivor and a medical professional. Because of my personal experience with melanoma, I even wrote my doctoral project on the importance of skin cancer screening. I cannot stress the importance of being aware of your body and getting checked out if you have the smallest inkling that something is not right. Do not wait, do not pass go, do not Google your symptoms. Seek professional advice. If I hadn’t taken my own advice – at age 24, no less – I might not be here today.
The Live Well Northshore event sponsored by the Ben Blanchard Foundation is a great opportunity to take advantage of free cancer screenings, prevention, education and lots of fun. Living well encompasses spiritual, mental, and physical well-being, and is about living your best life.
We hope to see you at Live Well Northshore Saturday, Sept. 15 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Covington Trailhead. For more information, visit marybird.org/livewellns.