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Bright Days Ahead

Posted on May 31, 2018 in Oncology

Bright Days Ahead

Patient becomes advocate for sun safety after successful melanoma surgery

Robin MacLean guesses that she did the most damage to her skin during the early part of her career with the United States Navy while stationed in Hawaii. Several days later MacLean found out the mole on her back was a cancerous melanoma, and an appointment was scheduled with a surgical oncologist.Robin MacLean guesses that she did the most damage to her skin during the early part of her career with the United States Navy while stationed in Hawaii.

“It was absolutely beautiful,” MacLean says. “We worked a lot, we traveled a lot, and when we didn’t work we were on the beach or snorkeling or scuba diving.”

In the years that followed, MacLean spent hours outdoors with her husband and children. But in 2017, she noticed some blood on her sports bra from a mole on her back. She tried several different bras, and then put a bandage over the mole. Nothing seemed to help.

A little frustrated that she couldn’t see what was going on between her shoulder blades, MacLean asked her husband to come and take a look. He told her the mole looked like it might be infected.

MacLean decided to see a dermatologist, and it turned out to be a potentially life-saving decision. The physician removed not one, but six moles, and sent them to a lab to be tested.

Several days later MacLean found out the mole on her back was a cancerous melanoma. An appointment was scheduled with a surgical oncologist.

The oncologist took a pen and sketched the cancer cells where the mole on her back had been. He drew a six-inch incision he planned to make. A second sketch on the paper showed the three layers of skin he was going to have to cut through. The picture he drew was to help her understand the cancer surgery she would undergo at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center.

She would also need to undergo nuclear mapping at Thompson Cancer Survival Center to make sure the cancer hadn’t spread to her lymph nodes. MacLean called her husband in tears and then started praying.

Supported by friends and family, and strengthened by her faith, MacLean went forward with the surgery. It was successful, and she received the good news that the cancer had not spread, so no further treatment was necessary.

MacLean was thrilled, and she was also grateful for answered prayers. Now she’s warning others about the dangers of overexposure to the sun’s rays, and the importance of early detection.

“You need to pay attention to your body, because something like this can happen quickly, and it can be life threatening,” MacLean says. “And if you see something, don’t ignore it.”

To learn more about cancer services at Thompson Cancer Survival Center, visit thompsoncancer.com, or call (865) 331-1111.