multi-blooming daffodils, Narcissus garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest

My Happy Daffodil Campaign

daffodils in James Bay
photo by SVSeekins

The daffodil is the symbol of hope for the cancer awareness – – so yes, fair warning: this is about my personal experience with the “C” word.  It’s a happy story. By sharing it, I hope there’ll be even more happy stories.

Ironically, when the real daffodils were blooming this spring, it happened again.  I noticed a little brown spot on my ankle.  No big deal, but…

This spot had grown a bit since the first time I’d noticed it 6 months ago.  Again, not alarming, but…

the mole on my left ankle
photo by D J Seekins

  The most common place for melanoma (skin cancer) on women is on the ankles.  

It makes sense really. I’ve often protected my face & arms with sunscreen, but only glossed over my lower legs.   How many times have I gone out in a skirt, shorts, or even 3/4 length pants without thinking at all about sun exposure on my ankles?  Many many times.

This time I decided to take action.  I consulted a dermatologist.  Although he really wasn’t that alarmed by the spot either, there were more factors to consider:

daffodils 3
photo by SVSeekins
  • The ankle doesn’t have a whole lot of extra skin on it – – so it’s tricky to remove a patch & pull remaining skin together to mend. 
  • Plus healing an area that moves & stretches so much is very slow.

 I wanted the mole gone before it got any bigger. He understood my insistence, & arranged a simple office surgery the next week.  Easy-peasy.

my left ankle - after 1 day
photo by DJ Seekins

A local anaesthetic numbed the area, & after a few minutes the incision had 3 tidy stitches.    The scar won’t even be noticeable in a couple of weeks.  🙂

Potential crisis averted.

It’s not easy for me to be so assertive with doctors, but considering my experience with skin cancer, I know my best health advocate is me.

daffodils around Mt. Tolmie
photo by SVSeekins

In 2005 I went to a dermatologist for advice about a mole on my right ankle.  I was told not to worry, and given a pamphlet with photos of danger signs.

I was relieved  – – and a little embarrassed I’d made a fuss.

By 2007 friends were expressing concern. I pooh-poohed it,  but began to realise the changes weren’t good.  By the time the dermatologist was able to see me, in 2008, the spot had changed even more.

my RIGHT ankle - 5 years after
photo by DJ Seekins

He took immediate action.  It was proven melanoma, stage 4.  A wider & deeper surgery was needed. That meant a skin graft to patch up the wound.  Not so easy-peasy.  (read: 3 months in bed.)

How could a little spot cause such havoc in my life?

A 2nd surgery followed, removing lymph nodes in my groin area.  (read: Another nasty scar, nerve damage in my thigh, and a perpetually swollen foot.)

Three years later, I’m off my oncologist’s ‘Watch Closely’ list.   Life is good. Crisis averted.

I’m getting better at practising assertiveness.

I’m not hiding the scars either.  Awareness is far more important than vanity.  I want more happy stories….

-30-
© SVSeekins and Garden Variety Life, 2013

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daffodil meadow in Beacon Hill Park
photo by Barbara Hansen

some sources of information:

Fighting Melanoma
Melanoma Facts
BC Cancer Agency

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12 thoughts on “My Happy Daffodil Campaign”

  1. Its an important story, thank you for sharing SV! I’ll make sure the boys read and follow your example. And when the doctors pat your head & say its ok – you go to another doctor and get a second opinion. AND I’m so glad that you did. xoxo

    1. Hey P – I’m glad your family hears the story. I’ve learned that doctors are just people like the rest of us – busy & doing the best they can. Together, we make a health care team. I’m sure glad to have ’em around when we need them.

  2. Thanks for Sharing SV. Didn’t know about the new mole. Good job getting it taken care of. I’m surprised to hear you aren’t comfortable being assertive – you always struck me as a women who is more comfortable in her own skin than most of us, and not intimidated by much. Thought you should know 🙂

    1. Weird, eh? I’m perfectly capable of leading teams through complex projects, but I originally passed over my health leadership to the MD. Once I realise they’re my consultant – – and I’m the head of my team, it worked out much better… It’s been great to have a good group of people on my team: family doctor, dermatologist, plastic surgeon, surgeon, hospital staff & home care – – as well as family, friends & coworkers. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the encouragement… please share the post with whoever you can… I just found out AB is booked for a skin graft on HER ankle – – and she had ME PUSHING her to get it checked out – – That’s 4 people I KNOW who’ve had this! So much for “it won’t happen to me…”

      1. SWM says: Well I have had a couple removed but they turned out to be fine. However, Dean, my husband just had his dentist refer him to a specialist because she thinks he has ‘low grade’ (whatever that means) cancer on his lip. He’s not worried but it freaks me out. He’s a typical fair skinned red head and spends every summer burned no matter how much sunscreen he puts on. I guess a lifetime of being active is catching up with us.

        SVSeekins: yup, that’ll do it…. hopefully his is caught super early (fingers crossed) also, there are several kinds of skin cancers – – I’m not a total epsert but, some I’ve heard of on lips & noses can often be basal – – which are far more treatable. i really hope that with Dean, it’s nothing more crazy than that. …. And, GOOD ON YOU for taking care of yourself !! I think it’s so much better to have a mole removed before it can morph into something serious. Maybe, now’s the time to start a new game where you 2 can get naked & count each-other’s spots…. that’s a pretty good way to watch out for each-other.

        SWM says: Ha ha! I know he’d love that game!

  3. You’re so brave and a warrior princess. Your actions encouraged me to talk a friend into having her mole checked out early and yes she had melonoma but didn’t need to have a skin graft. Thanks SV, you’re an inspiration to us all.

    1. Thanks for sharing another happy story. Sometimes we get so busy taking care of other responsibilities that we forget to take care of ourselves – – I’m so GLAD you got your friend to get her mole taken off! It’s not always obvious – – As MP tells from her Australian perspective:
      MP- I read your story with interest, and the pictures as well. We are told to look at black moles not the colour of yours!
      My eldest brother who has freckles gets checked regularly and once a year has this stuff put on his face that makes it look horrible but basically burns off a layer of skin.
      I’ve had a couple of rough bits burnt off (with liquid nitrogen) my hands. The doctors tend to remove any rough bits on your hands fairly quickly as they are often pre-cancerous.
      One of the guys here just had a big mole taken off the top of his head (it looked revolting and grew that big in a couple of months!), it stuck up nearly a cm but luckily for him it wasn’t cancerous.
      The people that I know have died from melanoma have been farmers, and traditionally they worked with shorts (not my old man) but often wore hats.
      We get it drummed into us through advertising about getting any mole checked out. Most people wouldn’t let one get to the size of yours, and no doctor would let that happen either. It’s just an odd colour! Our focus would be on tiny black moles …. It’s weird isn’t it?
      Was slip, slop, slap around when you were in Australia? “Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat” …………… it has expanded now to “slide on sunscreen and seek shade”. Doesn’t rhyme quite so well. The funny thing is now that lots of people are becoming low in Vitamin D because we all wear sunscreen!

      SV- Hmmm – I guess the doctors here get thrown off by the mole colour too. But that colour is common in my experience. A co-worker had a mole of similar colour & her doctor wasn’t concerned either & went into quick action when the biopsy turned out positive. Same story for AB. Same colour, same location… & now she’s got her own plastic surgeon booking a skin graft…
      The ‘slip, slop, slap’ campaign wasn’t on when I was in Australia, but I was careful about sunscreen & hats & sleeves… got a couple bad burns anyway – especially playing in the water where sunscreen was washed off. I’m diligent now, and yes, Vitamin D tablets help out as I’m outside a good deal, but don’t get much natural transfer from sunshine on my skin. Still, it sounds does sound funny that Australians need Vit D supplements. Better than the alternative, eh?

  4. Hi SV. Thanks for sharing your cancer story – and the recent update, which I’m really glad to hear about. I’d be happy to share my story. Three years ago, just about now, I noticed an odd vaginal discharge. I’m 10 years into menopause now, so it was 7 years then, and it was definitely unusual. Runny, clear, nothing like a yeast infection. That’s what I first wondered, though, and I even went out and bought some OTC stuff for it. But before I even started using it, I noticed a few streaks of blood in the discharge. So off I went to my GP. As soon as I told him what was going on, he didn’t even examine me himself – he immediately referred me to a gynecologist, and I was in to see him three days later. The gyno sent me for ultrasounds, which showed a bit of thickening of the endometrial wall, so the next step was a hysteroscopy – a look into the uterus and biopsy of the cells. One week later, I got The Call – there was a malignant polyp removed, and signs of invasive cancer. I was back to see the gyno within two hours of that call. I had a total hysterectomy three weeks later, and they did indeed find cancer. But because I had noticed the signs so early, and had immediate care from both doctors, it was stage 1, grade 1, which meant no radiation, no chemo. The recovery from the surgery was slow, but not terribly painful, and I wouldn’t have complained even if it had been. In the cancer world, I came out with the best possible result. And on my two year clear anniversary date, I made sure to remind my women friends, yet again, to go immediately to their doctor if they had similar symptoms. Take the initiative, ask the questions, demand the treatment.
    Lots of love
    Jill

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience Jill! It’s so good to know there are happy stories out there – – it makes it all less scary.
      It’s also nice to know your recovery wasn’t particularly painful. I’d been cautioned that skin grafts can be very painful, but happily it wasn’t that way for me, either. It was gory (I’m still squeamish) but that’s not a complaint! It did what it needed to do: remove the cancer.
      Mostly I was surprised, because I never FELT sick. I could concentrate on healing. It was great to have great teachers & supporters in family & friends. The best lessons, as you say, were: Take the initiative, ask the questions, demand the treatment.

  5. I had something removed from my shoulder 4 yrs back. It was something that was persistent and annoying. My dermatologist suggested that it be removed and tested. It did prove to be “C” but benign. It taught me to keep close watch and asked repeatedly about things. Wont make that mistake again. So glad that you had the mole removed and averted a potential crisis. Good for you to spread the word a let people know its quite alright to ask and ask and ask!
    love
    M

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