K9sOverCoffee | When A Dog Walker Faces Skin Cancer

When A Dog Walker Faces Skin Cancer

When a dog walker faces skin cancer, it throws them for a bit of a loop, at least it did me.

I was diagnosed with early stage skin cancer on my leg in May.

That’s National Melanoma Month here in the US and aims to raise awareness about skin cancer.

How fitting, ha.

It was malignant melanoma in my case, and I’m not gonna lie, it’s dragged me down a little.

It’s also kept me from writing blog posts as you may have noticed.

Sorry about that!

When A Dog Walker Faces Skin Cancer: Surgery & Lessons Learned

When a dog walker faces skin cancer

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Here’s What Happened

So here’s what happened: I noticed a fairly new mole on my leg. I have a few, but that particular one looked odd.

I had only had it for about a year and a half and noticed that:

(1) it had been growing slowly but surely

(2) it had a slightly elevated surface 

(3) it had two colors – dark brown on the inside, and light red on the outside.

I had read somewhere that odd looking moles should be looked at by a dermatologist to determine whether or not they would require medical attention.

That’s why I scheduled an appointment to have my mole checked out.

It’s a good thing I did as it ended up being removed. The biopsy on it revealed that it was early stage melanoma. 

After My Mole Removal
After my mole removal

Next Up: Surgical Wide Excision of Tissue 

The next step was the surgical wide excision of tissue surrounding the location of the mole to make sure that all of the melanoma got removed.

That happened on a Tuesday ten days ago.

That day, I spent five hours in the hospital and 30 minutes on an operating table while my surgical oncologist cut out tissue from my right calf. 

Preparing for skin cancer surgery
Shortly before my surgery

Preparing For My Skin Cancer Surgery

My skin cancer surgery required:

  • full anesthesia
  • 16 hours of fasting (no food or drinks after midnight before the surgery)
  • some logistical adjustments to my (dog walking) schedule

Since I currently live alone with the pups, I had to board them for a day and a half at Riverbark Pet Retreat, a trusted doggie hotel close-by.

I didn’t have a definite time for the surgery yet and no idea how long I’d have to be at the hospital and/or how dizzy/sleepy I’d be when I got back home that night.

That’s why I figured they’d be better off at the doggie hotel.

Missy & Buzz at a doggie hotel during my skin cancer urgery
Missy & Buzz at their doggie hotel during my skin cancer surgery

I also needed to find someone who could give me a ride to and from the hospital. After all, I wouldn’t be able to drive myself after I was sedated.

Additionally, I had to cover my dog walking visits for the full week. 

I’ll admit that I underestimated the surgery.

Although my doctor told me that I wouldn’t be able to walk dogs for about a week, I thought I’d be fine after two or three days post-op.

Well, I was wrong.

My right leg felt sore and tender, and my pain meds left my brain a bit on the foggy side.

I ended up on a weeklong date with my couch and bed along with extra pillows to elevate the leg.

The back yard was the pups’ only means of exercise…and what do you know, they lived.

Exercising Buzz with the chuck it ball
Exercising Buzz with his favorite chuck-it ball

Thank goodness for Kelsey.

I had recently hired her to help me out with dog visits.

Not only did she cover for me last week and weekend, she also chauffeured me to and from the hospital.

She’s truly a godsend and I’m so very grateful to have been able to rely on her.

Follow-Up Visit With My Surgical Oncologist

I went in for my follow-up visit with my surgical oncologist yesterday morning.

Thankfully, I got the great news that the pathology on the removed tissue came back clear!

The doc said the wound is healing very nicely and that the scar itself won’t look so bad once the bruising and swelling will have gone down.

My post surgery scar

We also decided to be proactive and remove another mole in a few weeks, this time from my left foot.

It’ll be shaved off, require one stitch and then sent off for a biopsy.

Fingers and paws crossed that it won’t be malignant melanoma again. 

Update: It wasn’t!

Skin Care Lesson Learned

While this experience was certainly one I could have done without, I got a big lesson in skin care out of it.

These are the changes I’ve implemented in my daily routine:

(1) I no longer leave the house without applying sunscreen on my body, as well as a face moisturizer with sunscreen, both on cloudy and sunny days.

I’ll admit that I haven’t always been thorough about using sunblock these past few years, and have definitely been bad about reapplying it. 

(2) I’ve been shopping for more skin covering summer clothes for my dog walks.

I used to wear shorts and tank tops and have replaced them with lightweight capri & palazzo pants as well as longer t-shirts.

First Morning Walk 8 Days After Surgery
First morning walk 8 days after surgery

When a Dog Walker Faces Skin Cancer: Bottom Line

I’ve learned that prevention and early detection are key in battling melanoma.

That said, I’ll be going in for regular body scans for my dermatologist to take a close look at ALL of my moles.

He’ll be determining whether or not one or several should be removed as a precautionary measure. 

I’ll never run out of sun block ever again and will cover my skin as much as possible, especially during the peak sun hours of the day. 

By the way, did I mention that I used to work at a tanning salon during college in my twenties?

Well, I did and tanned once or twice per week for several years, which probably contributed to the skin cancer on my leg.

I haven’t been back on a tanning bed in about eight years and you’ll never see me in one ever again.

I’ve always said that I loved my twenties and wouldn’t change anything if I had the chance to relive them.

Guess what though – if I could go back in time, I’d cut out the tanning. 

Have you experienced a form of skin cancer on yourself or a loved one? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!

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20 responses to “When A Dog Walker Faces Skin Cancer”

  1. Rebekah Ward Avatar

    How scary! Happy healing to you, and best wishes with your next surgery.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thank you very much, Rebekah! Yes, scary for sure, I hope the biopsy on the next mole will come back negative.

  2. Nancy Stordahl Avatar

    Glad your pathology report came back normal. Whew. Healing takes time, so don’t push yourself too hard. I had a pesky basal cell skin cancer last summer, on my face no less, and in a spot usually covered by sunglasses. I actually went in for a different spot I was concerned about. That one was fine, this other one I had not even noticed was the culprit. So you just never know. Precaution is something I take very seriously now, too. Not like I didn’t before, but now I’m way more diligent and also go in for yearly exams with my dermatologist. Great pics. Glad you have an assistant you can count on. Nice. Thank you for sharing. It’s an important topic.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thank you, Nancy. You’re right, it takes time and it’s a great lesson in patience..I’m glad that the spot on your face was caught early. I’ve seen some pictures of nasty scars on people’s faces when browsing a few hashtags on Instagram, so I really can’t complain too much about the scar on my calf. Here’s to staying cancer-free!!

  3. Jan K, Wag N Woof Pets Avatar
    Jan K, Wag N Woof Pets

    I’m so sorry you had to go through this, Barbara, that looks really painful! But so glad everything came out OK in the long run, and that you had someone to help you with everything.
    I never did the tanning bed thing, but I used to put on baby oil in the 80’s and got some pretty good sunburns. I still love the sun, but try to be more wise these days. And I keep an eye on anything unusual looking.
    I hope you stay clear from here on out!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thank you, Jan, it wasn’t fun, that’s for sure. My leg feels a little better every day now, and I can walk up and down stairs again. It’s still tight when I try to sit cross-legged, so I’ll have to wait to do Yoga for a little while longer.
      That’s the right approach – keep an eye on your moles and have anything odd looking checked out. Apparently that’s how most skin cancers get caught.

  4. Lindsay Stordahl Avatar
    Lindsay Stordahl

    I’m so glad this turned out OK. Gosh, your leg looked so painful! I’m going to share this post in my email on Sunday. Lots of good advice. I’m always worried about skin cancer since I’m also outside so much. I do my best with hats and sunscreen but I still worry!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thanks Lindsay, it wasn’t too much fun 😉 But as of a few days ago I can sit cross-legged again without my skin feeling tight and pretty much move around as usual. Do you carry sunscreen along with you on your walks? I thought about doing that so that I can easily reapply it.
      Thank you for sharing the post!!

      1. Lindsay Stordahl Avatar
        Lindsay Stordahl

        I keep a small bottle in my car so sometimes I’ll re-apply. I’m kind of paranoid about sunscreen. My friends tease me!

        1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

          Your friends probably haven’t had skin cancer yet…I think I’ll keep a bottle in my car too from now on.

  5. Lenni McCauley Avatar
    Lenni McCauley

    So glad everything is going to be OK. I have had a scare myself that means my dog Sam Pete has to be extra patience with me as it takes longer to get ready to walk because of applying all of that sunscreen and everything. I had a basil cell carcinoma removed from the side of my nose. I had to have a skin graft (from skin behind my ear) onto my nose. Thanks Dr. Quan!!! You can barely tell after three years. We all need to be more careful in the sun. We are lucky!!!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thank you so much, Lenni, and OMG, I’m so sorry you had to have surgery done on your face! But it sounds like your Doctor Quan did a great, aesthetically pleasing job, that’s awesome.
      Oh yes, I know exactly what your dog is going through, lol. I used to just throw on whatever clothes in the morning and head out for a morning walk. Not anymore – now I try to cover as much skin as possible (not always easy in this heat & humidity here in NC) and most definitely take the extra time to put on sunscreen. I’m still working on finding one that doesn’t make my skin feel like it’s wearing a mask.

  6. Michelle Boyer Avatar
    Michelle Boyer

    I actually have metastatic melanoma, it’s no joke! Happy to see people talking about prevention and early detection… and of course dogs 😉 I happened across your blog when reading the post about how to get your dog exercise when sick, always a challenge on disability income and in and out of treatments all the time.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Hi Michelle, thank you for visiting my blog again – I hope you got some useful ideas out of the exercise-when-sick post. I am so sorry to hear that your melanoma metastasized. Thank you for sharing – I can only imagine how hard it must be to battle with this diagnosis. My early stage melanoma was enough to throw me off my game for a while. I’m sending you lots of positive energy and my very strongest healing wishes, and the pups are sending you virtual doggie kisses!!

  7. Anna Avatar
    Anna

    I’m so sorry Barbara:-( Hope you are feeling better! Rocky and I are sending warm wishes and hugs!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thanks you guys! I’m much better and my incision is healing nicely. Now I’m still waiting on the biopsy of the mole that was removed from my foot. I’m going in tomorrow morning to have my stitches removed, and hope to get an update then.

      1. Anna Avatar
        Anna

        Good to hear you are doing better! I am looking forward hearing about the results. Ugh…just discovered a black dot on my arm…one of my birthmarks turned dark.

        1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

          I got the biopsy results and it’s non melanoma!!! Just a mole. Phew.
          I’m sorry to hear about the birthmark having turned dark…might be safest to have it checked out!

          1. Anna Avatar
            Anna

            Yai!!! Congrats! Yes, going soon.

          2. Barbara Rivers Avatar

            Yes, that’s a small weight lifted off of me 🙂
            Good, fingers crossed that it won’t be anything bad.

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