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
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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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!