Missing Friends Who Ignored the Signs of Malignant Melanoma

by Johnny
(Brooklyn, New York, USA)

I had three good friends when I was growing up in Brooklyn, New York during the 1950s. Although we lived in a major metropolitan area that was not in the Sun Belt, we spent every glorious summer day at one of the area beaches.

Sometimes we went for the excitement of Coney Island. Sometimes we opted for the more sedate Manhattan Beach. Or if we were able to cajole one of our parents into driving us, we would end up at Riis Park Beach or Jones Beach. There was always a beach calling our name and we would spend the day baking in the sun.

I was the least enamored with the beach and the sun, but I went along because of my friends. I hated the suntan lotion mixing with the sand, making me feel dirty and gritty on the way home. But during this period in our lives, no one warned us that too much sun exposure could bring on skin cancer later in life.

Fortunately, I have been able to avoid getting any type of skin cancer, but two of my friends, Rick and Ellis, were not so lucky. Both of these precious friends were diagnosed the same year with deadly malignant melanoma.

Guys being guys, they didn’t pay attention to the warning signs, nor did they think of going to a doctor when strange looking moles started appearing on their bodies. “Age spots!” cajoled Rick, who thought it was part of getting old. “No big deal,” scoffed Ellis, who
feared doctors, even though he was a strapping six-feet six inches tall.

However, Ellis’ wife noticed the changes and forced her husband to visit the doctor, who promptly sent him to a dermatologist for a consult and a biopsy. The result: melanoma. Further tests revealed it was malignant and had spread to some of his lymph nodes. Ellis was in shock.

This prompted Rick to get himself to a dermatologist, too. He was also faced with a similar diagnosis. Devastated, both of these lifelong friends were now faced with the same grim news.

Surgery was scheduled for each of my friends, with follow up treatment (chemotherapy and radiation for the metastases). These two men, whom I looked up to, were sick as dogs during the chemotherapy.

Unfortunately, their initial denial about their skin lesions and their procrastination in seeing a medical professional put them and their families into this disastrous situation. They fought good battles, but Rick passed away three years after his initial diagnosis. Ellis was able to hang on another year, but sadly also lost the fight.

The moral of this story? Protect yourself while in the sun and don’t ignore the warning signs. Although you may be the one diagnosed with melanoma, you end up putting your family and friends through unnecessary heartache.

I miss Rick and Ellis, but their ordeal has me checking my skin regularly for any irregularities. And if I find something, I will run to the nearest dermatologist for testing. Early detection is essential for surviving Malignant Melanoma.

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