Good Morning! Almost half way through the week!
Since I recently started this blog, I wanted to write a post about my background and health story. People often ask me why I became interested in medicine. Since high school, I knew I wanted to work with patients, and I initially looked into pharmacy and optometry. However, I didn’t feel that these professions fit me well, so I went into college as a biology major with the plan of going into secondary education. Throughout my freshman year, I became interested in the Pre-Physician Assistant track that JMU offers. By the end of this year, I switched to Pre-PA and have stuck with it ever since! Looking back though, it was what happened to me personally my sophomore year in college when I was 20 years old that made me realize medicine was what I really wanted to do.
The few days leading up to the start of my sophomore year in college, I started an antibiotic for a sinus infection, which was nothing new for me. My parents drove me down to Virginia the weekend before classes started, and I just didn’t feel right. I remember going for a run around campus with my roommate that Sunday night and coming home and saying that I didn’t feel well. After a horrible sleep, I woke up the next morning covered from head to toe with itchy, painful hives, and I was scared. As the day went on, the rash become worse and spread into my mouth and nose. My friend ended up taking me to the ER by school, where I was told I was having a severe allergic reaction to the antibiotic that I had been taking. I took these pictures to send to my mom, since she was 5 hours away:
My parents drove down to VA to pick me up and take me back to PA to go to a hospital that had a burn unit, since my skin was so bad. That night, I remember being so scared, but the doctor and students who were working the ER that night were so patient and stayed by my side for hours. Luckily, I was not admitted. I was sent home with multiple medications and the first appointment with my dermatologist in the morning.
The next morning at my dermatology appointment, my doctor mentioned that she wanted me back every few weeks for a while to monitor my skin. She also noted a freckle on my thigh that she wanted to biopsy at one of my future visits. At this time, I remember thinking that I had a “funky” freckle on my leg, but thought nothing of it, especially because of the allergic reaction. The biopsy came back as stage 1a melanoma. The summer after my sophomore year, I had surgery for excision of the of freckle and surrounding tissue, in addition to a chest x-ray and lab studies to ensure that the melanoma had not spread. I now have a battle wound scar on my thigh, but I am very thankful of the allergic reaction because we caught the melanoma before it was able to spread in my body. Throughout all this, I found strength to complete my year at school with the help of family and some very good friends.
I learned many things this year.
1. I want to be just like the doctors and other providers who treated me during this time. These people made me feel so much better and hopeful, and I hope that I can make my patients feel the same way. Bedside manner is extremely important to me, and I will always think of patients as people, not conditions.
2. I will never take advantage of my health. I hit rock bottom this year, and it really made me appreciate my health and body.
3. I will be an advocate for skin care. I admit, I went tanning a few times in high school. To this day, I don’t know if tanning played a role in the development of my melanoma. However, I will never chance that again, and I hope that others will not take this risk either. Here are a few of my favorite tanning alternatives:
….and just embracing being pale!
I also enjoyed participating in the “Running for Cover” 5K last year to raise money for melanoma research. I hope to participate in this run again next year!
I am happy to report that my past dermatology appointments went very well, and I will continue to get my skin checked every 6 months. I really learned the hard way with this, but please let your healthcare provider know if you notice any changes with your skin. The ABCDE’s are a great way to screen for melanoma:
Asymmetry; check for irregularity
Border; check for irregular borders
Colors; often dark brown, black
Diameter; note if any lesions are enlarging
Elevation; check for raised or rough lesions to the touch
Here are a few more resources:
Have a good day!