In March 2013, my massage therapist found what she thought was a knot on the side of my neck. When she couldn’t release it, and it didn’t go away, I started consulting doctors about what might be going on. The first doctor (at a walk-in clinic) promptly told me it was my lymph node, pointed out that the other one was reactive as well, just not to the same extent. He told me to return in a month if it didn’t go away- he didn’t seem to care that it had already been there for weeks.
So I let three weeks pass, but couldn’t make it to a month. I hate feeling out of control, and wanted to know what was causing the problem- Google was not suggesting good things. Also, they were to the point where people could easily see them, and earned the nicknames ‘Lugnut’ and ‘PinPin’ from my boyfriend. So I went to my doctor, and I was sent for x-rays, ultrasounds, blood work, and was given a referral to go see a dermatologist about a mole on my back.
Every test was coming back normal… until I went to the dermatologist. She took one look at the mole on my back and wanted to take it off on the spot and biopsy it to check for melanoma. So on May 4th, I had a tangential excision done right along my spine, which because of the type of excision and location/size, couldn’t be stitched shut. That type of healing process is interesting, maybe because I had never experienced it before, but essentially your body heals from the inside out and the wound is open until it does. Scabs and stitches, I’ve learned, hide a lot about what the body does and how long it really does take to heal.
For 6 weeks, I’ve been realizing how important it is to have whole-body and whole-mind health. When lifting your arms hurts, it’s hard to not have your psyche hurt too. But, when you’re forced to slow down and think about what you’re missing, and how it makes you feel, it can be a good thing. My biopsy came back negative for malignant melanoma, but my lymph nodes shrunk by half within 48 hours of that mole being removed. Even benign melanoma has been a hard pill to swallow, even if it’s nothing more than a mole, it brings to light all the times I’ve stood in the sun hoping for a little color.
As athletes, as people who strive to be the vision of fitness, we have a responsibility that reaches further than our own health. We have a responsibility to show the young people that look up to us and see us as the personification of health that being responsible and preventing skin cancer is just as sexy as lifting heavy. Women in the fitness industry have been bucking the ‘weak is beautiful, skinny is beautiful’ idea for quite some time now, and it’s time for us to step up and acknowledge that being tanned isn’t any more healthy than having a low level of fitness.
After all, it doesn’t matter what your 1RM deadlift is, melanoma can and will knock you on your butt if you don’t take care of yourself.
Fitmark Ambassador 2013
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