Mary Katherine Grant was a successful 68-year-old career woman who managed hospitals with hundreds of people, traveled the world, enjoyed golfing, and loved spending time in the sun.
The latter is what took her life.
We’ve heard it all before: Don’t talk to strangers, be careful when alone at night, smoking isn’t good for you… but never “the sun can kill you!” Our family, like thousands of other families, learned the hard way: it can. And now, with all the talk about the disappearing ozone layer and environmental/global warming, there is a desperate need for much more awareness of the dangers of the sun, and skin cancer.
I wish my aunt realized the dangers before skin cancer cut her life short.
When we think of the effects of the sun’s rays on our skin, we usually think about the exposed areas of our bodies and our face. Those dreaded signs of aging we begin to see in our 30s, as well as the pain of a good sunburn, immediately come to mind. But the effects of the sun on the scalp are rarely considered, if at all.
This easily overlooked area of skin, hidden by a full head of hair, is where it started for my aunt.
After her hairdresser told her of a small, irregularly-shaped mole hidden by her hair, my aunt visited her dermatologist for a checkup. The news was grim: cancerous melanoma. After more visits to her dermatologist, and then many more skin experts, my aunt was diagnosed with STAGE 4 skin cancer – the final stage immediately before the terminal phase, Stage 5. There was little all those specialists could do. She had no previous symptoms. No pain. No weakness. My aunt felt great, looked even better and traveled the country weekly. But, she was rapidly dying.
After multiple surgeries over three years, various expensive medications and treatments, the cancer spread deeper into her skin, into the dermis. The specialists tried to stay ahead of the aggressive cancer by removing the cancerous areas, including a four inch by four inch plate of her scull, but by then the cancer had spread throughout her body. It attacked her lymph glands, her bone, her brain. She suffered a stroke that rendered her left side unusable. On a Wednesday afternoon, my aunt took herself to the hospital complaining of a headache. She slipped into a coma. Three days later, my aunt died from a silent killer – that started from a small, almost unnoticed mole. She died from skin cancer.
My aunt was one of the estimated 10,710 people in 2006 who passed away as a result of skin cancer.
Once she was diagnosed, there was nothing I could do to help my aunt, but I can help my clients, others, and myself by bringing this subject to the forefront. As a professional esthetician, I make it my business to look and make suggestions to my clients. Along with a qualified dermatologist, I can help in the prevention of skin cancer one person at a time.