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melanoma

Carole Lapierre

My name is Carole Lapierre and I’m 64. I am an artist and a businesswoman. I am interested in the Arts because I love beauty in everything and the uplifting experience it gives us when we look at it.
In addition, as a businesswoman for several years, I studied human resources and business law. I founded and led 3 companies focusing on different services for individuals and for corporate clients. At work, I used my knowledge, of course, but over time, after all the years of experience, I realized that the leader's personality and the expression are considerable assets when it comes to conducting successful business relationships and even relationships with friends. Yes, sincerity and honesty can be seen in the face and my facial expression has, in fact, became a natural tool that gave me confidence and success.
When I learned that I had melanoma (lentigo maligna) on my face, I was in shock! I asked myself why? But when I thought about it more, yes... I realized... I really liked swimming in the pool and sometimes sunbathing when I went on a trip south. Also, as a young adult, I even engaged in water ballet and lifeguard classes in outdoor pools without ever putting on sunscreen... Unfortunately, at the time this concept did not exist.
When I learned that I had to have a substantial facial surgery to remove it, I was devastated! I am not of great classical beauty, perhaps, but the artist in me has always tried to make the most of my face and imagining myself with a big mutilating scar troubled me enormously! Having a scar on the body is one thing but on the face!!! Especially when I knew that the size of the scar must be bigger than a 2 dollar coin because the surgery protocol required that we remove a surplus of skin all around the melanoma. This would have ultimately enlarged the scar even more. It would have been in the middle of my cheek! The doctor showed me what the scar might look like after the surgery and I was flabbergasted, oh my gosh!!! I said to myself: It will even change the shape of my smile! It's so sad! Will my husband look at me the same way?
…And for my work, clients will no longer look me in the eyes. They will only look at the scar! Or worse -- they will look away! It would change my “relationship” with everyone, since my self-confidence would be eroded. Also, how long it would take for me to find the courage to appear in public for the conferences that I give from time to time in my voluntary organization. My self-esteem took a hit!
Then another dermatologist suggested another alternative. He suggested to use a cream to treat this cancer and then follow carefully with observation and serial skin biopsies to make sure that the cancer is gone. Ultimately, yes, but with a possible success rate of around 60%. To me it was worth a try.
Today I am healed without a scar! I barely escaped it and I am redoubling my efforts to protect my skin and not only in my face, I protect my body with clothes because yes it is the sun that is the cause for a melanoma. What I can say to everyone is that it is essential to protect yourself to keep a good health and really, it’s not worth having a nice tanned skin a few months a year at the cost of losing a part of your face or your body. I am still not out of the woods and will have regular check ups. Don't underestimate the strength of the sun and protect yourself even in the shade and during the winter!!!
by
Carole Lapierre,
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
June 2020

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Len Jones

My name is Len. I am a man with blond hair and blue eyes. It was Oct 1998... I was 47 years old at the time, I was working every day and was leading a normal life…I thought. I would go to my family doctor once a year for a complete checkup. It was during one of these visits that she saw something that she did not like on my back. She had me make an appointment with a dermatologist to get a second opinion. The dermatologist looked at it and he also didn’t like what he was seeing. He took a biopsy and sent it off to be examined more closely. Unfortunately for me, it came back positive for skin cancer. I had a melanoma!
It was only when the dermatologist gave me the results of the biopsy that it HIT me - especially when you hear the word cancer! You don’t think much of it, but you know that it is something terrible. You think it happens to other people - people that you don’t know. But now this doctor is telling me that I have a dangerous cancer…me...cancer! At the beginning, I could not hear anything else that he was saying because my mind was elsewhere. When I heard the word cancer, I thought I was going to die. I think it is a normal reaction to the word cancer. Many people die from cancer. But as I have learned, a lot of people beat it...myself included. I listened to what the dermatologist was saying. He said that, luckily, my family doctor had noticed it early and that I could go to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal to have it removed with a small surgery. The news instantly calmed me down.
When I left his office, I asked myself “how did this happen to me”? I started to think back and reflect on what I did that could have caused this to happen. The more I thought, the more I realized that I was just like you and everyone else. I went outside with no shirt on and worked in the hot sun. I couldn’t put lotion on my back...by myself. So, I didn’t. When I was hot, I took my shirt off. I swam in a pool or the ocean with no shirt on. Why? Because everyone did it too. I did not tell my family that I had skin cancer. A few days later, I told my partner and she was also concerned. I had to tell her because she had to drive me to the hospital for the operation. My father had passed away by this time. My mother had passed away lately too, and I never told her. My younger brother, who is still alive today, still does not know. My older sister had passed away also, and was never told. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because I didn’t want people to look at me differently.
I am 69 years old now. I have been retired now for ten years, and am living a good life. I still see my family doctor once a year for a checkup. I have a new young dermatologist since my previous one has retired. My new dermatologist has found some skin lesions of interest on my back and face, but they were burned immediately in her office. Prevention is the best way to avoid skin cancer. I now wear a cut off t-shirt on my shoulders and at midway down my sleeves. It is a compromise between wearing a regular long-sleeve t-shirt and not wearing one at all. I also wear it when I am in the pool. I use the highest skin sun protection lotion that is sold on the market today. I still go down south in the winter now and then, but now when I come home, people sometimes ask me if I have been on vacation at all because I have no tan! This is how I know that I have done what is right for me.
Take care of your body and skin - we are given only one. With the ozone atmosphere being destroyed year after year, we think that we are protected from the sun like in the old days. That is a big mistake. Have your doctor check your skin completely for abnormal moles that you may notice. Early prevention is the best cure.

Live life to the fullest-One day at a time!
Len

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Ghislain Lepage

Since my childhood, I have always been sensitive to the sun. From the beginning of spring until September, I would often get sunburns, even when I try not to. Back in my day, the topic of sunscreen was a completely different story: its use was uncommon and an SPF of 8 was considered to be a good protection.
Thus, every summer meant for me a lot of sunburns and skin peeling. Interestingly, I actually never had any other skin problems such as acne or other skin rashes.
At the age of 56, I had to have a melanoma removed. I learned how dangerous this cancer can be. Since then, I have been under the care of certified dermatologist, Dr. E. Netchiporouk, because there are other worrying spots on my skin. I strictly adhere to her advice: sunscreen 365 days a year with an SPF 60, wide-brimmed hats instead of caps, and even when I swim, I wear a UPF 50 clothing.
Last winter, I went to the Dominican Republic and I was called "the weird Canadian" because I always wore pants, long-sleeved shirts, and I bathed in a large long-sleeved rash guard and, of course, my large-brimmed hat. It must be said that all this was taking place in temperatures of over 30 degrees, but that didn't discourage me from taking my precautions! I must say something needs to changes –people have to learn how important it is to protect their skin from the harmful effects of the sun!

Ghislain L.