Melanoma survivor: Protect your skin

I usually don’t consider myself fair-skinned, because I used to tan pretty easily. But I’ve seen pictures of myself badly sunburned as a kid, so that’s probably a more accurate description than I’d like to think. I grew up mostly near the Texas coast, and my family was always outside. I only remember using suntan lotion occasionally. It didn’t offer any UV protection, since SPF wasn’t even a thing yet back then. I wasn’t aware that I needed it. My first melanoma diagnosis I was first diagnosed with melanoma in February 2016 at age 56. My wife had noticed an unusual spot on my back about six months earlier and asked me to have it looked at. I didn’t see a dermatologist until it changed dramatically in size and appearance, and began draining a clear fluid. Then I had a punch biopsy. The results showed it was melanoma. My first reaction was disbelief. Then I felt angry because I hadn’t seen a doctor about it sooner. Eventually, I felt sadness, because I knew it was something that could eventually kill me. Fortunately, the cancer wasn’t very advanced then, and I was able to have it removed surgically. My dermatologist sent my biopsy results to MD Anderson, and I had my first appointment there on Feb. 4, 2016. My surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Gershenwald, removed the cancerous lesion and two of my lymph nodes that same day. The melanoma hadn’t spread yet, so I didn’t need chemotherapy or radiation. My second melanoma diagnosis I was considered cancer-free until two years later, when I had a CT scan for an unrelated condition....

My colorectal cancer diagnosis caught me by surprise

My journey with colorectal cancer began suddenly and unexpectedly. One day I was feeling OK and the next, after a painful night, I found myself in surgery. I’d begun throwing up in the middle of the night and had a painful stomachache and diarrhea. Nothing seemed to help, so we rushed to a nearby ER. Scans showed that something was wrong, but it wasn’t clear what. The doctors quickly admitted me to a nearby hospital and recommended immediate surgery. During surgery, the doctors found a tumor in my ascending colon so this section was removed, along with the tumor. A few days later, I was told that I had stage IIA colorectal cancer and that I should begin chemotherapy soon. Looking back, I remembered a few times before that I’d suddenly lost weight and been ill, but I chalked it up to travelling or eating a bad meal. I wish that I’d paid more attention then. I’ve always tried to do well by my body, so my colorectal cancer diagnosis was pretty shocking. I was just 36 years old, and I exercised regularly, took my dog on long walks and maintained a healthy diet. My diagnosis was made even harder by the fact that my grandma, who had lived with my family since I was born, had passed away that same week.  It took me some time to digest everything and think about my next steps. Choosing MD Anderson for my colorectal cancer treatment We originally visited another local oncologist, but something didn’t quite feel right. I felt rushed into chemotherapy, but I wanted to better understand my options...