What is your name?
Hi, my name is Cyndy Cole.
Describe yourself in 3 to 5 words.
I'm a happy grandmother!
How did you discover your skin cancer/melanoma and how long ago?
I've had many basal cell carcinomas over the years so when I went for my normal annual head to toe skin screening I never expected anything else. I showed the doctor a small, almost the size of a pinhead, purple raised dome shape 'thing' just underneath my eye.
He biopsied it and it came back as a rare, aggressive, malignant skin cancer called Merkel Cell Carcinoma. The doctor said it's cancer that can aggressively attach to lymph nodes and internal organs. (It usually affects people in their 80's and I was 20 years younger) I was devastated, to say the least!
I was sent to a University Hospital for a larger excision and was told they'd gotten all of my cancer and recommended radiation. When I saw a radiologist I became so afraid of what could happen (lose eyesight because of location) that I decided not to proceed with it.
A short time later, another 'thing' appeared on my forearm that was completely different looking and a different colour. My dermatologist biopsied it and it came back as Merkel Cell. She sent me back to the University hospital for not only a larger excision but a sentinel lymph node biopsy as well. They got it all again. Went to Mayo Clinic and was advised this skin cancer can look like a wide range of shapes and colours and hard to detect.
I was originally diagnosed 3 days before my birthday in 2016. I go every 3 months for full body skin checks. I also had Squamous Cell Carcinoma on the top of my head by my forehead and had Mohs surgery for that which left another huge scar. I spend every day looking for new things appearing because this is aggressive.
What is your attitude towards sun protection today?
I've always loved the sun! I love the way it feels and the warmth it gives. Growing up blonde haired and with green eyes, I've always been at risk for this but back then who knew?
Now I am the 'hat lady' around here who never goes out without one. I've purchased the long arm sleeves for sun protection that have an opening for my thumbs and go up to my upper arms. I wear long sleeves and am cautious about having skin exposed to the sun. I put on sunscreen and even carry an umbrella if I'm at an outside event o a sunny day.
What would you tell your 16-year-old self about sun protection?
- Do not try to get a tan to 'be like everyone else'.
- Appreciate yourself for who you are and the way you were created.
- No matter what your race or skin tone, everyone burns, everyone can get skin cancer.
- Wear sunscreen with a good SPF and make sure you reapply regularly.
Thank you Cyndy for helping raise awareness for skin cancer, melanoma and skin conditions, and sharing your story with us and our Solbari Community.