Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in America today with the diagnosis directly affecting 58,094 people in 2007. If recognized and treated early, skin cancer is almost always curable, but this requires the patient to be educated and proactive about his or her health.
Proud to be pale - that became Kim Wrinkle’s motto four years ago when she heard the dreaded words from her doctor, “You have cancer.” Wrinkle, who lived in Hannibal, Mo. at the time, was also five months along with an already high-risk pregnancy. She had countless moles removed in the past, but all were determined to be benign. This time, when Wrinkle’s OB/GYN saw one of her moles and insisted that she get it checked, she did not receive the good news she was used to. She had Clark Level IV melanoma.
Coincidentally, Wrinkle’s plastic surgeon was going to a tumor conference the very next week and would be at the center of their discussions. “I was a rare case, and nobody really knew what to do with me,” said Wrinkle. “I had so many questions running through my head. How aggressive was my cancer? Was the cancer harming my baby, Kasen? Was it better to remove the tumor immediately and risk the nuclear medicine and surgery affecting Kasen? I was overwhelmed.” After a few weeks, she and her doctors came to the conclusion that she would do weekly blood work and watch it very closely until her son was born.
On June 6, 2008, Wrinkle thankfully delivered her healthy baby boy by C-section. Her next move was to have surgery to remove the cancerous tumor. She and her family decided to move back to the Ozarks and have her treatment done at Mercy Hospital Springfield.
Wrinkle went to Mercy Hospital Springfield for her surgery on July 31, 2008. Because of the size of the tumor, Wrinkle also had to have her lymph nodes removed to make sure the cancer had not spread. She still sees her dermatologist once a year for a full skin exam and her oncologist every six months to make sure that the cancer has not come back. She is thankful to be cancer-free so she can still be there for her husband and children.
Wrinkle’s goal is to prevent others from having to go through what she and her family went through. There was a lot of stress involved; however, she maintains a positive attitude. “As good as all of my doctors were, I still have many lasting side effects from the surgery including limited arm strength and feeling. And, of course, the obvious - there is the five inch scar that everyone likes to stare at but rarely wants to ask about. The scar doesn’t bother me; it beats the alternative!”
With melanoma, many people are cured, but it can also recur later on. “I was lucky and my cancer had not spread. After five long months, I could finally breathe a little easier,” Wrinkle said. She has completely changed her way of life since battling melanoma. “I am a stickler when it comes to sunscreen and discourage anyone from tanning. As a redhead with freckles, I can’t tell you how many sunburns I had as a child. We didn’t know any better back then. I am now very cautious and have conditioned my children to always wear sunscreen. If my experience can prevent just one person from going through what I had to go through, then it was worth it. It sure made me a stronger person and gave me a new outlook on life.”
May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and Mercy Hospital Lebanon is hosting a Lunch and Learn with a panel of health care providers teaching guests the latest on skin cancer prevention and screening. The Lunch and Learn, which is sponsored by the Mercy Hospital Lebanon Auxiliary, will be at noon on Thursday, May 3 in the conference room at Mercy Hospital Lebanon.
Lunch will be provided at this free event which is open to the public. Donations are welcomed to further Mercy Hospital Lebanon’s cancer education programming. Also, attendees will go home with a free bottle of sunscreen to ensure they can be protected from the sun this season. A free bottle will also be offered in the hospital’s gift shop with a $20 purchase.
To learn more or to register, please contact Shantelle Posten at 417-533-6017 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.