YOUR STORY IN A NUTSHELL:
For starters, I'm the "perfect profile" for having melanomas: I was born with one birthmark, my grandfather had multiple melanomas growing up, and I'm a redhead with relatively fair skin (not milky though, but clear!) and I freckle quickly when exposed to the sun... So I have several "basic" characteristics conducive to the development of melanoma...
So my parents did their best to ensure that I was followed by the same dermatologist as my grandfather, at the Lyon Sud hospital. I had a check-up every year to monitor my skin. At each annual visit, the doctor told me that the next time, it would be better to see a city dermatologist, like everyone else, since I had no real reason, although I had a risk profile, be followed by a dermatologist specialized in melanoma/skin cancers…
In 2018, I felt that it was really my last visit with him except that this time, he didn't talk to me about unfollowing me, and he even scheduled me an appointment for remove a mole “as a precaution”. When making the appointment, I was expecting a date in 3 or 4 months because he has a lot of deadlines, and he gave it to me 3 weeks later, 2 days after I turned 30, on April 18 2018. The operation was quick, local anesthesia, an hour later I went home... I didn't know it was a melanoma at the time, he explained to me that he preferred to remove it, by safety, to be quiet during the summer. I thought I was in so much pain and planned to work the next day, but I couldn't! I was in terrible pain!!
I went back to the hospital about ten days later I think, after analyzing the removed area. I knew it wasn't good. I had prepared myself for bad news. I went there with my husband, and my sister who is a doctor, and he therefore told me that I had a melanoma, caught early, but that it would be necessary to redo a larger excision and remove again 1 or 2 cm around the scar.
That day, he explained to me that I was banned from the sun, that now I had to wear long sleeves as much as possible, a hat, put on factor 50 cream... The worst thing was to imagine to be "recharcuted" on this wound which had hurt me very badly!
And then he also told me that now I should see him twice a year.
THIS MOMENT YOU KNEW YOU HAD MELANOMA:
In reality, I was more worried the day the dermatologist told me he had to remove the mole, than the day of the operation, or the day of the diagnosis. I quickly realized that it was not like previous visits, where I didn't have much to do here, but this time I was in the right place for him...! Which was obviously a bad sign for me!
It kept me awake the night after that routine annual visit... Afterwards, I had already absorbed it a bit. Certainly these are carcinogenic cells but it is on the surface, it is superficial and visible to the naked eye. Once this mole has been removed, that I am well followed, I have to be careful, but it is very different I find, than if I were told I had organ cancer, with truly "inside the body" operations, heavy and painful treatments, examinations and follow-ups.
Besides, it's on the shoulder blade, it's not the face or an area you see every day, I myself never see my scar.I just changed my habits, for example, in town I put on cream, whereas before I only used it (stupidly) at the beach or when skiing.! If I'm on the street, I try to walk on the sidewalk in the shade...
I didn't experience it so badly, because I expected it a bit, maybe it's my side to imagine the worst at first, and then think that everything will be fine in all cases... ! And then maybe a few clues from my dermatologist... On the other hand, when my parents found out, they were very worried, my mum burst into tears...
In any case, he immediately reassured me, telling me that he had been detected very early, that he was small, superficial, and that that did not necessarily mean that I was going to having one every 6 months... I was actually a little stressed for my next visit, 6 months later, but there were no new ones...
I was mostly worried about my children, I have two little boys and I was worried that they would have one, that they would have to be watched closely, etc. but he just told me to protect them well from the sun, and that until they are big, there was nothing to worry about... On the other hand, I am very vigilant (maybe be more with them, than with myself) for their protection in the sun... I really choose their sunscreen, organic, etc. Just like for me, whereas before I could have bought the cheapest from the supermarket..!
Another thing that worried me was that my husband and I wanted a third child, not immediately, but one or two years after this melanoma… And I had a six-monthly follow-up for 3 years.
The dermatologist had told us that if a pregnancy was planned, that we would have to talk to her about it… I was therefore very afraid of having to wait for the 3 years of follow-up to consider a new pregnancy.
But a year later, in the spring of 2019, I told him that we wanted to have another baby and he reassured me that there was no problem, because not new moles, or suspects so no anesthesia/operations to be considered for the coming year, a priori.
It took me a year to get pregnant again, but no new melanoma in the meantime, and my little Carmen was born in February 2021!
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
It was to get used to the idea that the sun is not for me, whereas I love +++ the feeling of having a coffee with my face in the sun, this little shot of vitamin D is just too good I think..!
And then changing my summer wardrobe, parting with tank tops, backless dresses, etc. for light but more covering clothes. I was still happy to have a good excuse to buy some nice clothes for the summer;) and I enjoyed myself...
BEFORE THAT, WERE YOU RATHER TEAM MONOÏ OR TEAM SOLAR SPRAY?
When I was younger, when I was a teenager, I wanted to do like my girlfriends, or my sister, and I didn't necessarily want to slather on cream and be all white, I wanted try to have golden skin, swimsuit marks..! Then I knew I was a redhead, so it wasn't for sunbathing, just living in the sun.
However, I've never made the pancake on the beach, I hate it!
NEW HABITS? WHAT IS YOUR DAILY LIFE TODAY?
What has also changed besides putting myself more in the shade is trying to wear a lot of long skirts, hats but that's pretty good because I love hats: so I have one in my car, one at home and one at the office...I also have a small stick of face cream always on me, so I can put it on without having messy hands...
And also I try to watch my skin, to see if the moles I have do not change appearance, or if a new one appears..
"Dream your life in color, it's the secret of happiness" (Walt Disney)
Because when I had this melanoma, and these 2 operations, in the spring of 2018 (then my son also had health problems a few months later, at the beginning of 2019) I started creating things again my hands, taking a lot of photos, making things for or with my children, and it cleared my mind to do that...
For some it's gardening, for others it's sport, for me it's creating things that allow me to escape!
ANY 'GRANNY' TIP TO SHARE?
- To heal a burn, apply toothpaste to it!
- To remove a blood stain from a fabric without damaging it (a wedding dress designer taught me this..!): rub gently with an ice cube and the person's saliva who bled (!) it goes away like magic
- To cure a cold (and that's what my grandmother tells me every time): herbal tea with honey, lemon and rum
- To calm pollen allergy, eat a clove of raw garlic (hard hard but tested and approved)
Find Jeanne on her account Instagram !.