Pale Girl Speaks.
Pale Girl Speaks: A Year Uncovered describes Hillary Fogelson’s diagnosis and first year with Stage I, Level 2 melanoma at the age of 25, more than ten years ago.
Pale all her life, she was disciplined about annual checkups with a dermatologist.
Her dermatologist spotted a mole that she decided needed to be biopsied, to check for melanoma.
Melanomas generally are moles or spots that are:
- asymmetric or differently shaped on one side, instead of evenly round
- have uneven borders
- have uneven, patchy coloring
- are more than 1/4 inch around, the size of a pencil eraser
- change in size, shape or color in a short time.
Treatment is surgery.
Now a three-time survivor, Fogelson has made it her mission to alert mothers of young children to the dangers of over-exposure to the sun.
A California girl, she is adamantly against tanning beds and gloriously for wide-brimmed hats and sunscreen.
Also, her doctor suggested she switch to an IUD and stop taking birth control pills, and not get pregnant for at least two years after there was no evidence of disease.
She is now the mother of two.
Some doctors believe the hormones in birth control pills are a risk factor for melanoma and that the increase of hormones during pregnancy are a risk factor for two years once you’ve had melanoma.
But, her risk factors, pale skin, blonde hair, blue eyes and freckles, are not hers to change.
And, she understands that by the time she was diagnosed, the damage to her skin from years in her past was also something she could not change.
At her insistence, because of the genetic link with melanoma, she convinced her father to go to a dermatologist.
He was diagnosed with Stage II, Level 4 melanoma.
So, her focus has become:
- reducing the risk of recurrence with conscientious annual visits to a dermatologist
- lavish amounts of sunscreen
- educating mothers of young children.
You will like her book because she writes like she’s still 25 – witty, biting, candid, honest, funny, incensed.
Me: I can’t believe my birthday is coming up.
Adam [her husband]: How did we get on that?
Me: Cuticle, melanoma, death, getting closer to death…twenty-six sounds old, doesn’t it?
Adam: Don’t talk to me about old.
Me: It’s different for men.
Adam: It’s not that different.
Me: This birthday feels … I don’t know … I’m actually looking forward to it.
Adam: What are you talking about? You always look forward to your birthday.
Me: Because of the gifts. But I don’t care about gifts this year.
Adam: Yeah, right.
Me: No, seriously.
Adam: Okay, then, I guess I don’t need to get you anything.
Me: Well, I don’t mean I don’t want any gifts….
Adam: No, no, I think it’s good. No gifts this year.
Me: But –
Adam: Good idea.
Me: You have to at least get me a card.
Adam: Oh, you’ll get a card.
Me: I want a real card. One that you buy at the store. I don’t want you scribbling something on a piece of computer paper. I want a card you have picked out from other cards at a store. A card you have personally picked – for me – for my birthday…I can’t believe you’re not getting me a gift.
I liked her book because the spaces told as much as the words.
After her surgery, and only a few days after her diagnosis:
Dr. Gregory: …how are you dealing with all of this? It’s a lot to absorb in a couple of days.
Me: Overall, I think I’m handling things pretty well.
Dr. Gregory: I want to say something to you. And I’m only going to say it once.
Me: Wow, that sounded so…theatrical.
Dr. Gregory: You’re not going to like it.
Dr. Gregory: I want you to know it’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to feel…whatever it is you are feeling. Just don’t act like you’re fine when you’re not, because everything will catch up with you. It always does….You’ve got to deal with your emotions. Deal with them now….You’re very witty – you know that. You use your humor to cover how you feel. So, just know… I’m on to you.
Dr. Gregory: That’s it. That’s what I wanted to say.
Dr. Gregory: Do you have any questions for me?
Me: No, I don’t think so.
Dr. Gregory: …Remember, you need to talk to someone about how you feel. I don’t care who, but you need someone you can confide in.
Me: Yeah, okay.
Mom: How’d it go?
Mom: What did he say?
You can keep up with Fogelson on her web site.
Now that you know what melanoma looks like, you’ll know what your dermatologist is looking for.
Carol Covin, Granny-Guru
Follow our cancer survivor series by email here: Subscribe to New Grandmas Rock! » Cancer Survivors by Email
- What Helped Get Me Through: Cancer Survivors Share Wisdom and Hope
- From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds
- Three-time melanoma survivor Hillary Fogelson promotes sun protection in memoir ‘Pale Girl Speaks’ (dailnews.com)