The Day I Let a Strange Man Look at My Body


The Day

I went in there for a reason. I needed affirmation. To be known. To be touched by someone who knew what I needed.

And in he came. Attractive in a rugged sort of way. He looked serious, yet caring. Motivated and eager to do what he did best…and to do it well.

He asked to slide my shoulder strap down.

I let him.

He asked to lift up my shirt.

I consented.

As he gazed upon my bare skin, I wondered what he thought. Did he care? Did he know? His head came closer and his eyes gazed intently. I could almost feel his breath.

Then he reached up. His hand neared my chest and he swiftly did what I had hoped for years that he would do.

“Yup. That looks like basal cell carcinoma,” he said confidently as he circled the blemish on my chest with his marker.  He looked up at his nurse. “We’ll check that one out, and,” referring to a mole on my back, “we’ll check that one.”

I pointed to a tiny pink spot on my forehead, “Could you look at this, too? It just showed up a few months ago, but it won’t heal.” He peered. Confirmed. Circled.

I Had No Idea

Head ShotI had no idea that this first meeting would lead to months of visits in his office. I couldn’t have known that the word “skin cancer” would be used three times. That it would require two surgeries and a painful scraping. Shots. Stitches. Scars.

You might be imagining a woman in her fifties after years at the beach, by the lake, in the tanning bed, bikinis, tanning oil. Um…sorry. I’m thirty-four. I’ve never been in a tanning bed in my life. I burn about once a year. I wear a full-coverage tankini…with a skirt for crying out loud.

But about 8 years ago (yes…eight) a spot appeared on my chest. Just a pink spot. No biggie. I had been running a lot and assumed it was just dermatitis. It never really grew. Or changed. But it never went away.


So finally I found a dermatologist here in Alcoa, made an appointment, and was hoping someone could tell me exactly what it was and exactly how to make it go away. That’s the ONLY reason I went.

Please Note:

I never would have scheduled a dermatologist appointment if it had not been for that spot. I was too stubborn. Too lazy. I didn’t care. Or maybe deep down inside I was scared and I just didn’t want to know. (Sound familiar?)

Thankfully, that spot turned out to be very superficial. Just needed a thorough scraping and some cream. No. It’s what he found in other places that changed my thoughts on sun protection forever.

WoundNeck Shot

A tiny spot on my head. Not more than a few millimeters across. MILLIMETERS. And an even smaller spot on my neck that my husband just happened to notice in between appointments. Those tiny spots? Basal Cell Carcinoma. A form of skin cancer. Skin cancer that digs deep into your top layer of skin and, if left unchecked, can grow to large sizes, requiring surgery, possible skin grafts, and on rare occasions can spread to other organs.

We’re Breaking Up

This experience made me question all sorts of things about my relationship with the sun.

For most of my life I hadn’t really cared. Growing up, I spent hours outside year-round; sports teams, vacations, exercising. I used sunscreen, but not always. Even when I lived in Southeast Asia, just a stone’s throw from the Tropic of Cancer (uhh… that should have been a hint) I didn’t protect myself like I should have. And now I could potentially pay for it for the rest of my life. Let’s face facts, though, shall we? I would rather pay for it for the rest of my life than pay for it WITH my life.

Which is exactly what can happen if you don’t get smart about the sun.

We all know this. We all know tanning beds are bad. We all know sun over-exposure is dangerous. We’ve heard it our whole lives, so I’m not gonna go over the dangers for you. You can learn more here and here and here. But seriously. What’s it gonna take to get us to do something about it? Hours of surgery? Painful creams and shots? Disfigurement? Death?

Does someone we love have to die to get us to stay away from the tanning beds and wear protection?

Did you know?

Melanoma (the most deadly form of skin cancer) is “almost always curable when it is found in its very early stages.” (Emphasis mine.) ( Which I think means, next to texting and driving, it would be one of the worst reasons to die. And yet 10,000 people die from Melanoma each year. (

Tragedy of tragedies.

MelanomaBecause I called my dermatologist’s office. And you know what she said? A first appointment takes 15 minutes.

I don’t know about you, but I have NO idea what skin cancer looks like. I could look at those nasty Google images all day and still wouldn’t know what I was looking for. But that new man in my life? He took 2.5 seconds to recognize what took me 8 years of guessing. Fifteen minutes, Mom.

You know what else she told me? The visit costs about $78. That’s less than some bathing suits I’ve seen. I could put it in perspective for you, but let’s be adults here. There is no reason you shouldn’t go get your skin checked. No reason. And you know that.

So I’m gonna make it easy for you.

It Could Change Save Your Life

Here is a list of links to some of our favorite dermatologists in the Knoxville area. Click on one. Call. And make an appointment.

East Tennessee Dermatology Group (Alcoa)

Anderson and Rahman Dermatology (West Knoxville & Lenoir City)

The Skin and Wellness Center (Lovell)

Dermatology Specialists (Old North Knoxville)

Then, when you go to the beach next week, (or the lake or the splash pad or the park) take one of these cute hats, slather broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher on both you AND your kids, ditch your tanning bed membership (I’m sorry…it’s just not worth it. You are beautiful without a tan), and go live another day with your family-free from surgeries, painful procedures, and possible death.



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