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Everyone likes to feel like they’re part of a crowd. Except when it comes to the “cancer crowd.” That’s a crowd we’d all like to avoid.

In January of 2010, I became part of the cancer crowd. One of those people who heard the words you never want to hear: “it’s cancer.” What I heard next was not what I expected, and quite honestly, it left me speechless. Without taking a breath after saying the biopsy she removed from the growth on my back was cancer, she added, “But let’s wait until August to do anything about it.”

August? Are you crazy? I promptly fired my dermatologist.

By 2010, I had been working in the nonprofit healthcare field – mainly cancer – for about 15 years, and I knew you never waited. Early detection saves thousands of lives each year.

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Armed with my results, I got an appointment with a new dermatologist the same day who I had worked with previously through Prevent Cancer. She reviewed the results, did a complete body scan and said the growth needed to be removed now. It couldn’t wait until August. A couple of days later not only did she remove the growth, but she also took off a few other spots that looked suspicious.

Asymmetry1Luckily, my skin cancer was squamous cell, and not melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Luckier still, I was an informed self-advocate who knew early detection and treatment could possibly save my life. I’ve wondered what would have happened had I listened to that doctor and waited 7-8 months.

I don’t consider myself a cancer survivor because of the type of cancer I had. I consider my sister Michelle, who battled and won her fight against breast cancer, a survivor. Neither one of us wanted to be part of the cancer crowd. Hopefully, neither one of us will ever be again.

Today is National Cancer Survivors Day. Hug the survivors in your life and talk to your medical professional about getting screened. Always remember that you are your own best health advocate.