Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

May 24, 2011

Dear 16-Year-Old Me | Skin Cancer Awareness

I found this video via a link Becky Higgins posted yesterday and I think it’s a super important message about melanoma.

As some of you may know, melanoma is part of my story. I’ve written just a little about my personal journey here and here. I’ve had over 40 moles removed – all but five or so came back abnormal with one being stage one melanoma (I was about six or seven months pregnant with Anna). I see a dermatologist every three to six months for full body checks and have my eyes checked by an eye surgeon annually.

I made my first appointment with a dermatologist after my Dad had a few moles removed (none of his have been melanoma but he has had two other types of skin cancer) and after the death of someone I knew – a young Mom named Julie (close friend of my friend Carrie Colbert). You can read the beginning of her story, in her own words, written in December 2006 here. I definitely credit her words for spurring me to action.

In sharing this today I hope it spurs someone else to pick up the phone if they have any moles that might seem suspicious. Read more about melanoma here.


  • 1.
    dawn said…

    Ali, thank you so much for sharing this us. We all need to be reminded about this and to take it seriously. I watched the video when I saw your mention of it yesterday and thought how amazing they all were. The stories and the words were powerful. Good for you Ali taking care of yourself and I’m sure spreading this knowledge to your kids.

  • 2.
    Sharon Russell said…

    Thank you so much for sharing this! Although I am the fair-skinned red head who has had more than a few bad sunburns, it’s my darling husband who is dealing with skin cancers. Most have come back fine-a few required more invasive surgery. Thankfully, he keeps track of his care and sees his physician regularly. Great message.
    Prayers for your continued good reports…blessings, Sharon

  • 3.

    I am also a survivor of melanoma and am so thankful you are spreading the news to others. I did not “fit” into the ususal categories of being fairhaired and such. It can happen to anyone. Thanks again for sharing your story and helping to educated others!

  • 4.
    Jamie said…

    Wow. That was a powerful video. I do a good job of keeping my kids protected. But this summer, I’ll take better care of my own skin. Thank you for sharing and know that this has inspired at least one person to make a change. It’s on my facebook wall now, too.

  • 5.
    Cynthia said…

    Thanks for bringing awareness to the issue Ali. I lost my sister to Melanoma in 1997 and miss her dearly to this day. I too go to the dermatologist (used to be yearly and I have graduated to every other year) for checkups. Prevention is most important and it is imperative to moderate time in the sun without protective clothing (my derm told me that the spf in sun tan lotions only protects the outer layer). Thanks again for sharing your own story…..and continue to be healthy!

  • 6.
    Cindy McDannold said…

    Yes, be aware, but also push for diagnosis. My DH had a growth at the side of his nose next to his eye that I insisted that he have checked out. Our GP said that it was nothing to worry about, but I kept insisting that it didn’t look right and I wanted a Dermatologist to see it. The Dermatologist said that there was “absolutely no cause for concern” but he could remove it and send it in for diagnosis. Well guess what…basal cell carcinoma. Not the deadly melanoma, but still a procedure that required a plastic surgeon and regular check ups for the rest of his life. He was fortunate. Don’t put off ANY questionable growth. PUSH for answers no matter what you are told. Sometimes we just know that something is not right. Fight for yourself and the ones you love.

    • ….
      joi ferckel said…

      This is so familiar to me. My doc told me that a scab I had on my head for years was just a scaly patch! He told me he was 99% sure of it. But my hubs said he didn’t like it at all and wasn’t ok with 99%. So the doctor “humored” my hubs and did a biopsy. Basal cell carcinoma too. I was thankful for the carcinoma instead of melanoma. the scar on my head is my little wake up call!

  • 7.
    Ginny said…

    I shared this movie on my FB page recently. I too was diagnosed with melanoma when I was pregnant. I was 8 months along, and fortunately it was in-situ. Just had my bi-annual, six month skin check last week. Much to be thankful for!

  • 8.
    tracey said…

    Thank you, Ali.

    I’m calling for a body check for my husband and myself right now – it’s been over a year and I won’t put it off another day.

  • 9.
    Janie said…

    When you blogged about your moles a couple of years ago… It prompted me to get a check up of a mole that changed shape and size (on my face). It ended up being fine… but I am glad that I did get checked and have a piece of mind now.

    Thanks for the video, a new piece of information is that if you have over 50 moles that you are at greater risk… DIDN’T know that My husband and teenager have more than 50 big dark ones, I am going to make an appointment for them today!!

  • 10.
    borcherding said…

    Ali, so ironic that you posted this today as today marks the one year anniversary of a dear friend of mine that passed away from melanoma. Thank you so much for posting this and I hope EVERYONE sincerely takes this to heart. Peace and blessings to you and your family!!

  • 11.
    tara pollard pakosta said…

    Ali, I have been meaning to do this for our whole family!
    thanks for the reminder!!! I have sooooooo MANY moles that need to be checked! thanks Ali!

  • 12.
    Raylene said…

    Great information! My Daughter has had one mole removed. She has numerous moles and we all, including her doctor, keep a careful eye on them.

    Same thing with breast lumps. She had one at age 15 and she told me (for which I am so thankful!). She saw the doctor right away and was in the Breast Center for a mammogram and ultrasound the next day. It was benign but better safe than sorry. We just lost a girlfriend of hers at age 25 from Breast cancer. She didn’t have careful doctors. Such a travesty!

  • 13.
    Pam Abbott said…

    Ali, thank you do much for repaying this video. Such a powerful message that EVERYONE needs to hear.

  • 14.
    Cortney said…

    Hi Ali.
    Thanks much for this post. A timely reminder for us all. I was was wondering if you could share which sunblocks your family uses, and also what age a child should see a derm. (I have two outdoorsy boys, 5 & 7). I’m doing my own research on both topics, but with your experience, I’d be grateful for a response.

  • 15.
    Liz Ness said…

    Thank you Ali (and Becky) for this. It’s so powerful and it’s so important.

    My fair family (all of my siblings have strawberry blond hair) still live in the mountains (except for my sister who lives here, too). Happily, all of us are friends with our skin doctors. We too, like your father, have had the non-melanoma issues. However, a cousin has had melanoma and — because of diligence — caught it early thank goodness. However, I worry all of the time because of the sun damage I’ve had — do to a very bad sunburn before 18 (accidental, while skiing).

    To anyone reading/watching, please stay on top of this important aspect of your health. And, HUGS!

  • 16.
    Libbi M. said…

    wow!!! awesome message. i have had 2 cancerous moles removed from my back. so very important to use sunscreen and stay out of those tanning beds!!

  • 17.
    Yvette Christopher said…

    Ali – thanks for this. I am making my appt right now. I had melanoma in situ also removed last year. I just hate the full body scan (hate my body) so I was delaying scheduling this last check up that was to be this month. This is what I needed – especially reading Julie’s story.

  • 18.
    pidge said…

    I think I have cried more this weekend/early week than ever before. I should have know before I pushed the play button … but it’s super important. I think about your Y/T page you shared all the time … I don’t have moles, but I know those who do and who have skin cancer … and it’s scary. Thank you for the reminder.

  • 19.
    Jennifer said…

    Thank you for posting this, Ali. I read Julie’s story on the link, and it was very sobering. I never would have thought that skin cancer could spread to your internal organs, but then again, technically, skin is an “organ” so it does make some sense. My BF and I both have a lot of moles, and we do keep an eye on them, especially with the huge amount of sun we get here in AZ. I haven’t been “tan” for many years now; I might look funny being so pale, but I know my skin (and my health) will thank me for it later!

  • 20.
    Carrie said…

    Sigh – big hug, A. Thank you for continuing to honor Julie’s legacy by sharing her story.

    That video is great! I had not seen it before. I will definitely be sharing…

  • 21.
    france said…

    thanks for the link Ali. This is so very important…even if you have darker skin like me.

  • 22.
    Sabrina said…

    I had two later in life pregnancies (at ages 37 and 39), and it was after that I noticed a mole on my upper leg that kept bleeding a little. I wasn’t even sure it was a mole because it was flat. It wasn’t very large, and it didn’t have funny colors, but I went to the dermatologist anyway. It was basal cell. He took one look at it and did a biopsy that day. I later had to go back for a follow up to make sure all the cancer cells were removed. It was a HUGE wake up call for me! I also had a former boss who had skin cancer on her back who went through a similar situation as Julie.

    If you become pregnant, especially in your 30s or later, please make sure you have your skin checked by a dermatologist — especially if you are fair skinned and have moles. I was told that the hormones in pregnancy can really set off a cancer cell that might not have done anything before. I was planning on having any other children, but I was told it wasn’t a good idea, either! I’m now 7 years out from that, and have not had any other occurrences. I now seek out the shade, not the sun!

    • ….
      Ali said…

      I was told the same thing Sabrina by the dermatological oncologist – he said if I was cancer free for 5 years or so then maybe – but that the hormones can really impact the cell growth (and that’s not a good thing for someone like me with a strong history of abnormal moles).

  • 23.
    Cheryl said…

    Oh Ali. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  • 24.
    quinna said…

    Yesterday I had life saving surgery for Breast cancer. Thanks to mamograms!

  • 25.
    Lori Diehl said…

    Hi Ali,
    thank you so much for sharing about the awareness of Melanoma. My strong, healthy 46 year old husband, died 3 years ago this June from stage 4 melanoma. His mole was on the side of his right foot and had been there his whole life.

    We had no idea what it even was when he was diagnosed early ’06. I remember reading that Melanoma is a silent epidemic. Thank you so much for posting this.

    • ….
      Ali said…

      I’m so sorry for your loss Lori -

  • 26.
    Immi said…

    An excellent reminder! I just had my skin checked at the dermatologist last week. It feels great to know that I’ve done something important for my health.

  • 27.
    Barbara Konopa said…

    My cousin died of melanoma at the age of 36. His started in the area of a birth mark on his back that he was born with. According to his doctors this is not that uncommon. Having your skin checked for skin cancer has to be the easiest and most painless test there is. Everyone should always be aware of any changes in their bodies. Only you know your own body.

  • 28.
    Christine said…

    I shared this on my Facebook page. My sister-in-law had melanoma removed from her leg–and then had a pool installed in her backyard! It is scary stuff. I hope you are all clear from now on!

  • 29.
    Jane said…

    Ali – I also had melanomas when I was pregnant with my son, now 5. I never knew that melanomas can caue cancer in unborn babies. I now see a skin cancer doctor every 6 months. Thanks for the post – I added it to my Facebook page.

  • 30.
    GeneB said…

    Love that you are sharing something so important. I am going in next week to have 9 mole removed. I had 3 mole removed last year that turned out to be basal cell carcinoma. So doing self examination and going for check ups with your dermatologist on a regular basis is key.
    I have dark hair and I am not very pale (so not the typical candidate). I had not heard that if you had more tham 50 moles you where at risk. In my case I have that on one arm! So checking for moles takes about 30-40 min (I take pictures) as I probably have over 250 moles on my body. Thanks for posting the link for the T-shirts, will go buy some as they are not easy to find ;-)

  • 31.
    Mellie J said…

    I watched this yesterday. It made me cry! The messages shared are so important and so very real.

    Recently had a sunspot removed from my leg. Skin specialist a year ago said it was nothing. A gut feeling told me he wasn’t right. Saw a different skin specialist – he froze it off straight away. If unsure, get a second opinion.

  • 32.
    Laurel said…

    Wow! What a powerful video. I sent the link to my entire address book. Thanks.

  • 33.
    Paula G said…

    Oh Ali. Thank you so much for this. I am passing it on right now (ok, right after I stop cryng.)

  • 34.
    Candace said…

    Thanks for sharing this Ali! I reposted it…great reminder / conversation starter for the summer (year round, but we know more people are outside and exposed in the summer). I’m going to make sure we have an appt with the dermatologist for a check-up too! Thanks for the friendly “kick in the pants” we needed!

  • 35.
    Kristyn said…

    Hi Ali! Thanks for sharing this awesome video!! I reposted it as well! I’ve had many moles removed as well and now watch my boys with even more diligence. My oldest recently had one removed (at my request). It came back “suspicious”…so good to be pro-active!

  • 36.
    Karissa said…

    Thanks, Ali. The photo of Julie with her three kids made me choke back tears after reading her story and pushed me to make an appointment for a screening. Thank you. :)

  • 37.
    Krista Nash said…

    Ali, thank you so much! I have posted this video to my Facebok wall. I will keep you in my prayers. On 3/25/11 I lost my beloved 47 yr old Stepmom to Melanoma. It is a vicious disease that takes good people way too early.

  • 38.
    cathi coutu said…

    I have had two basal cell carcinoma’s removed in the last 6 years (I was 40 when they found the first one). One was on my back and the other was on my chest. I too go every 6 months and will for the rest of my life. I’m not sure if someone else mentioned this, but my started off as what I thought was a pimple. It didn’t heal and would bleed and was painful if you scratched the surrounding skin. Sunscreen, limit exposure & try to prevent major sunburns. Oh, and of course, stay out of tanning beds!!

  • 39.
    Katie said…

    I just had my teenage daughter watch this video. It had a definite impact on her. It will be something for her to remember when her friends tease her about being so pale and untanned.

    Thank you

  • 40.
    Jules said…

    I watched this yesterday and then an hour ago one of team members wandered into my office. While chatting he was scratching his neck and then asked if I had an experience with moles as this one on his neck had become inflammed and was annoying him. He now has an appointment to see a doctor tomorrow afternoon. We live in a mining town where most of the people fly in, work eight days and then fly home for six days. Being a young, single male I wouldn’t take the chance he might not go to the doctor when he gets home so made the appointment with my GP here in town. I am not 100% sure I would have been so insistent if I hadn’t seen the video yesterday. Hopefully he will be fine but I thank you for the reminder to be ever vigilant for ourselves and those we care about.

  • 41.
    MJ said…

    Thank you for posting this video. I watched it, went to the link and have been contemplating my risks and reducing risks for my fair skinned light-eyed children! I’ve been avoiding the sun for decades with my motto being “I work hard to be this pasty white.”

    Thanks as well for posting the products that you are using on yourself & your children.

  • 42.
    Marilyn T said…

    So glad you mentioned the eye exam. I didn’t even KNOW you could get melanoma of the retina in the eye until my father did. Unfortunately, he was the type to “ignore” symptoms and only dealt with it (loss of vision) after the cancer had spread. It ultimately killed him.

    I will be making an appointment this MORNING for a full body check. Thanks for the reminder.

  • 43.
    MB said…

    Thanks for posting this. Melanoma took my mother’s life at age 66.It is a horrible disease and much more awareness is needed.

  • 44.
    angle said…

    Ali….thanks for continually spreading the word on melanoma. We have a mutual acquaintance – Carrie ;) I am Julie’s sister. I appreciate you sharing her story and I appreciate everyone reading it and taking it seriously; it is such a serious disease that CAN be detected early and treated. Keep up the awesome work.

  • 45.
    andi said…

    I’ve known I needed to get to a dermatologist for a while (blonde, green eyes, lots of freckles/moles), but kept putting it off. Thanks to you and this video, I have an appointment for July 7. Thanks for giving me the kick in the pants that I needed. ;)

  • 46.
    Liz said…

    I had missed this on Becky’s site so thankful for the repost here & links to great information.

  • 47.
    JaymieInMN said…

    Because of this post, I had a suspicious “mole” checked. While it wasn’t melanoma, it was basal cell carcinoma. I’ve been telling everyone I know to get themselves checked. It’s quick and easy. Thanks for the motivation to get it looked at!

  • 48.
    Karen in Florida said…

    Wow, the comments made here are almost as powerful as the video. I had seen it about 3 months ago and sent it to my entire address book. I have had a number of basal cell carcinomas removed and recently a melanoma from my upper arm. It looked exactly like a dot from s Sharpie marking pen–my dematologist noticed it. I see her every 3 months and am a big proponent of skin care now and tell everyone who asks about my scar. I also wear special clothing that Columbia makes, including a wide brimmed hat. One of my best friends lost an eye to melanoma. I had not thought about having more frequent eye exams but will make an appointment for one today.

  • 49.
    Tiffany said…

    Thanks for sharing this video. I am a 3 yr. melanoma survivor because I took action after you posted your story. Your willingness to share your life with us makes a difference, in more ways than you can imagine.

    • ….
      Ali said…

      So happy to read that :) .

  • 50.
    anna said…

    One answer to cancer
    Elaine Hollingsworth

    Black salf, draws the cancer out, and is available on the net

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