Safe Sun Stories: Jill Kargman’s Story of Survival
May is Melanoma Awareness month and we’re really proud to partner with the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) to support Melanoma research. All month long we’re supporting the MRA through a host of exciting initiatives in-store, on our blog, and through social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Today, Guest Writer Jill Kragman shares her gutsy tale of triumph…with grace and humor.
People were absolutely bowled over when I of all people, a Wednesday Addams lookalike, was diagnosed with melanoma. It’s not as if I look like an Australian lifeguard or anything; I’m a pale, protected New Yorker! But through the years my complexion has yielded many moles—my three kids who share this affliction call them “angel kisses.”
When I was 33 and pregnant with my youngest. I had one that was bleeding incessantly, which was casually dismissed by my dermatologist not once, not twice, but three times as “absolutely benign.” I subsequently sought a second opinion, and the doctor remarked that while it appeared okay, if it was bothering me we should slice n’ dice. The following week she called me herself (bad sign) and told me I had an incredibly rare melanoma- the kind Bob Marley died from—and that I needed to get to Sloan Kettering ASAP. I was reeling. I was told that I had either Stage 2 or 3 Amelanotic melanoma, which would require immediate surgery of both the tumor, which had spread below the mole, and the surrounding lymph nodes in my groin. Good times!
The result were seven inch and two inch parallel scars and, thankfully, cancer-free lymph nodes. I asked my surgeon what would’ve happened if I hadn’t biopsied it. “You wouldn’t have made it three years,” he replied. Chills. Three small kids, a life ahead of me. A near miss. So now, while trying to make people laugh with my humor books, I also try to scare them. The long jagged badge of honor reminds me every day how lucky I was. So squeeze out that SPF! Clichés exist for good reason: You can never be too careful.
I’m no expert, *but* I have been compared to Wednesday Addams, Goth Snow White, and called “cadaver chic.” So I know stuff about sun block! I may be an aging stressed out mom, but I’m not as wrinkled as my sun-worshipping counterparts. Stick with me kids. Here, I tout the ballot of pallor.
1. Don’t go out. Blare the AC and wait for Labor Day.
2. I’m kidding.
3. Buy a big hat. They’re available on the main floor of Bergdorf’s. Run, don’t walk.
4. Every summer you need NEW sunblocks. These products can not only SAVE YOUR LIFE but also keep that pore-less skin looking young. These products don’t often have shelf lives over twelve months so chuck the old crusty ones and score some new loot.
5. Four words: Slather. Slather. Slather. Repeat.
6. Hit the ocean if need be. Then revisit #5.
7. Use a moisture mask or après soleil cream to replenish at night.
8. I know some of you won’t listen to me and fry like bacon or Sizzlean®, so: in addition to all of the above, get checked by a dermatologist twice a year. Not just head to toe, scalp (with a hair-dryer) to between your toes. It’s the best line of defense against this disease which continues to claim young lives every year. Now be careful and go have a HAPPY SUMMER!
Reduce Your Risk. Protect Yourself. Take Action. www.curemelanoma.org
Jill Kargman lives in New York City where she writes magazine articles and trashy novels and enjoys wrap sandwiches. She is the author of teen books Bittersweet Sixteen, Summer Intern, and Jet Set, plus some excellent grown-up books. And by grown-up books she doesn’t mean porn; she means not young adult but plain old adult. Her articles have appeared in Vogue, Teen Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country, Travel + Leisure, Elle, Elle Décor, and a bunch of British magazines you’ve never seen. She went to Yale where she did not study writing and has three children who keep her young. And exhausted.