Often times, when people hear the word “melanoma”, they imagine a person that spent years in tanning beds or slathering baby oil on their bodies as teens. The image that doesn’t come to mind is a healthy runner that practiced sun safety.
Jeri spent much of her childhood in the 70s outdoors on the Isle of Palms. Like many people, enjoying the beach with friends and sometimes sunscreen wasn’t always involved. In 2007, Jeri got a routine skin check and Dr. Germain found multiple Basal Cell Carcinomas. Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most frequently occurring form of skin cancer. This type of cancer presents as open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps or scars. These uncontrolled growths or lesions arise in the skin’s basal cells- the deepest layer of the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin). They are most often caused by occasional sun exposure over time or by intense periods of sun (usually resulting in a bad sunburn). These were all removed successfully.
Hearing the news, Jeri took her skin cancer diagnosis very seriously. She maintained her skin checks, wore sunscreen daily and when she was outside, she wore UV running gear and hats while jogging. She took preventative measures to make sure she wouldn’t have to deal with skin cancer again.
People who have had any form of skin cancer have a higher risk of developing another skin cancer. Unfortunately, the effects of sun damage are cumulative over your lifetime.
Dr. Germain always says, “The skin remembers every second you spend in the sun and the damage accumulates over your entire lifetime”. This lifetime of damage suppresses your body’s ability to fight off all types of skin cancer. Cancer.net states “Thirty-five
percent (35%) to 50% of people diagnosed with one basal cell carcinoma will develop a new skin cancer within five years.”
Sadly, Jeri became one of the few.
In 2009, Dr. Germain found a small dark lump on Jeri’s scalp and had it bioposied . The pathology results returned with a diagnosis … Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma.
Melanoma is a sneaky cancer. With stage three and four Melanoma, the primary tumor may not be accessible or may not be evident at all. In Jeri’s case, the primary cancer was never found. This could have been because the secondary cancer grew very quickly, whilst the primary cancer was still very small (very small primary cancers may not be seen on scans or by the naked eye) or her immune system successfully attacked the original primary cancer making it disappear, while the secondary cancers still grew.
Another reason is that the primary melanoma could have been undetectable. Sometimes, melanomas can be located in the back of her eye or in her inner ear. No matter the origin, Jeri dealt with the news with courage and determination.
With the help of her family, Jeri turned her focus to clinical trials and research opportunities, spending much time at MD Anderson, but unfortunately her cancer remained. As her cancer continued to spread in her lungs, breasts and heart; it zapped her normal zest for life and joy of living.
Made comfortable in her own home by friends and family for her to live out her last days – adamantly refusing hospice – her sister, Karen, recalls all the trials and options but mostly Jeri’s mission to never give up her fight. The strength and determination never waning.
Sadly at the age of 60 on March 25, 2012, Jeri Ann Calhoun died after a courageous three year battle fighting Melanoma. She left a legacy of love, light and continuous hope in her place. Karen was kind enough to share with us the personal journey Jeri faced during her battle with Melanoma.
Karen urges everyone to “wear sunscreen,” noting “wearing it everyday, and protecting your children through their youth could make all the difference.” Karen, also a patient of ours, routinely sees us for skin checks every six months and takes all precautions when being outdoors.
Jeri made a mark on our community. She was a delightful and intelligent woman who faced every day with a smile and unbelievable courage. She also was a major influence on the educational systems we have today in our public schools. Jeri taught in many Charleston County Schools including, Burns, Belle Hall, Pinckney and Whiteside Elementary. She never met a stranger. She will be missed and remembered as having a generous spirit and beautiful heart who was a devoted wife, giving aunt, best ever sister and passionate educator. You can learn more about her spirited life here.
In honor of Melanoma Awareness Month, we hope Jeri’s story inspires you to take a proactive stand with your own health. We thank Jeri’s family for letting us show that Melanoma doesn’t discriminate and it can happen to anyone.
We’ve talked a lot about the truth of skin cancer, the importance of protecting yourself from the sun and prevention tactics this month but what about treatment? The fact is that 1-in-5 Americans will suffer from skin cancer during their lifetime.
While understanding ways to be proactive in the fight is very important, being knowledgeable in ways to treat skin cancer is also important. Being aware of your options and choices is integral to battling any type of cancer.
With that being said we are lucky to have two highly skilled mohs surgeons on our Germain team– Dr. Germain and Dr. McGowan. Mohs Surgery is the most effective treatment option for skin cancers with a 99% cure rate! This surgery is a tissue-sparing technique, done layer by layer, examining 100 percent of the tumor margin in order to trace out the cancer using a microscope.
“The benefits of Mohs surgery are twofold: One, you’re going to remove just the cells you need to without having to take a lot of unnecessary tissue, and two, Mohs surgery can tout cure rates of 99 percent,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologist and Mohs surgeon in New York City and the director of dermatologic surgery at New York Medical College.
By using this technique surgeons can check each layer for roots. Once the roots are no longer visible doctors can be sure the tumor is entirely removed. Mohs surgery is most often used to treat basal and squamous cell cancers, but in certain cases is also effective for the treatment of Melanoma (like in Hayley’s case discussed earlier this month).
You’ll notice in the before and afters provided by Dr. McGowan that scarring is very minimal, an important factor since a large percentage of skin cancers are found on the face, ears and scalp.
Dr. McGowan IV is a board certified dermatologist specializing in Mohs Micrographic and Dermatologic Surgery. He obtained his fellowship in Mohs Microhraphic Skin Cancer Surgery at the Dayton Skin Surgery Center in Dayton, Ohio. He has written countless articles on the technique, advancements and importance of Mohs Surgery.
Just like our patients, our Germain staff suffers from common skin issues, the occasional breakout and even wrinkles! Ever wonder what they do to look so fabulous? Find out on our Staff Blog post. Each month we will feature a different staff member their favorite products, routines, skin care battles and more. May’s feature is in honor of Melanoma Awareness month.
Laser Specialist andHead of Cosmetic Department35 years young
Two years ago Lauren had three moles biopsied, which returned as severely atypical. Growing up in South Carolina Lauren was out in the sun constantly and admits she didn’t apply sunscreen as often as she should have, sacrificing safety for a nice tan (which many of us can relate to).
During her 20’s Lauren joined the Germain team and began to understand the importance of protecting herself from the sun.
Now, Lauren states, “I do not go outside anymore without applying sunscreen with a physical block 30 minutes prior to going out. With the diagnosis of atypical moles I am seen regularly for my full skin exam. I am thankful that my kids are sun conscience as well, so hopefully they won’t have to worry in the future.“
Skin Type: Combination Skin, Melasma
Morning Skin Care Regimen:
Skin Ton Enhancement Pads 6%
Advanced Vitamin C Brightening Serum
Matte Perfection SPF 50+
Favorite Germain Rx Product(s):
Magic EyesMatte Perfection SPF
Favorite Cosmetic Procedure(s):
It is so hard to say what my favorite cosmetic procedure is as I have been with Dr. Germain for 8 years and have had everything done. I absolutely love Fraxel and Coolsculpting.
I suffer from melasma which is a hormonal pigmentation disorder, Fraxel has helped keep my melasma under control. I have also had Coolsculpting on my abdomen, flanks, and outer thighs! The results are amazing.
Lauren has also become a fan of the new Clear + Briliant Permea as it has been successful at treating her melasma without the downtime of Fraxel.
Favorite Facial Make-Up:
Jane Iredale Liquid Minerals
Best advice from Dr. Germain:
“It is a journey not a race. You don’t have to do everything at once.”
Lauren’s Best Advice:
“If you do a little bit of a lot you will have better results.”
Hayley is a vibrant, fun-loving 35 year old mother of two. She has been a patient with us at Germain Dermatology for several years. Hayley recently visited us for a cosmetic appointment when Dr. Germain noticed a mole on her left calf. When asked about the area Hayley mentioned that it had been bothering her a bit as it had become mildly sensitive to the touch and more raised then usual. Although the mole had been there her whole life-the usually inconspicuous spot had developed many characteristics of an abnormal mole.
Upon closer examination Dr. Germain immediately decided the mole needed to be evaluated. She performed a biopsy and sent it to the lab for pathological evaluation. Pathology results returned and the diagnosis was Invasive Malignant Melanoma, Stage 1. Hayley returned the next day and had the entire Melanoma removed by Dr. McGowan, one of our on staff Mohs Surgeons.
Luckily in Hayley’s case the cancer was caught early enough that removal wasn’t too intrusive, nor did the cancer spread. Melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers, and any delay in diagnosis can cost you a life. If not caught early the melanoma can form roots that grow through the other skin layers and fatty tissues allowing cells the chance to enter the bloodstream and lymphatic system.
“It is so important to work with your dermatologist to make sure that you are checking your moles for any changes. Besides seeing your dermatologist once a year, doing self-exams at home may save your life. Every month you need to stand in front of a full length, well lit mirror with no clothes on. Look at the front of you, your sides and underarms. Then take a hand held mirror and look and your back, private area palms and soles — everywhere! If there is anything that you notice that is growing, changing or different, see your dermatologist. It may save your life,” says Dr. Germain.
Haley admits her Melanoma was probably caused from too much unprotected sun exposure through her younger years, but also notes skin cancer runs in her family — her mother is also a melanoma survivor.
Since her diagnosis and treatment Hayley is avid about wearing sunscreen at all times, not just on beach days, and takes precautions to avoid sun exposure whenever she can. She has continued skin checks with Dr. Germain as well as doing at home self checks.
For Hayley skin cancer truly hit home. She urges everyone to, “Be aware, know your body and pay attention to anything that may be abnormal. When in doubt, check it out!”
May is Skin Cancer/Melanoma Awareness month, a cause that we take very seriously at Germain Dermatology. Skin Cancers, unfortunately, will effect 1 in 5 Americans despite the advances in medicine, which is why it is so important to use this month to raise the awareness and spread the education needed to prevent this disease!
The American Academy of Dermatology launched a campaign called SPOT Skin Cancer encouraging thousands of it’s members and supporters to commit to raising awareness and prevention options for Melanoma and Skin Cancers each May.
We are PROUD to be supporting this campaign and kicking off the month with SPOT Orange Melanoma Monday. A day to rally together in the effort of educating the public on how to perform self exams, how to get proper skin screenings and ways to protect themselves from becoming a statistic. Show your support on Monday, May 4th by wearing your best Orange gear (We understand this may be an issue for Gamecock fans, but it is for a good cause!).
Get your whole office to join, your friends, your family, whomever you can gather and snap a picture in support of Melanoma Monday. Share your photo on our Facebook, tag us on Twitter @Germain_Beauty or Instagram @GermainDermatology and one lucky person, office or group will have the chance to win a FREE Germain Rx Sunscreen of their choice. We will be sure to show off our staff rocking their orange, too!
Check out these great resources from the AAD:
Types of Skin Cancer
How to Detect Skin Cancer
Skin Cancer Quiz