How I Almost Let Cancer Go Undetected, by Linda Chapin

Monday, June 15th, 2015

482_350_300_c1_c__1I am the practice administrator at Dermatology Affiliates and have been here since we opened, 11 years ago.  I met Dr. Forney in 2001 when she diagnosed my level 2Melanoma.  All I remember when she called to tell me the news was that she quoted a “survival” rate.  It was one of the scariest days of my life. Going back… I grew up going to the lake in the summertime; most of my family water skied competitively.  I, however, loved to swim; one of our neighbors at the lake called me “fish”.  Even though my Mom was always after me to make sure I had sunscreen on, I don’t remember any waterproof versions in the 70’s.  I remember what we used came off when we got in the water, which did not help me.  I remember lots of blisters and sunburns. In my late teens I did go to the tanning bed, but probably less than 5 times.  As an adult I have never really sunbathed, but I have hiked, mountain biked, and jogged.  I have always been pretty good about sunscreen.  I just love being outdoors. In my late twenties I joined a pet therapy group and took my precious dog (golden retriever, Shasta) to visit folks in a nursing home.  It was mostly a hoot.  At Halloween we would dress the dogs up, and Shasta was a cowgirl.  Everyone loved our visits and we were reminded not to take our youth and health for granted.   One night, I will never forget, a woman was sitting in the hallway in a wheelchair with a hole in her face where her nose used to be.  It completely freaked me out.  She said the doctor had not been able to make her a new nose yet.  It was skin cancer, I had to walk away.  I knew I had gotten so much sun already, I guess it was a precursor for what was to come.  It was a wakeup call to make sure I protected my skin and to get my skin checked regularly. A couple of years later I got pregnant with my first (and only) child.  Spots on my body (and lots of other things!!) began to change.  I read that was normal.  However, there was one mole on my inner thigh that had grown larger, and I believe darker.  I felt it needed to be looked at, but I was pregnant.  Then my son was born with a rare syndrome and some birth defects so we had our hands full.  Finally when he was about 5 months old I decided getting that mole looked at could not wait.  I called my dermatologist (not Dr. Forney at the time, I did not know her yet) but she could not get me in for several months due to a new computer system (yes we know all about that at DA!!) and they now considered me a new patient.  I had a feeling it could not wait.  Anxious to get in with someone quickly, I pulled the list of physicians from my insurance company.  Low and behold, it was Dr. Forney that could get me in quickly.  THANK GOD!! Dr. Forney removed and biopsied that mole right away, and there it was, malignant melanoma; a life changing diagnosis.  I can’t imagine what would have happened if either: I had not gone to the doctor to have the mole checked OR If Dr. Forney had decided not to biopsy my mole that day The thought that if that mole had gone untreated that I WOULD HAVE DIED and left my newborn and my husband is really unbearable.  For something so treatable!!  Also, for someone who loves the outdoors and wanted to enjoy being outdoors with my new baby…I did not want to hear that I now needed to avoid being outside from 11am – 2pm!  I remember Dr. Forney saying that it was a good time to come in anyways…to take a break during that time, and that it would be a good habit for my child as well.  So we obliged. Dr. Forney and I got to know each other pretty well over the next few years, not over cocktails but over skin biopsies, surgeries and skin checks every 3 months!  Hence when I heard she was starting her own practice I knew I wanted to be a part of it, I knew at that point she was a great doctor and personJ. 12 years later I am still cancer free.  I have lots of scars from biopsies and surgeries but thankfully no more melanoma.  I wear sunscreen EVERY time I go outside.  Even in the car, even if it’s cloudy.  Anyone going outside with me is going to hear about if they don’t have sunscreen on…and I will hand them mine to share. Don’t get me started on the wrinkles and brown spots from all that sun damage too.  Luckily I can get Botox, and laser treatments and lots of great products to help combat the damage right at DA.   For me, Fraxel (dual wave) and IPL for brown spots have worked great, and for general appearance I love the Fraxel restore treatment.  And lastly, it did take me five years…from the time I started working for Dr. Forney but I am now on the bandwagon, I too am addicted to Botox.  The wrinkles on my forehead are now non-existent. My favorite sunscreen(s) are: Elta MD Aero spray SPF 45 for most of my body because it’s super easy to apply and has zinc so it’s effective right away (no waiting 30 minutes for it to work!).  My whole family uses this one. Smart Light Sunscreen spray SPF 50 for my hands and arms (especially while driving!) because it has antioxidants for anti-aging AND zinc. Elta Daily tinted SPF 40 for my face, it has zinc and hyaluronic acid that helps unclog my pores and gives me a more even tone. BTW all my faves are broad spectrum so they block all the bad rays. So….please don’t go to tanning beds, wear your sunscreen, and if you “see a spot, call your doc”.  Also, get regular checks, sometimes things that don’t look bad to you could be a problem…and, enjoy the outdoors, maybe just not between 11 and 2). As practice administrator, Linda is responsible for day-to-day operations.  She has a BBA in Finance and has been working at Dermatology Affiliates for 11 years. Linda is married with a son. She is also an Atlanta native, whose family has lived here for generations.  Linda enjoys her work. “I really like, admire and respect all of the staff and doctors I work with,” she says. When she isn’t working, Linda enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, biking and gardening.