Sometimes the hero of the story is the one who keeps an eye on your skin and pushes you to see a dermatologist.
By Jeff Rossen
I was diagnosed with melanoma, and like too many people do, I ignored it longer than I should have. It was 2012 when my wife, Danielle, noticed a tiny brown mark near my belly button. She told me I should get it checked out. Problem is, I’m stubborn. “Oh, give me a break,” I told her. “It’s fine. I don’t have time to see a dermatologist. It doesn’t look that bad.”
I was busy. I had been at NBC since 2008 but had recently been named a national investigative correspondent, and my “Rossen Reports” segments appeared on the Today show as well as the Nightly News and Dateline. Plus, we had three little kiddos (Skyler, Sloane and Blake are now 14, 10 and 8). But you know what Danielle said? “If you were on TV right now, you’d be telling someone to get this checked, so why won’t you take care of yourself?” Good question.
I promised Danielle I’d keep an eye on my little spot — and I did. I didn’t see much of a change, until one day, about two months after my wife’s first plea, I remember coming out of the shower, catching a glimpse of myself while toweling off and freaking out. The spot had become bigger. And darker.
So, finally, I gave in. I saw a dermatologist, who removed the spot and sent it to a lab for analysis. I was shocked when he told me it was a melanoma. Then my doctor had to surgically cut deeper in order to get a clean reading with no cancerous cells on the margin of the tissue. Despite that, I was very lucky that my tumor was still in the very early stage where I only needed surgery. If Danielle hadn’t convinced me to keep an eye on my skin, I might have been stage III or IV before being diagnosed.
“The reason my melanoma wasn’t stage III or IV is because of my wife. You need to take care of your partner.”
Too many people think that skin cancer is “the good kind of cancer.” What they don’t realize is that a skin cancer diagnosis changes you. The emotional, physical and monetary costs can be high, especially if the cancer has been ignored and allowed to grow. That’s why early detection is the key.
During my years on TV (now as chief national consumer correspondent for Hearst Television), I’ve crisscrossed the country to research the surprising ways our luck can turn on a dime, how to respond in every kind of emergency and how to sniff out hidden dangers. That’s why The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Big See® early detection campaign resonates with me. Just look for anything new, changing or unusual on your skin — or on your partner’s skin, like Danielle did with me. If it doesn’t seem right to you, it probably isn’t, so don’t make excuses. Get it checked out. I’m pretty sure listening to my wife saved my life.