The Skin I’m In

After I brought down the bike rack in the Boca Hawaii Lanikai Triathlon. I always do this little cup shower thing. Mahalo, Edna, for the photo.

After I brought down the bike rack in the Boca Hawaii Lanikai Triathlon. I always do this little cup shower thing. Mahalo, Edna, for the photo.
After I brought down the bike rack in the Boca Hawaii Lanikai Triathlon. I always do this little cup shower thing. Mahalo, Edna, for the photo.

I’ve been hesitant to share this because of the infamous Facebook happy birthday syndrome. I don’t want everyone to go OMYGOSH! If you were to think positive thoughts, pray to your holy entities, or burn a swatch of herbs and dance naked on sacred stones in the light of the full moon to signify to the universe that healing vibes should come my way, then please do. Use your bandwidth to save the world, OK?

I don’t know how long this mole had been behind my right knee, but about two months ago I noticed it. I was holding up my leg doing a stretch and felt it when I clasped my hands behind my knee. Hmmm, a bump. You know how it goes: I guess I better get this checked out. And then you forget about it. About three weeks ago I thought it looked bigger, so I went in for a full-body skin check. The dermatologist used the CO2 can to freeze some spots and the treatment of other strange things were postponed because of the mole that stole the show. A punch biopsy was taken and it was determined to be a 1.13mm melanoma. My dermatologist stitched it up nice. Then she referred me for surgery. On Tuesday the stitches came out. I have a scar about the size of a dime.

Surgery is Monday. The newly healed skin will be cut back open and then some. Am I full of dread? Not really. As you might guess, I’ve been reading a lot of stories about melanoma, lymph nodes, the stages of cancer, alkaline vs. acidic diets, baking soda cocktails and tales of survival.

After having met my Kaiser Permanente surgeon, I am completely confident in how things will go. A nuclear medicine doctor will inject a dye to determine which lymph nodes are involved; I’ll meet with the anesthesiologist and get poked for general anesthesia; I’ll get a cut that might look like this: <===O===> (that’s an eye shape, in case you don’t see it). The procedure will end with a skin graft from my other thigh. Why? The site is too close to the bend in my knee and my skin is too taut for it to be sewn back together without limiting the movement of my knee. I wonder if I’ll need crutches? Maybe I can convince them to take a piece off my butt, where there is a little spare skin. J/K. #Triathleteproblems. #Muscularlegs. #Smoothskin.

It won’t be for another two weeks until we know if melanoma is in the surrounding skin or lymph nodes. My surgeon said I have an amazing 92-percent chance that it’s all gone. Isn’t that great? If I fall into the 8-percent realm, I will be placed in a clinical trial and/or immunotherapy.

Life is on hold, and admittedly, I have cabin fever. Not being able to work out, ride my bike or go for a swim is kind of driving me crazy. I go to the Boca Hawaii studio on Tuesdays for the turbo bike training so I can hang out with my friends, encourage them and fill their water bottles. Sometimes I dance. They let me be the DJ.

School is out, so I’m not missing work. I look around and see things I really should take care of, but, instead I have to find a happy place, ignore the weeds and enjoy this summer before the total high school experience happens with both girls at Kaiser HS.

Dark moments come and go. But more often than not I don’t even think about it. I feel pretty good. It would be great to surf along at “pretty good” while all this is going on, white knuckling through the bumps, and coming out stronger at the end of the ride. Stronger and wiser.

If you see me, chances are I’m in cooling-arm sleeves and capris. I wear a hat. Pretty soon I’ll shop for bottoms and tops with UV protection for swimming and riding. I’ll be that woman in the North Shore Swim Series next year covered from head to ankle.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a peeling nose and sunburns every summer in New Jersey. Here in Hawaii, I’ve surfed and swam sloppily smeared with sunscreen. I am sure this has its roots in small-kid-time summers in just a swim team suit at the pool or the beach from dawn till dinner.

This always happened to others. If you are fair like I am, or if you worked on your tan ever, then you should get your skin checked. What if this were somewhere else, like on my scalp? Things can go undetected for so long. Are you scared yet?

By lavagal

Hawaii Kai wife and mom. Melanoma Stage 3a Cancer survivor. English Language Arts teacher, English Learners Coordinator, and Paraprofessional Tutor. Super sub teacher. Dormant triathlete. Road cyclist and Masters swimmer. Gardener. Mrs. Fixit. Random dancer. Music Curator. A teenager trapped in an aging body. Did you know 60 is the new 40? It is.


  1. I know too well what melanoma can do. Sending positive thoughts your way and hoping you they got every bit of that nasty stuff out of there!

  2. Paula….I just saw this…I am praying for strength for you and your family and all your loved ones..and there are many! You have and have ALWAYS had the BEST attitude to deal with whatever came or comes your way in life…I wish you didnt have to deal with any of it..but such is life I guess…Know that we all will be behind you and there for you in anyway we can be..I dont now exactly how you has to be scary…frustrating..and you will learn things that you wished you didnt have to..I also lived in a bathing suit at the pool from swim team practice at 830am until dinner time..My brothers were life guards on the beach…A tan was the thing to get.lotion wasnt a top priority until years later…You are living a HEALTHY life style..I watch how you cook, exercise, and laugh with your girls and hubby…Next month I am going into Philly to welcome and try to sneek a peek at our Pope…I will have your name written on a card to hold he bless you !! It will be a day I am devoting to YOU my friend!! YOU GOT THIS !!!!

  3. Thank you, Pam!! Isn’t it something? I go through a lot of emotions, and it may get rough before I recover, which I intend to do! Planning on giving my name to the most amazing Pope EVER? Priceless. Honored! Grateful. I am planning another blog entry now. There’s a lot on my mind!

  4. I will have my son take a picture of my mother and I holding YOUR NAME up to try and show thr Pope!! At the very least ..I will have your name with me the entire day…LOL..and I am not even sure I will ever get out of the city..listening to the news reports..BUT I promised my mother i woul take her..My Dad chickened out!! Haha..I will be praying for you daily..YOU GOT THIS Paula!!

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