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Is there an Ugly Duckling on your back?

Two ugly ducklings on my back.

Two ugly ducklings on my back.

When was the last time you looked at your back? I know you can see your face and your arms. You can  probably see the back of your legs. You would notice if a mole started to change.

I look at my skin regularly, ever since I found a cancerous mole on the back of my left leg last year. I had forgotten to look at my back.

Last week I was at the dermatologists getting my six month annual check up. The doctor was looking for moles that didn’t pass their ABC’s.

The ABC Rule Test

Each letter represents an abnormal characteristic.

Asymmetry: In skin cancer, spots are not the same on both sides.
Border: The edges of an irregular mole are uneven, or blurry.
Color: Normal moles have a uniform color.  Abnormal moles have more than one color or shade, or are darker than the rest.
Diameter: A mole that is larger than 1/4 inch is considered abnormal.
Evolving: Refers to any changes in a moles symmetry, borders or colors.

The Mayo Clinic has photographs of cancerous moles here.

While I waited for the doctor,  in my blue cotton gown that opened in the back, I took photographs of my back with my camera. There were two ugly ducklings on my back. The borders were regular, but the color was darker than the other moles on my back.

The doctor  removed two Ugly Ducklings from my back, and one Ugly Duckling  from the back of my right leg.

Three moles in a three jars.

The nurse called yesterday to tell me the biopsy results.

One mole on my back was normal. The other mole on my back and on my leg were Moderately Abnormal. The moles weren’t cancerous, but the cells in the mole were starting to go rogue. The cells were starting to behave abnormally.

The dermatologist recommended I schedule surgery to remove more of the skin, a small excision with stitches. The remaining cells may continue to change hidden from sight. The skin needs to be cut out to get clear margins.

I had melanoma last year on the back of my left leg. The scar has healed.

The fear of skin cancer has not gone away.

I am a potato.

The bad parts are gouged out.

I am a rag doll.

I am taken apart and stitched back together.

Thursday March 21st, 2013 at 11:15a.m. I will be a potato. The bad parts will be cut out. I will be a rag doll and get stitched back together. The black stitches will pull the skin and pucker it.

Please look at your skin. You may have an ugly duckling.

Look at your skin for any moles that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, are not uniform in color, are larger than 1/4 inch, or are evolving.

Finding and removing an Ugly Ducking could save your life.

At least once a year you should stand in a board-certified dermatologist’s examination room in a cotton robe that opens in the back, and get your moles and skin looked at. Especially if  you tan or have changing moles.

Will you look at your skin today?  If you find something, please make an appointment with your doctor. 





About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • Johanna

    It’s so important to get your skin checked regularly. I hope you are healing well Pamela. I also had a wide excision of a mole on my back and have just had the stitches out. I was one of those who thought it could never happen to me. The scar will eventually be smaller than the implication of what it was and the fact that i must now be extra vigillant. I wrote about it last week on my blog Zigazag.

    • I read your post about melanoma. Thank you for suggesting it to me. I had melanoma last year and wrote several stories about it. If you search Skin cancer on my blog, you will find several stories. All the best to you. I am happy to have met you. 🙂

  • Margaret Simon

    Thanks for the information and for your bravery. Sending prayers for Thursday. My mother-in-law has had quite a few ugly ducklings on her face. It’s good to keep an eye on things.

    • Thank you for your prayers Margaret. Thursday’s surgery went well. All cut out and stitched up. Now to heal.

  • Kathleen Gillis

    Great post, great photo. My sister had melanoma in her iris when she was in her 20s- 30 years ago. I’ve been very aware of my eyes and the skin on my body that I can see, but I admit I’ve not paid the same attention to the skin I don’t see…

    • Thank you Kathleen. I hope you never get an ugly duckling on your skin and that your sister doesn’t get any as well. Did you look at your back yet?

  • c c

    It is so good to see your face Pamela! I have never had a Dr. look at my skin, I did click your link to view the cancers moles. Now those look harmful to me, but your “little ugly ducklings” looks harmless. I would have had no idea. My friend had melanoma on her face and had to have plastic surgery after removing the cancer and mal-forming her nose. Thank you for sharing this info and personal story. I think I should ask for a skin once-over next time I’m at the docs!

    • Yes, ask your doctor to look at your skin. They are trained to know what to look for. I have been looking at those ugly canerous pictures for years, and last year one of my moles matching a picture. It was naughty, but I was ready.

  • Terje

    You write about an important issue, not spoken often enough. Wishing you the best for Thursday.
    I go to digital dermatoscopy every year. The moles on my body are mapped on a computer, so any changes are clearly visible.
    I like your red avatar, but the switch to the pic was good. I think the picture with a wide smile is beautiful.

    • Thank you Terje for you kind words. The surgery went well. Not too uncomfortable. I am happy you get your skin looked at every year. It is so wise to watch carefully.

      • Terje

        I’m glad to hear that surgery went well.

  • I have moles removed regularly even though none have ever come out cancerous. I’m thankful you were able to catch those ugly ducklings.

  • I do have an itchy bleeding spot on my back too! My doctor is insanely thorough though. She is letting me space to 6 months now from 4, so making progress. Funny thing Pamela, she is concerned that I am so laid back about it. She worries I’m not being honest with her about fear. I just don’t have any. She reminds me that malignant melanoma is serious, and I said “but you got it all, right?” I am actually becoming more aware of why I should be concerned from You sharing. Go figure! Thanks friend, much love to you

    • Christa, get to the doctor. Bleeding is bad. Good you don’t have fear. Concern is good. Love to you too Christa.

  • Emily Brown

    Thanks so much for sharing this. My dad has had skin cancer twice, and luckily neither time was melanoma. Still, he is scarred greatly from it and the biggest advocate of sunscreen and covering up. Skin cancer is one of those things that many people overlook, until it’s too late. You are right…we can’t see our backs and oftentimes we don’t feel it coming. Thanks for looking out for yourself, and others. Good luck tomorrow!

    • Thank you Emily. I hope the Ugly Ducklings never visit you.

  • Great reminder… I have an appointment to make.

  • My dermatologist (whom my husband and I affectionately call “Dr. Whack-a-Mole”) checks my moles every 3-6 months and compares them to a bunch of photos from a few years ago to see if anything’s changed. Every time I go, I have to have another one removed (thus the nickname). As uncomfortable as it is, I am so, so grateful for him and his expertise. I take stitches and scars over skin cancer any day of the week. Thanks for this, Pamela.

    • You are welcome Brianna. And, yes I would take stitches and scars over skin cancer any day of the week.

  • Pamela,
    Thanks for an informative blog shared out of concern for others. Glad you are getting rid of your ugly ducklings, and as far as being a rag doll. You are a loved rag doll. And that’s pretty special. 🙂

  • OK, you convinced me. I will make an appointment.

    • I am glad, delighted, and relieved you are making an appointment. Ugly Ducklings really need to go,