My journey started in 2012, I was advised that my hairdresser went on maternity leave when I tried to book an appointment, and so I had to find a new hairdresser. I ended up booking at a new salon. When I arrived for my appointment and within the first 5 minutes as the hairdresser was exploring and feeling my hair she said, “hmm, you have an odd looking mole back here”. She was very tactful, and did not provide any medical information or elude to what she thought it was. She began by asking open ended questions, ‘if I had anyone notice this before?’ ‘Was this a known birthmark?’ etc., I responded no to all. She then strongly encouraged me to speak to my doctor. It was a very non-threatening conversation, especially having not met before and barely knowing each other. It is so important to know just to point it out and not feel like you have to know everything. I felt that my hairdresser did not overstep her boundaries. She encouraged me to speak to my doctor. From there I was referred to a dermatologist, when I saw the dermatologist she performed a biopsy. The pathology report came back positive for melanoma. My treatment was surgery at Juravinski Hospital, and I was advised from the surgery the margins were clear. After receiving these results I was advised that there was nothing further in regards to treatment my health team felt I needed. The whole experience was surreal for me as I have never seen the mole due to the location (and not with a lack of trying) and so I have been on this journey not ever seeing the culprit. I had regular follow up for 4 years, late August 2016, CT showed a mass in my lungs, I had a further biopsy and testing and the surgeon shared it was a recurrence and the melanoma was BRAF +. I started treatment and these came with side effects so my health team adjusted treatment. I later developed a blockage in my bowel and needed emergency surgery. My oncologist then changed my immunotherapy, and we saw dramatic improvement. In March 2019 I was provided NED in my quarterly scans. Thanks to my hairdresser, it could have stayed there, grown and become a much larger problem but I know it would not have been investigated when it was, had my hairdresser not brought it to my attention.
Thanks to my hairdresser, it could have stayed there, grown and become a much larger problem
I would encourage all hairdressers to speak up, it can be a lifesaving conversation. It was for me! Say something, it does not need to be scary or medically driven information, just say what you see! I would encourage anyone who is seeing their hairstylist to share with them that you would like to know if they see or feel anything new or has changed.
In recognition of National Hairstylist Appreciation Day I would like to say, Thank You! Thank You! Thank you! Once my treatment was completed and scans came back NED we celebrated together. We see this journey as something we have gone through together. The salon has provided awareness training with staff and ensures clients are well supported and informed of skin cancer to share with their clients and I hope this encourages others across Canada to do the same.
Lastly, I would encourage everyone to not delay, if you see any changes or are advised of any suspicious moles call your doctor right away!