It all started with a red bump. An ugly red bump.
“I kind of just had it removed just because it was kind of ugly and I didn’t want it there but I didn’t think anything of it,” Krista Easom says.
All that changed when the biopsy results came back. The bump turned out to be melanoma. At first, doctors diagnosed Easom as stage 1 but after finding the cancer spread to her lymph nodes, they bumped her up to stage 3a.
“I just basically was in shock,” she says. “You know, you go to the beach. You want to get color and you just never thing that anything is going to happen.
Easom underwent surgery at Northwestern Medicine to have the lymph nodes in her leg removed. Doctors performed a new, less-invasive surgery. Rather than making a large incision, they were able to make three small half-inch incisions and, using a small, laparoscopic camera, removed the affected lymph nodes. Chemotherapy followed and today, Easom is cancer free.
Easom’s doctor, Jeffrey Wayne, says it’s important for people to pay attention these risk factors:
- Family history of skin cancer or pancreatic cancer
- High-dose, episodic sun exposure, especially as a child
- Light complexion, fair skin, light or red hair
“If we can diagnose these things early and get people, you know, treated with smaller operations, that makes a lot more sense than having to unfortunately deliver bad news to relatively young people and then fight that uphill battle against biology,” he says.
Easom says she learned a valuable lesson she hopes she can pass on to others.
“In all honesty, your health is more important than the way you look,” she says. “… Now I just realize I guess that your health is the most important thing that you have and you can’t take it for granted.