Three years ago, when Shonda Schilling was living in Pennsylvania, she noticed a strange-looking mole on her back. She knew that she needed to get it checked out but reasoned that even if it were skin cancer, it wouldn’t be that big a deal. She made halfhearted efforts to see a dermatologist but when both her appointments happened to be canceled, she didn’t reschedule. It just wasn’t a priority.
Finally, last year — when Schilling moved to Arizona with her husband, Curt, a professional baseball player, and their three children — her new family doctor insisted that she have the mole checked by a dermatologist. “I suspected that it was going to be skin cancer,” she says. “But I really had no idea what skin cancer meant.”
Schilling soon found out. The now-34-year-old mother was diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer and the one that’s fastest rising in incidence. She was told that her melanoma was Stage 2, and that she had a 95 percent chance of survival.
Her first surgery, which was in March 2001, successfully rid her of the first mole. Her doctors, however, found other moles they wanted to biopsy, and the removed 25 of them from her body. The disturbing news was that only one was not cancerous.
“Every time I’d get my body feeling good after surgery, I’d have to go under again,” she remembers. “My back now looks like I’ve been whipped and scarred.”