Skin Cancer Awareness Month


By Dale Fenwick

Abigail Schroeder Johnston and Scott Plakon are my heroes.  They have been sharing their difficult stories on Facebook and elsewhere. Their sharing has helped me better understand the effects of Metastatic Breast Cancer (aka Stage IV breast cancer) and Alzheimer’s Disease on the victims and their families.

Before I share my story, let me ask a question: When was the last time you saw your dermatologist?  If it has been more than a year, consider this…

My dermatologic story began six months when an old skin tag on my back decided, out of nowhere, to bleed a bit one night.  I had been trying to get my GP to remove it for a couple of years, but she didn’t think it was serious. It turns out she was right, but that was the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Solely because of scheduling convenience I decided to see my wife’s dermatologist rather than my GP. He said it probably was benign but would remove it and send it for testing. But near the skin tag were two moles that caught his attention.  He scraped them, and the biopsies came back, “significantly abnormal.”

That diagnosis resulted in two minor surgeries in December. In retrospect to call them, “surgeries” seems a bit much.  An hour in the doctor’s office. Local anesthetic.  Yes, two-inch-long scars.

At the next appointment, we discovered a “melanoma in-situ” on my left side. Another surgery. Another scar (this one three-inches long).  I am starting to look like a pirate.

A follow-up visit two weeks ago.  Four more scrape-biopsies, all on moles smaller than a pencil eraser.  The results came in a phone call late last Friday afternoon, “You have a Stage 2 Melanoma on the left side of your neck. We are referring you to one of the local cancer treatment centers.”

I spent much of the day trying to schedule my first oncology appointment.  Surprisingly difficult and frustrating.

Not sure what is next, but I am sure that God will use this for His Glory and to advance His Kingdom.

To that end, what was your answer to my question?  We are hoping and praying that God used that skin tag to motivate me to see a dermatologist before it was too late.  But His purpose might also be to motivate you to schedule a check-up.

Dale Fenwick is the founder and former Publisher of The Apopka Voice and a longtime resident of Apopka. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dale and his family as he battles Stage 2 Melanoma.


  1. Dale, prayers for healing and hope the cancer ends with these treatments. It has been awhile for me so thanks for the reminder. As a native Floridian who worshipped the sun with little or no protection, I am at risk.

  2. Dale, I know that this diagnosis of melanoma is extremely unnerving to you. I am praying for you that yours will be cured. Melanoma is more common than people realize. I have a referral, from my doctor, for a dermatologist visit, upon my dresser, that I have been talking about scheduling, but keep putting it off, but I keep hearing about melanoma, every time I decide to put off making an appointment and going in, to have a lesion checked out, that is on my outer thigh. I think that is trying to tell me something. I watched CBS This Morning, with Nora, and how as a part of the show, they had a dermatologist talking about skin cancers, and they had Nora lie down on a table, under a sheet, and the dermatologist examined Nora’s back, just as a part of the show, and they found a melanoma on Nora’s back, stage 2, I believe was what they said. The dermatologist stated she was not surprised at finding one on Nora, as she grew up in Texas, and was always out in the hot sun. That described me too, as I was always out in the sun, not Texas, of course, but used to love to sunbathe, boat out on the lakes, go to the beach, was always out walking around exercising in the hot sun, and got some very hideous sunburns in the past, that were so bad, I should have went to the ER, but didn’t, extremely painful sunburns! I have had some pretty dark tans in the past, as I am actually very fair skinned. My other doctor, I used to go to, was always looking at my face and chest area for skin cancers, and he removed a couple of them off of me, basal cell ones, so he said, with a q- tip and some liquid nitrogen. He took a scraping of one off my back, that he didn’t think looked right, and sent it off for a biopsy, but it came back negative. I don’t know…..I have been reading about melanoma, and it is scary to me. I guess I will go in, to see about this “abnormal lesion”, is what the doctor wrote on my referral. I am the one who showed it to her, like I told her, the lesion has been there forever, but it looks like to me, it has changed in appearance and color. I hope that I am just paranoid! I have never even been to a dermatologist, and I see this referral allows for 15 visits, OMG…. Take care Dale, and I am praying for you, I wish you the very best in your cancer treatment, and that it will be completely cured and gone forever from your body………I know several people that are constantly having skin cancers removed from them, it has become the norm for them, but I don’t know what types of skin cancer they have though.

  3. Regular doctor visits have gotten to the point with me, that I feel like a bovine being herded through the corral gates. It seems that where I go, they overbook too many patients, and are in too big of a hurry to head you up, and move you on out the door. This last doctor visit I had recently, the doctor ran a older married couple out of a room for me, to go into, which didn’t seem right, and then I sat in there waiting reading a magazine, and when she did come in to see me, she didn’t actually SEE me, she went over my blood work so darn fast, I had to question her about certain things, as it was just ridiculous how fast she went over the results, and she didn’t even do the normal routine examine such as say “ah” with the wooden tongue stick, look in my ears, listen to my heart while breathing in and out, look into my eyes, or have me lie back and push around on my stomach, like they do normally. This was a first for me, that I wasn’t even examined, at a doctor’s visit……I showed her this lesion on my leg, as she would have never seen it, as she looks at the computer screen, more than anything. Does anybody else have this happening on their regular visits to their doctors? I go in every 3 to 6 months, depending on when they want me to come back in…..??? I get the feeling that just as long as the patient’s “paperwork” looks impressive, and the patient’s record keeping is intact and up-to-date, that they feel their work is done, even if they don’t give you a glance over, in the mere 5 minutes or so you are in the room!

  4. But with a dermatologist visit, I worry about the other extreme, and that is they are probably going to look me completely over TOO MUCH….lol

  5. Since we are discussing melanoma, one other thing I heard discussed on tv, by an expert doctor researcher, can’t remember her name, was the fact that she stated, drinking white wine when out in the sun, like at the beach, around the pool, and such as those outside activities in the sun, will increase your likelihood of developing melanoma way more, than just doing the same in the sun activities without drinking white wine, or other alcohols. She stated red wine if okay, but not white wine. It was something about the chemical makeup within the white wine, that seems to encourage melanoma to form, with the in the sun activities….I had never heard this before. Something to consider for sure, whether it is proven to be true or not.


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