I’ve got fair skin. I’ve have freckles and moles. I have always tried to be careful in the sun, but I recall quite a few bad sunburns in my childhood – my lower back that was missed in the smearing of gooey suncream or my shoulders that the ocean washed clean. It could be totally inaccurate remembering on my part, but for some reason my parents seemed fairly lax about the religious application of sunscreen. The reason I’m doubting it wasn’t just my memory is because mine was the mother who topless sunbathed, slathered in coconut oil, or baby oil (or butter if there was nothing else available) at every chance she got. Being half Italian + quarter Maori, she mustn’t have realised that her children inherited their father’s fairer skin and were therefore rather susceptible to vicious rays of that ball of fire in the sky! Uh oh!
And yet even with those memories vivid in my mind, there was a time in my early twenties when my longing to be brown overtook common sense, back when bottled fake tanning products were far less effective than those available today and when $2 tanning sessions at the sunbeds in Los Angeles were just too much to resist, when I frequented such establishments in efforts to become bronzed like every other 20-something in Hollywood! Fast forward ten years and find 30 year old Vanessa, getting her moles checked annually at a free clinic in Blockhouse Bay where a once-over appeased her conscience. Still, despite these good intentions, I always felt like I possibly should be doing something a little more concerted to ensure my skin health.
I had heard of MoleMap and often thought it a great idea to take things that step further, but I just didn’t get around to it. It sounded expensive and the thought of being naked in front of a stranger is never comfortable is it? According to research, it turns out most of you feel the same. It’s not easy to de-robe, we’re all in the same boat there. Maybe like me, you feel less comfortable in your skin as you age, a little saggy and baggy from childbirth? And beyond that, possibly because us Mamas generally put everyone else’s needs before our own it means we may not necessarily prioritise our health enough? Even though I am one of ‘you’, I find that knowledge frankly, quite crazy.
So let me tell you, I went to MoleMap last week. To get my moles mapped. For some reason I assumed I would be ‘mapped’ by a machine – some high tech scanner that would swivel around me making whirring noises as it took images of my moles. Turns out I had to get butt naked (actually my butt stayed in my underwear, but apart from that I was starkers) and stand in front of a lovely lady named Julie who pointed a fancy Nikon at my body and snapped picture after picture while I stood in awkward poses reminiscent of those you take when having a spray tan. Only thing about this process was that it left me no bronzed goddess, but it did get me one step closer to ensuring my skin health is being taken care of and that my future is bright.
Let’s be real honest. I want to be around for my kids (and grandkids!) for a good many years yet – I bet you do too – and this is one important step in ensuring I am. Getting checked for Melanoma and other skin cancers that can be quick to appear and ruthless if not contained early is important and I think it should be something we do for the benefit of ourselves, and our families.
I know the cost can seem prohibitive, but can I ask you a couple of questions?
Hands up if you have or would spend $400+ to get your eyebrows feather tattooed? Do you spend $50 a month getting your nails done? Put your hand up if you do or would spend $xxx on Botox to keep those pesky crows feet and frown lines at bay? $$$ on getting your lips filled? $$$ on a new dress at Moochi? An overpriced T-shirt at Superette? $500+ for a luxe handbag?
So why do we prioritise these things and overlook the ones that could actually save our lives?
I know it’s not comfortable getting undressed and standing in front of a stranger with no clothes on. But c’mon girls… you do it for a spray tan.
I can’t tell you how informative my session with Julie was. She made me feel at ease from the moment I walked into the Remuera Clinic and she answered my questions with certainty and a wealth of information. Did you know your hands are extremely vulnerable to skin cancers? Why? Because who puts sunblock on their hands? I know I don’t. I seem to rub down to my wrists and that’s it. But think about how exposed the backs of your hands are when you’re driving the kids allllll over town and beyond!
The MoleMap process is super straight forward. You have a quick chat, you de-robe behind a screen and put a gown on – reminded me of a hospital gown when I was having my babes. Then you stand and perform a series of poses exactly as you would when having a spray tan. Your consultant will take body shots and then instruct you to move to the next position. Once you have completed the range of poses, you will put the gown on again and sit. All the images taken are uploaded right there onto the screen in front of you and at this point your skin is more carefully examined. If there are any lesions or spots of concern, the consultant images this twice more with a very high powered camera. You can see your skin at 7 x and 50x the magnification which are the images used to track any changes your skin may make over time.
Julie wanted to closely photograph around eleven of my moles which caused me to become slightly concerned. Since she was taking closer images of these lesions, my over-active mind jumped to assuming she was recognising melanoma. Thankfully I her to clarify whether these were of concern at this point, which she assured me they weren’t, but explained that these were the ones that they would keep an eye on over time. These were the moles that would be sent off to a Dermatologist for further examination.
Did you know that my repeated sun-bed use makes me more susceptible to melanoma and the fact that I experienced actual sunburn as a child also increases my risk? Any sun damage makes you more likely to become at risk in later life which is why it’s SO VERY IMPORTANT to ensure you’re keeping your kids slip, slop, slapped! Prevention is the best defense!
MoleMap’s mission statement is simple:
“We want to give our customers complete peace of mind by achieving one of two outcomes – “Great, I know that I don’t have melanoma”, or “Thank goodness it was found early and can be treated!” – Adrian Bowling (CEO)
It’s been less than a week and today my report arrived. I received a text and an email to advise that my report was back and I could view my results online. I was a
little lot nervous as I logged into the online portal, but was pleasantly surprised to find all is well with my moles. My comprehensive report came with a recommendation that I visit again in another 12 months for a follow up and in the meantime to continue to keep an eye on any changes in my skin and moles, because it’s these changes (no matter how slight) that usually signify problems.
Did you know Bob Marley died of a melanoma on the bottom of his foot? Melanoma can strike any part of your body – not just those the most exposed to the sun. Another thing Julie made me aware of was to make sure that when you remove your toenail polish, it’s important to notice any discolouration or dark spots because this is another prime area for melanoma to appear. Not only can leaving your toenails free of polish be a chance to let them breathe every once in a while, but it’s a good chance to make sure you check them over carefully for change in characteristics.
Having had my skin mapped, I can’t recommend the MoleMap service highly enough. Even though I was getting my moles regularly checked, I feel like the MoleMap service was so much more comprehensive and thorough and for that reason I feel like the health of skin is now in better hands. I have such peace of mind knowing that my moles are all good at this point in time and that I’ve started my mapping process – taking it one step further than simply getting a once over by the naked eye. My eleven moles of interest are now loaded in to the MoleMap system and my profile will build over time. Every year when I re-check, I will have those same moles re-imaged and a side by side comparison will be catalogued on screen in front of me and kept on file.
There are two options with the MoleMap service – either the MoleMap Skin Check or the Full Body MoleMap. You can read more about the included features with each service and the price of each here.
There are clinics all over NZ as well as Australia and the USA.
Make your skin health a priority Mamas. I implore you!
* this post was made possible thanks to MoleMap