I was planning to publish these articles at a quicker pace than this. But I had my own wakeup call while doing some research. In late May, I came across a news story about Miss Illinois’ experience with melanoma. I referenced it in my last article. The link is at the bottom of this post. I may have referenced it but I did not read the whole article. I couldn’t. Instead, I hit the panic button. I looked down at that same black stripe down my thumb nail she described in her story and the room started to spin. “I’m not going to end up like my mother”, I said to myself.
I first noticed it maybe six or eight months ago, and thought I jammed my thumb somewhere, then brushed it off. I hardly ever cover my nails with polish so it would stare at me while I was filing, buffing or even treating a patient. And a few of those times a fleeting, sick feeling passed over me. Maybe I should have someone look at it. I had no other similar marks on any other nail including my toe nails.
(Enter Melanie, the person, not the doctor.)
I immersed myself in work and life until that moment when I was forced to face it. I have a history of cancer in my family. And I, like many of you reading this, endure stress, some days more intensely than others. Being a doctor and knowing enough about health and disease, can be counterproductive in these personal situations. There were moments when I tried to plead ignorance, but that didn’t work. What would my patients say? So I asked three friends, (two chiropractors and one naturopath) if they think I should get this checked. They suggested it of course without giving me details from any online searches. I didn’t want any.
(I can’t be my own doctor here.)
The last thing I wanted to do was drive myself sick with panic from all night internet binges. Another medical doctor I met online urged me to get to a dermatologist ASAP and get that biopsied after I sent him some photos (one of them pictured here).
I froze. I always had a plan in case I ever had to face the big “C”, but not a well-defined one (until now). I think I was more afraid of a biopsy than the disease. A biopsy involves a deep cut through the nail bed into the tissue, therefore a risk of hematogenous spread (via blood circulation) of any existing cancer cells. My personal experience with this was my mother’s cancer over nineteen years ago. I always suspected the biopsy or the subsequent lumpectomy from her breast, led to the spread to her lungs two years later. She died of secondary lung cancer, primary unknown, at the young age of 55.
So, I had two weeks before the dermatology appointment to define my game plan and act when the doctor fires the biopsy shot gun at the starting line. I intensified immune protocol which involved high dose supplements, IV infusion (Meyers cocktail) and started modifying my diet to be almost vegetarian (that’s a hard one for me), juicing and exercised stronger meditation practices, prayer and positivity.
I ordered an extensive lab panel praying the results would come in before the dermatology appointment. This way if certain markers were elevated I would be more prepared for the “we need to do a biopsy speech”. Some of my friends told me not to invite the thought of cancer into my mind. Really? It’s like saying “don’t think of an elephant”.
(This realist was getting ready for the fight of her life, even if there may be no opponent in the ring!)
Life became even more precious. The things that irritated me or consumed my energy all of a sudden had no space in my brain and very little value in my life. The blessings in my life were even bigger, and I identified several more blessings, some included the painful lessons and experiences.
I found myself secretly checking fingernails of my chiropractic patients. In functional medicine consults I enforced the zero tolerance for nail polish so I can assess and identify any potential concerns for immediate referral. I’m not a medical doctor, but we chiropractors are trained to identify suspicious lesions and refer out to appropriate medical professionals. In functional and Ayurvedic medicine we look for certain qualities and characteristics in your nails to help pull the story of your internal health together. That’s coming up in the next article.
My lab results didn’t arrive prior to the dermatology appointment. But his evaluation would be the definitive one.
Longitudinal Melanonychia= a lengthwise brown or black pigmentation of the finger or toe nail, due to melanin within the nail plate. It is often benign, arising from a mole of freckle and apparently more common in dark skinned, people over the age of 40 (Yup, I fit this profile). The most concerning cause of melanonychia is subungal melanoma (Bob Marley’s cancer aggressively spread to his brain and lungs from the melanoma under his toe nail. He died at 36 years old.)
Glenn Zellmann, MD of Arizona Dermatology in Paradise Valley, diagnosed that thing with 100% certainty as soon as looked at it. “Oh! It’s just a mole!” (aka Longitudinal Melanonychia). If you have ever been in this type of situation you could understand the relief and the emotional release to hear those words. So, I’m ok for now. It is still something to be watched but not obsessively, accordingly to Dr. Z. I got a hall pass.
I wrote this article not to raise panic but raise awareness. I never really get this personal but this particular experience is one I need to share with my readers. I strongly encourage you to be aware and listen to your body but also look at it too. Continual cosmetic cover ups such as nail polishes will mask any signs coming from your nails.
Here’s the reality:
The signs and symptoms of many diseases are silent.
Cancer cells proliferate happily and aggressively in the presence of sugar. (There are many hidden sources of sugar – including breads and cereals)
A family history of ANY type of cancer is to be strongly taken into consideration, however, how you live your life: what you eat, do and think can suppress the bad genes and express the good ones. This is called epigenetics.
About Melanoma :
This is the deadliest form of skin cancer. According to the Melanoma Research Alliance, it commonly affects young women under 35. (Tanning beds increase the risk of melanoma by 75% in young women). It is the #1 most diagnosed cancer in 25-29 year olds in the United States. An estimated 91,270 people in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with new melanomas. For more facts and statistics, see the article in the reference section below.
This cancer can show up in the most unusual places on your body, including a nail bed. From the nail, it typically extends past your cuticle into the skin. Mine doesn’t but it still needed a medical evaluation and still should be watched.
If you have a suspicious mark on your nails or anywhere else on your body, please get it checked right away.
If you frequent nail salons it’s absolutely important you educate yourself with the risks of toxicity from the nail treatments. Please read my last article for the details HERE
In the last blog article I shared my experience with a nail enhancement called SNS Dipping Powder, the so-called “better for you” organic nail treatment. It’s been four months since the glue was removed and only two weeks of nail therapy and my nails are now just getting back to normal . I will share with you how I treated them without any toxic substances in a future article.
My Toxic Manicure Experience Was Also A Gift.
It also led me to that article, which forced me to wake up. And it’s readjusted my course a little for the better and heightened my awareness when I evaluate my own patients.
It’s never fun to have a health scare sabotage your thoughts while you try to stay focused and composed in front of others in your daily life. But this experience has reminded me to stop, breathe, balance and not take my perceived health for granted. When I do decide to decorate my nails it will be with safer, less toxic polish. I will be posting recommendations on this blog once I finish evaluating products! Current updates and photos of my nail rehab journey are posted on Facebook and Instagram under @drmelanied
I still doing the same things I started last month. I plan to continue IV infusions for my immune system, stay adjusted chiropractically, self love and self care. At the end of all this, I am much less afraid of death and more excited about life.
The Cure is in the Prevention. The Prevention is the Cure…..something to live by.
Thank you for reading this one.
Coming Soon from the Hair Skin & Nails Series:
What Your Nails Say About Your Health (Including an Ayurvedic Interpretation)
My Protocol for Stronger, Healthy Nails (And How to Rehab them from Manicure Damage- How I did it myself in just a few weeks)