SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – She is alive because she followed her intuition. A four-time skin cancer survivor is living proof that doctors do not always know best.
Sitting in the shade with Good 4 Utah’s Ali Monsen, Wednesday, 46 year-old Marsha Fish rolled up her pants to reveal a deep scar.
“It was much deeper than this. [Before,] it went right to the bone,” Fish explained.
The skin cancer wound of 12-plus years is the first of as many as 10 more on her back, limbs, hand, and all over her body.
“I’m proud of my scars. I’m proud that I’m alive,” she said.
Fish says she is also proud of herself for following her intuition that told her to insist on a biopsy, when her doctor back in Australia told her the small mole on her leg was nothing.
“My gut would not let it go,” she recalled.
Turns out, her gut was right.
Fish had the cancer removed, and just two years after going through skin grafts and treatment the first time, the young mom of two realized her fight would be lifelong. From surgeries to radiation, Fish has had it all.
“That’s why it’s important to see a specialist,” she reiterated.
Dr. Keith Duffy is one of those specialists. He stays busy helping patients like Fish every day.
“Looking at melanoma rates specifically, Utah is number one…” Duffy said. “We are very high, we have 270+ days of sunshine every year, and our population is mainly caucasian — mainly white,” he explained.
The University of Utah Mohs Surgeon says while lighter skin is certainly a risk factor, the at-risk populations in most danger are those with olive skins — who tan well and often assume they are immune.
“They really do feel like they have this sense of protection, but in reality, you don’t… No matter how much you darken, every time your skin sees the sun, you’re doing UV and DNA damage,” Duffy said.
This time of the year especially, Duffy says vigilance is key — and instructs patients to use his ‘Sunscreen Rules of Two.’
“Put on twice as much sunscreen as you think you need, because studies have shown that, and then you have to apply every two hours for it to be effective,” he explained.
Recent studies are also showing that a lot of sunscreens have significantly less SPF levels in them than what they say on the bottle. Experts say that is why you should always buy sunscreen with a higher SPF listed than what you think you need.
Also, watch moles for the ‘ABCDE‘ warning signs of skin cancer, and if anything looks suspicious, “get it seen to straight away, and don’t wait,” Fish says.
It has now been about two years since Fish had her last melanoma removed. She says she will spend the rest of her life educating others and self-screening her moles on a weekly basis.