By Jen A. Miller
Survivor at Sea
A cancer survivor and her family set out to sail the world
By Jen A. Miller
In March 2007, she asked her doctor to look at a suspicious mole even though she was between annual exams. That’s when she learned that she, too, had melanoma.
Even though the margins of skin around the mole were clear of cancer after the doctor removed it, he still performed a needle biopsy to check Selkirk’s lymph nodes. They also were clear.
The cancer temporarily postponed her ambitions of returning to the sea. After the one-year mark, her doctors cleared her to go.
But first, she met with her cancer team to go over her plans, including her schedule for checkups and her options if she required health care at sea.
“As long as nothing came up that was more serious than stage I, my doctor felt that any doctor in the world was fine for treating me, but other than that, I would come back to Canada,” she says.
“I could be home with skin cancer,” she says, rather than at sea. “The precautions are pretty much the same.”
NOT COMPLETELY BENIGN
It turns out my instincts were correct. The mole I had removed was cancerous, but the margins were clear—which means no further treatment.
Not to nag—but if I had put off seeing the doctor for six months or a year (which is so easy to do), this would be a different post. I would be going home for cancer treatment. So get your skin checked. Annually.
—April 10, 2010
While in Mexico in April of this year, Selkirk noticed another change in a mole. She was between checkups but went to see a doctor anyway.
In Mexico, travelers have access to both public health care and a private, pay-as-you-go system. Selkirk opted for the latter.
“I had a 45-minute checkup with all the same equipment we use in Canada,” she says. Her doctor had been trained in skin cancer treatments in the U.S., and removed the mole. The only hitch: Getting the biopsy results took longer than usual because she was checked right before Easter weekend.
The entire bill came to $240.
(photo: Courtesy of Diane Selkirk and Evan Gatehouse)