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'No suntan was ever worth this' -- Mom from Drums shares lifesaving summer message

Lather up, with SPF that is. It's the message from a mom of three from Luzerne County who learned the hard way after being diagnosed with skin cancer.

After spending a lot of time indoors this spring because of the pandemic, many people are anxious to get outside and soak up some sun.

Social distancing is still important when you head outside this summer, but the threat of catching coronavirus is not the only thing we have to be concerned about. 

WNEP's StormTracker 16 Team reports that the sun is most intense during May, June, and July, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. 

It's because of those facts that a mom from Luzerne County is sharing her story hoping people lather up, something she learned to the hard way.  

Newswatch 16's Ryan Leckey shared the story of Susan Pecora from Drums on Wednesday. 

"Protect your skin. You know, I did not know anything about melanoma at all prior to this. What I know now is that there was no suntan that I had my whole life that's worth what I will continue to go through the rest of my life."

Susan Pecora is a skin cancer survivor. The mother of three from Drums was diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer in 2016. 

Dr. Christine Cabell is a dermatologist at Geisinger's Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Luzerne County. She's also Susan's friend. Dr. Cabell noticed something unusual about the mole on Susan's knee.

"She had a lot of red around the spot. It was kind of pink," Dr. Cabell said. 

A biopsy showed that Susan's pink mole was cancerous, and the cancer had spread. 

Now, years later, it's a diagnosis Susan has learned to live with. 

Susan wished she had gotten the mole on her knee checked out sooner. 

"Had I paid closer attention to my body and addressed it when I first noticed the change, it's a good likelihood that it would have been caught earlier. It may have still been melanoma, but it probably would not have metastasized and gone internally," Pecora said. 

Dr. Cabell says even during this pandemic, it's still a good idea to get a suspicious mark or spot on your skin checked out, even if you lost your health insurance or job during the pandemic. 

"I would say, go ahead and give us a call. Quite often, I will see someone who's between jobs or lost their job or doesn't have insurance. We still see them. We still provide the best medical care we can," Dr. Cabell said. 

As for Susan, the mother of three never used to wear sunscreen. Now, she hopes to convince everyone to "lather up" before heading out:

Dr. Cabell recommends a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above and encourages people to find one that works best for them and that they'll use regularly. Many face moisturizers and makeups now have SPF in them, which is an easier way to make sure you're wearing sunscreen rather than using something that's greasy and something you won't feel like putting on. 

By the way, Susan is not only Dr. Cabell's patient. The two women are also good friends who have both have convinced their children to be safe in the sun.

A surprising fact about melanoma:

Dr. Cabell shared with Newswatch 16 that younger people seem to get melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, more often than older folks. Learn more at this link.

Need to see a dermatologist and don't have insurance?

Here's what Geisinger shared with Newswatch 16: 

"If you have concerns about insurance coverage or paying for a procedure, our Geisinger Trusted Advisor program is the best option. Call 855-849-1510 or visit our billing services website for assistance. A patient's financial circumstances will not affect care. All patients are treated with respect and fairness."

If you're not heading to a Geisinger facility, you can always contact the healthcare provider ahead of time to ask about options.

More skin cancer resources:

Head here to be connected to the Skin Cancer Foundation.