'This was supposed to be my time': What it's like to be diagnosed with melanoma at 21

Megan DiDio. Image via Instagram.

Megan DiDio had just graduated college when she decided to visit her dermatologist to check out a mole on the left side of her face that had darkened.

The then 21-year-old was told by doctors that the mole “looked fine” but she decided to push for a biopsy. With a move across the country to Chicago to start her first job after graduation from the University of California, Davis, DiDio wanted to make sure everything was in place before beginning the next chapter of her life.

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“I definitely wore sunscreen the majority of the time I was outside,” she said in an interview with “Good Morning America.” “Being that I am pale and have red hair, my parents were always good about keeping me lathered up, but I did have (sun) burns as a kid growing up.”

Megan DiDio had just graduated college when she was diagnosed with skin cancer. Image via Facebook.

After a biopsy revealed the mole was benign for cancer, her dermatologist suggested they keep monitoring what she learned was called a deep penetrating nevus, a pigmented lesion that can mimic melanoma.

A few weeks later during the summer of 2018, DiDio received a phone call from her doctor informing her that what was originally dismissed as nothing was in fact, skin cancer.

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“I got the news and it was awful to say the least,” she recalled. “I had just graduated from college, moved to a new city -- this was supposed to be 'my time' to kind of start fresh and start my real life...and to know that this was a serious, life-threatening issue that I now had to deal with as a young adult was terrible."

The diagnosis came as a complete shock to DiDio, who had no family history of skin cancer. After undergoing surgery last September that left a scar on her face, she now visits her doctor for check-ups every three months.

Images courtesy Megan DiDio. Image via Good Morning America.

Now, in honour of May being Skin Cancer Awareness month, she hopes that by sharing her story more people will realize that developing skin cancer is possible regardless of your age.

"I just want people to know you need to get checked if you have any suspicions that something is changing on your body," DiDio said. "It was something as slight as the mole I had for my entire life changing colour. But that's happening to people all the time."

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According to the American Skin Cancer Organization, melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer that is “almost always” curable if detected early.

Practicing skin safety throughout the year and performing self exams to spot any new moles or changes to existing moles and growths. Asymmetrical, dark coloured moles, skin lesions that bleed, and scalloped edges of moles are all warning signs that something may be wrong.

Image via Getty Images.

People who have had blistering sunburns in early childhood are at an increased risk of developing melanoma, as well as people who live in places with increased sunlight such as Florida, Hawaii and Australia.

Limiting UV exposure by staying out of the sun, wearing sunscreen and avoiding tanning beds are also key factors to help minimize your chances of developing skin cancer.

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