Vernon’s Ashley Gregerson, now 25, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma at 23. (Contributed)

Young Vernon melanoma survivor speaks out about sun danger

World Melanoma Day is recognized every May to highlight the growing prevalence of malignant melanoma.

Two years ago, when Ashley Gregerson was 23, she was diagnosed with an invasive form of skin cancer.

During the August long weekend, she was laying outside with a friend, and trying to soak up the last bit of summer by getting a sun tan.

“My friend noticed a mole on my back that was a bit different than the others — I have a good amount of moles — but this one was just darker than my other ones and it was raised and looked rectangular. Even though she had pointed it out, I didn’t think about it for a few months,” said Gregerson of Vernon.

As an afterthought, she casually brought it up at a doctors appointment.

“He looked at it and right away, he told me it was really bad.”

The following week, she booked an appointment to have it biopsied. Soon, the results came back: malignant melanoma, a type of skin cancer that can spread quickly.

“I went to the surgeon and I was told that it was really, really serious, especially for someone my age, and that there was a chance that it could have spread to other places. So they needed to take out a lymph node under each arm, and do a wide 10 inch local excision surgery on my back.”

When melanoma starts to spread, it often travels to a lymph node near the melanoma first. Having a sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) can tell whether cancer cells have spread to a nearby lymph node. While Gregerson’s lymph nodes came back negative, her back incision indicated that the cancer had begun spreading. She was then referred to the B.C. Cancer Clinic, where a dermatologist told her she had about 10 years left.

“Thankfully, a few tests were rerun, and it’s now looking like a much better prognosis — about a 97 per cent chance of survival now,” she said.

Now, having reached remission, she is speaking out with her story in the hopes to spread awareness and warn others against the negative effects of sun damage.

“I was really lucky and I think it’s important to share just how serious it can be. The weather is getting hotter, and people love to go out and tan so I just want to share how important it is to know the dangers of that,” said the now 25-year-old.

“There’s no such thing as a healthy glow. A tan is just a protective reaction to an injury so I just think that’s important to try to kind of dispel that myth. It’s also such a dangerous way to get vitamin D when you can get it through food or supplements.”

Since being diagnosed, she said she’s simply adjusted the way she interacts with the sun by making the necessary changes to prevent any further damage.

“I still go outside, I still go to the beach, I still go hiking,” Gregerson said. “I’m just more careful about it now because I know the risks and I think there’s just not enough awareness about the dangers behind it so that’s a main reason I want to share my experience in an effort to get across the importance of being safe in the sun.”

May is skin cancer awareness month. World Melanoma Day is recognized on the second Monday of May around the world to highlight the growing prevalence of malignant melanoma.

Related: A Lake Country mother pushes for Melanoma awareness, after the death of her son

Related: Okanagan doctor warns against tanning as skin cancer rates rise

To report a typo, email:
newstips@vernonmorningstar.com
.



Follow me on Twitter @BrieChar
Email me brieanna.charlebois@vernonmorningstar.com
Like us on Facebook.

Just Posted

Lumby grads celebrate

Charles Bloom Secondary’s class of 2019

College investigates Vernon physiotherapist

Stephen Witvoet’s matters are currently before the courts

Thousands soak up Downtown Vernon Sunshine Festival

One-day annual event a hit with residents and visitors

Still room for golfers in KidSport tournament

Inaugural KidSport Greater Vernon Golf Tournament goes Thursday at Vernon Golf and Country Club

Arrested suspect connected to string of North Okanagan robberies

Man arrested after failed robbery at Enderby store may be involved in four other such crimes

Murray McLauchlan delights Vernon crowd

Canadian music icon puts on wonderful two-hour show at Performing Arts Centre

Rose Valley Rd. fire in West Kelowna has now been extinguished

West Kelowna Fire Chief says first two grass fires Tuesday were human caused

Life’s work of talented Shuswap sculptor leads to leukemia

Former Salmon Arm resident warns of dangers of chemical contact

Shuswap car dealership seeks return of unique stolen Jeep

The red 1989 four-by-four was taken from Salmon Arm GM’s lot early Monday morning.

Horgan says he’ll still defend B.C. coast after second Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, one B.C. First Nation has announced plans for a legal challenge

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

MPs hear retired South Okanagan nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

Hergott: Contribution and Expectation of a will

Lawyer Paul Hergott continues his column on wills

Most Read