Operated by Aclaris Therapeutics

Getting out of the shower one recent morning, I took a long look in the mirror. My brown scaly spots were multiplying. They used to stay obediently beneath my breasts. Ugly, but discreet. But now they’d escaped across my belly, made tracks across my upper chest and taken up residence around my shoulder blades.

My body looked like it belonged to someone else. Some warty old woman. When the brown scaly spots first appeared a few years ago, I assumed they were moles, like those on my dad. So I resigned myself at 40 to having this “situation” as I aged. At least I could cover them up with clothes. But now, looking speckled with summer looming, I had to face facts: I could no longer wear a bathing suit without those nasty growths poking out.

Then my husband put me in a panic. While giving me a back rub one morning, he told me a couple of my spots had irregular borders. “That’s a red flag, right?” he said. I froze. I realized I hadn’t inspected the ones in front of my body. I just sort of eyed them in their ugly totality. “Why haven’t you gotten these checked out?” he asked.

He was right. Why had I ignored them? The growths were irregular shapes and may even have darkened over the last year or so. I couldn’t be sure, since I hadn’t looked at them closely.

In a state of alarm, I began a Google search. When I read about moles and melanoma, my fear went bone-deep. All I could see was that my spots seemed to match the warning signs: the expanding sizes, the variations in color, the irregular borders.

I made a dermatologist appointment. While I waited for it, I found myself having new affection for my scaly torso. I’d get out of the shower, stand in front of the mirror and think, I just want to live. If I can just get these spots removed if they are melanoma, I’ll be so happy.

“They aren’t melanoma.” I can still feel the relief that I felt upon hearing these words as my dermatologist delivered a more reassuring diagnosis: seborrheic keratosis, or benign growths that are common as people age. My dermatologist removed many of them with cryosurgery, a procedure that freezes them off with liquid nitrogen. The treatment was painful, but I kept my mind focused on the clear skin that I wanted. It’s only been a couple of weeks since the growths fell off, but I have skin instead of scales. The areas are still pink, and I hope they’ll return to normal skin tone.

With my fear gone, I have the luxury of plain old vanity again. My dermatologist told me more growths will likely spring up. And I still have many brown scaly spots left to treat on my back and upper chest area. I know I’ll chase these middle-age menaces as long as they stalk me because I hate how they look. Plus, I don’t need one more hang-up about wearing a bathing suit!

I wanted to share my story so you can benefit from what I learned. I hope you get any skin growths checked out sooner than I did.

— Kelly F.