Surviving Well: Sandy, Skin Cancer

As a Colorado native, Sandy Melnick loves spending time outdoors.Image

“I’ve always been very athletic,” she said. “My favorite sport is golf, and I also skied and played tennis. I grew up in sun. Back then, no one realized how bad it could be for you.”

About 10 years ago, Sandy noticed some odd markings on her leg. She was concerned, and went to see her dermatologist, who diagnosed her with squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.

Her primary dermatologist was able to treat her until the cancer spots started to become more complicated. Then, her doctor referred her to Dr. Karen Johnson, a skin cancer specialist.

“Dr. Johnson is great,” Sandy said. “She is so skilled at what she does and is really good about making you feel comfortable and at ease when you come to see her.”

Over the past several years, Sandy has had to undergo multiple Mohs micrographic surgeries to remove cancerous spots. The Mohs procedure removes the cancerous cells from the skin followed by a detailed mapping of the surrounding area. It pinpoints the cancer’s location and helps to protect the surrounding healthy tissue as much as possible.

“When you have the Mohs procedure, they remove layers of the skin and the cancer,” Sandy explains. “Then, you go and wait while they check the margins. If they don’t get enough, they go and remove a little bit more.”

Today, Sandy is vigilant with her skin checks and doctors appointments.

Image“I’m very good about doing regular body checks to make sure that I don’t have any new growths,” Sandy said. “As soon as I find one, I go in to see Dr. Johnson. Because we can usually catch it pretty fast, it makes the treatment process a little easier.”

Sandy says that she wishes she had known when she was younger how important sun protection is, and that now she takes precautions to stay out of the sun and wears sunscreen or longs sleeves and pants when she does go outdoors.

“It’s so important to use sunscreen and keep yourself covered up,” she said. “There are so many tools out there that are easy to use for prevention that I wish people were more aware of.”

Sandy also recommends regular checkups with a dermatologist.

“If you are exposed to the sun at all, which most Coloradoans are, it’s so important to go in for skin checks,” Sandy commented. “Find a dermatologist with a good reputation who can make recommendations on how often you need to have them done and knows what they should be looking for.”


The Rose “Surviving Well” calendar is a 12-month calendar highlighting our cancer services, physicians and inspirational stories from our patients. Sandy is our survivor for May.

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