I've had a birthmark just above my right ankle for as long as I can remember. But earlier this summer, I noticed it had changed shape. There were now multiple circles inside the spot, and one of the edges was cloudy. For the first time, I could also feel the birthmark. I could feel it growing; it was a weird sensation that I’m not sure how to describe.

foot-image-1 Courtesy of subject

I already had a meeting scheduled on July 13 with a dermatologist to test a custom skin serum for my work. At that visit, the doctor pulled out a small device and started analyzing sections of my bare skin. While he was looking at a freckle on my lip, my husband, who came with me, pointed out the spot on my ankle. The dermatologist took a look and immediately said I should have it biopsied.

I won’t lie, I was nervous about the biopsy. I was scared of what the results might be. Somehow, I just knew they were not going to be positive. I went back to the same dermatologist on July 27. First he did a full-body scan of my skin from head to toe, making sure there was no other potentially dangerous spots. He did a visual exam without any instruments and then if anything concerned him, he'd view it more thoroughly through a handheld device.

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Matt dug through photos to find one of my melanoma and INSISTED I share this with you so… happy Saturday 🤷🏼‍♀️ I think this is the only time he’s given me an idea for an Instagram post in the last 5 years… 🤔 It’s from our honeymoon in Bali and if you zoom in on my ankle, you can see how tiny it was! So crazy that that little spot is now a half leg “cast” (see a few pics back if you miss that #reallife couch shot) 😊 and has made the last month feel like a whirlwind of emotion! 🙄❤️

A post shared by Jenna | Visions of Vogue (@jennacolgrove) on Aug 24, 2019 at 7:01am PDT

For the biopsy itself, he had me lie flat on a table, then numbed the birthmark and cut it out of my skin. The procedure was quick, but my leg looked like a miniature shark had taken a bite out of it.


When I received the bad news about a week after the biopsy, I was shocked. I had melanoma, the least common yet most dangerous of the three forms of skin cancer. A telltale sign of melanoma is a mark or spot that has changed color or shape, just as my birthmark had. (Melanomas can also look like a bruise that doesn't heal or a dark streak under a finger or toenail, or simply be a spot that looks unusual or weird.) 

The doctor called me himself to tell me, and he asked if I had any questions. I was at work and managed to ask a few things, but I could barely formulate a thought. My worst fear had come true.

I texted my husband simply, “it was melanoma” right after the call. He came to my workplace immediately to make sure I was okay, and from there he took the lead on all the doctor calls and follow-ups, asking questions when I couldn’t. We set up an appointment a week later to have the melanoma removed by a surgical oncologist.

foot-image-2 Courtesy of subject

When we went to the oncologist's office for the consultation, the doctor was able to calm some of my anxieties. My spot was superficial spreading; it wasn’t very deep under the skin. The melanoma was also stage one, which is much more curable than a later stage. The margins had been clear on my biopsy, meaning they had likely removed the cancer with the original cut. However, standard procedure requires they remove a centimeter-long base around each edge, so we would still go through with the surgery.


Looking back, I felt so unsure of everything: when I would get an appointment, when I would have surgery, when I would be cancer-free. Every day felt like a year passing by, and there was so much waiting. Waiting for the biopsy results, waiting for the consultation, waiting for the surgery. I know these doctors are helping so many others, but man, it’s hard when it’s you.

Finally surgery day came. I was sedated, but I later found out that it went smoothly. The surgeon took a 5-inch piece of skin from my upper thigh near my groin and grafted it onto my ankle, to cover the skin that was cut out to make sure all of the melanoma was gone.

leg-image-1 Courtesy of subject

Now that the surgery is over, I mainly feel frustrated. I’m usually a very active person, and now I can’t move by myself. I’m on crutches, I can’t go to work, and I’ve been in my apartment for the last four days straight. There’s some pain on my ankle where the spot was and on the site for my skin graft, but at least I've been able to stop taking the pain medications. (I don’t like the drowsiness or the risks that come with taking long-term narcotics.)

I have bandages wrapped around the surgery site, and I'm just hoping things are healing. I’ll go back in to see the surgical oncologist and the plastic surgeon in about a week to find out. Once I'm pronounced cancer-free and the skin has healed, I will need to see the dermatologist for a skin check every three months for the next two years, and then every six months for two years. After that, I'll only go  once every year.

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I’m aliveeeee 👋🏼 And also not wearing pants 👖Matt gave up on helping me navigate those after yesterday although I’m convinced it was his plan 🤣 He also strategically gave me his @whitesox sweatshirt blanket when I asked for one and his @gatorade water bottle 🤔 But hey, beggars can’t be choosers 🤷🏼‍♀️ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Don’t ask me why they thought it was necessary to wrap up half my leg for what I thought was a 3cm incision… At least the Sox blanket is hiding the 5 inch situation happening on my right thigh that looks like Zorro went to town 🦹🏽‍♂️🔪 All my modesty went out the window when I had to text my mom a pic of my groin yesterday to explain where they took the skin from. Or was it in the hospital when they made me take out my tampon for surgery and wear the largest pad I’ve EVER seen in my backless gown. It might as well have been a diaper. WHO KNOWS. 😑😑 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Thank YOU for your prayers and positive thoughts ✨I am SO SO grateful and I swear it’s made a difference 💕 You guys are giving me LIFE through your DMs and every way you’re reaching out. I’m about to spend a LOT of more time on the couch so if you wouldn’t mind sharing the wealth and 🙏🏻leaving any show recs below! (If you also need show recs, look through the comments 😘) Doing a little Q+A on Stories later tonight with Matt to help pass the time too if you want to peep it 👀 I feel so cool I used that word even though I probably used it grammatically incorrect 🤣

A post shared by Jenna | Visions of Vogue (@jennacolgrove) on Aug 20, 2019 at 5:00pm PDT


My personal service announcement to everyone is to get a regular full-body skin scan by a dermatologist. Finding something early on, before it's even cancer, makes the problem a lot easier to address.

I've realized that there's a certain level of unawareness when it comes to skin cancer. I think everyone knows to wear sunscreen in the sun, but not everyone understands the different types of skin cancer, how it can develop, and how serious melanoma really is. I’m grateful that this experience has enabled me to have these conversations about skin cancer and to encourage people to get checked.

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