Stephanie Henrick loves tennis! She was introduced to the sport at a young age, and played in high school, at the University of Texas at Austin Intermural League, and in several local leagues.
But three years ago she thought her tennis days were over. She was diagnosed with Melanoma, a serious type of skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation there are several types of skin cancers. The most common are Basal cell carcinoma and Squamous cell carcinoma.
Melanoma accounts for 6% of new cancer cases in men and 5% of new cancer cases in women. Men 49-years or younger have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer. Women share that same statistic with the exception of breast and thyroid cancer.
Being that May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month it seemed fitting for Stephanie to share her story. She said, “If it has the power to impact even one person, it will be worth it.”
Stephanie’s Skin Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment
“Tennis is a great activity you can play with anyone, even your family,” said Stephanie, adding, “I’ve met some of my closest friends on the court.” But she never anticipated all those years of fun in the sun would do so much damage.
It was November 2020 and she had just lost her mom to an extensive battle with Covid-19. Devastated, she knew she could no longer live her life on hold. Plus, the lockdown had lifted, so she forced herself to return to general outings, including doctor and dental visits.
She went to see a new dermatologist for a routine skin check. She pointed out a spot that she had on the left temple of her head for about 14 years, in hopes that the doctor could minimize it with a prescription or laser treatment.
Previous doctors had dismissed the slightly discolored area, telling her it was nothing to worry about. But not this time. This time the doctor took a good, long look at it, and said. “We need to do a biopsy.”
Within 72-hours Stephanie received the devastating news that it was melanoma. Her initial reaction was shock, and disbelief. How could it be cancer when all of the past physicians dismissed it.
As she navigated through a handful of questions, Stephanie scheduled surgery and learned that her cancer was Clark Level III Melanoma. Clark levels determine how invasive the cancer is. In her case it had spread into the papillary-reticular dermal interface but not into the lower layer of the skin or blood. Her survival rate was 66%. Had it been one grade worse her chance of survival would have reduce to 15%.
Consulting various surgeons, she scheduled out-patient surgery and arranged for her family to take her. However, the surgery center had a last minute cancelation and asked if she could move up her appointment to that day. Without hesitation, Stephanie replied, “I’m on my way!”
The surgeon began by drawing an elliptical on her face. Immediately she began to cry. The medical staff console her as they proceeded to make a 3.5 inch incision from the side of her eye to her lower ear.
“They took their time making tiny sutures to minimizing the scar,” she said, admitting she wished she had someone with her.
Crediting Elite Dermatology in Fulshear, TX for saving her life, and Dr. Tarek Fakhouri in Sugar Land for removing all of the cancer in one surgery, Stephanie shares some advice for others.
Skin Cancer Cautions
It’s not what we do now, but what we did during the past 10, 20, and even 30 years ago. While you can’t go back, you can move forward and start using sunblock, wearing protective clothing with a UPF 50+, and being diligent about skin checks, even on a cloudy day.
Today, Stephanie never leaves the house without a layer of sunblock on, especially her face. She plays tennis several times a week and is on two women’s leagues. She also makes frequent visits to the Tennis Express Superstore located in Houston, where she buys quality skin care, hats, visors, and tennis apparel from brands like BloqUV, Lucky in Love, Sofibella, Tail, Jofit, adidas, Nike, and more.
Grateful to her family and teammates for their support throughout her recovery, she encouraging people to stay safe on the court and stock up on sun protective tennis apparel at TennisExpress.com.
Share this post with others and raise awareness about preventing skin cancer today!