ORANGE BEACH - On Thursday, August 17, Healthy Woman, a South Baldwin Regional Medical Center Resource, hosted an evening with ESPN Reporter Holly Rowe at the Orange Beach Event Center. Rowe came to …
ORANGE BEACH - On Thursday, August 17, Healthy Woman, a South Baldwin Regional Medical Center Resource, hosted an evening with ESPN Reporter Holly Rowe at the Orange Beach Event Center. Rowe came to speak to a packed house about her career as a sideline reporter for ESPN, her love of sports, and her recent battles with melanoma and what she has learned in the process. She looked to share her knowledge of overcoming obstacles with women everywhere.
“My goal for us tonight is that maybe something in my story and my journey will help you either as caregivers, or to take care of yourselves,” said Rowe. “I’m learning about how bad I was at taking care of myself, and so I want all of us to be inspired to take better care of ourselves and our health.”
Rowe came equipped with a to-do list which she hopes will inspire those who hear it to take control when it comes to their health. To lead up to her items, Rowe spoke of her struggles with cancer, and some of the measures she feels she could have taken to lessen the severity.
“I first went in to the doctor because I had this little mole on my chest that looked suspicious, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger,” Rowe said. “But I procrastinated. I’d had it for 6 months, 7 months, 8 months … Finally I went in just to get it removed because it was ugly.”
The doctors performed a biopsy, and Rowe learned that the mole was actually a rare form of melanoma. At the time, Rowe did not know much about melanoma, and was not afraid or too concerned with the find. Soon after she had surgery to remove the mole. After the first surgery, the doctors took lymph node samples, and when no cancer was present Rowe went on with her life.
“It was last February that I felt like the area where they’d taken the lymph nodes under my armpit wasn’t healing, the scar was thick,” Rowe said. “And I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m sure it’s fine,’ and again, I wait. 4 months. 5 months. Finally I go in and I say the scar isn’t healing well, and the lymph node turned out to be another tumor.”
Rowe’s doctors had to take out her armpit and give her a complete new one, and a lymphedema sleeve that she must wear to help keep her arm from swelling. After 30 days of intensive interferon and treatment, despite the horrible effects of the interferon, Rowe was ready to go back to the world she knew and loved: sports reporting.
One year ago, Rowe had a bad CT scan result come back, and she thought at first that it wasn’t serious. It ended up being a new tumor in her lung, a big tumor and 3 small nodules. It was 11 days before the college football season started last year that Rowe had a lung biopsy, and the results came back cancerous.
During the time that followed, Rowe continued to work, and witnessed many teams lose and win, see underdogs triumph, and at a Texas football practice met actor Matthew McConaughey, all experiences that motivated her during her fight with cancer. One of the lifesaving factors came thanks to research.
“I want to leave you with a couple of good things of advocacy tonight,” Rowe said. “One of those is donation dollars. Research donations are crucial right now, because I’m on a drug that is literally saving my life that didn’t exist 3 years ago, that wasn’t available for the public 3 years ago. If I would have had this diagnosis 3 years ago, I probably would be dead in this year that I got my tumor, and so the research dollars are saving my life.”
When she was first diagnosed with a lung tumor, it was 21 millimeters in size. Now, thanks to funds that have been given to research, Rowe’s tumor is only 4 millimeters. Another thing that Rowe spoke in support of was clinical trials, which she is currently on herself.
Rowe’s to-do list begins with one of the most important things anyone can do to help their health: don’t procrastinate. Rowe asks that everyone go to a doctor the minute they notice anything suspicious or that they are concerned about. The best outcome will be to be told that nothing is wrong, and if something is wrong, then perhaps it was caught in the early stages that are more easily treated.
Item number two is one that is very important to citizens of Baldwin County.
“You guys live in a sun community,” Rowe said. “I know that you’re at the beach, but this is a sobering fact. The number one killer of women right now, ages 25-35, is melanoma. Skin cancer. I find that shocking. It’s not heart attack, breast cancer, traffic accidents, it’s skin cancer.”
Rowe said no matter how much of a put-out it can be, whenever we are out in the sun, it is always better to be completely covered up for protection, no matter how much we wish it were otherwise.
“The EPA has just in the last 6 months registered the sun as a carcinogen,” Rowe said. “What that means is if you spend one hour in the sun, it’s like smoking a pack of cigarettes … You must protect your skin, or you will get skin cancer, it’s just a simple fact. 90% of the cases of skin cancer are preventable. And that doesn’t sound fun, and it doesn’t sound like the world’s sexiest girl at the beach, but it’s going to save your life.”
Also on her list was to be an impatient patient. Rowe remembers during her first surgery, when instead of asking questions she accepted any answer she was given. Looking back, she wishes she had asked for alternative routes, other opinions, and more about her surgery and condition. She urges everyone to be impatient when it comes to their health, to get answers and to get them as quickly as they can.
“The other thing I would do, and this is not the good one, is ditch deodorant,” Rowe said. “Where we apply our deodorant every day is to an area that is all your lymph nodes in your armpit, and your lymph nodes clean out toxins. So if you’re applying, every single day, a toxin to the top of your skin, you’re really overworking those lymph nodes and putting a lot of stress on those.”
Rowe stated that it’s common for everyone to put everything and everyone else before their own health, which could lead to tragedy. She urges everyone she meets to at least get a skin check once a year, and that the moment anything seems wrong or something suspicious is noticed, to go to a doctor immediately.
“I want you to be free of fear,” Rowe concluded. “It’s really easy to cave in to cancer and be scared all the time, and I want us to not let fear take over our life. It’s really easy to let it, everything is bad for us. If you just get on Facebook or social media right now you’d think it’s the end of the world. Things are scary and bad, but I want us to empower ourselves to take control of our health, be in control, be calm about how we move through the world, and live your life free of fear.”
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