Sportscaster tells of his melanoma battle

From the July 8, 2008 edition of the Plain Dealer:

 

Matt Underwood, 40, is a play-by-play announcer for the Cleveland Indians telecasts on SportsTime Ohio. He was diagnosed with melanoma in October 2005. Here’s his story, as told to Plain Dealer reporter Angela Townsend.

I always looked at skin cancer as something that wasn’t really cancer. If you found that you had it, it was something you had taken care of and it was no big deal. But I got a kind of wake-up call about how dangerous they can be, how frequently diagnosed they have been in the past five to 10 years, and that if you don’t catch it in the early stages, it could be deadly serious.

I’m 50 percent Greek and have fairly tolerant Mediterranean skin. I never was the kind of person that really worried about skin cancer. But that doesn’t mean anything. Just because your skin doesn’t burn doesn’t mean you can’t get skin cancer.

My case is also something where people who are in the service industry — a hair stylist, massage therapist, etc. — take it as their response to check somebody out.

I’m not going to look at my scalp very often. You’re not going to turn around the mirror and check out your backside a lot.

I’ve been going to my barber, Steve Averill, since 1993. He’s right downtown on Lakeside Avenue. He was the one that saw something on my scalp and said, "You better have this checked out." A dermatologist removed it, and I didn’t think there was anything to worry about. I went back two weeks later to get the stitches out, and he referred me to (an oncologist) at MetroHealth Medical Center. They do something called "excise the margins," where they put you under (with anesthesia) and remove the cells in the surrounding area. I had the surgery in early December (2005). I was in the early stages, stage 2.

I go to the dermatologist twice a year and my oncologist twice a year. I’m seeing somebody every four months. I’ve had at least four other suspicious moles removed, and they all came back normal. If you’re diagnosed, especially in the early stages, the chance of the cancer returning at the same spot is (rare). And if your tests come back negative, they keep lowering the bar (of the chance of a recurrence) every time.

I’m the only one in the family who has had melanoma.

My wife is extremely cautious. She slathers up the kids (two sons, ages 6 and 9) with SPF when we go to the pool in the summertime. She’s got them trained to the point that they ask for it before they go out.

I wouldn’t say that I have become 100 percent diligent, but I don’t go out in the sun and bake all day at the beach. If I’m going to play golf, I’m wearing a hat. On TV, I can’t wear a hat. But I’m not going to be out there four, six hours at a time. I take it in very small doses.

I think about the fans in the bleachers every day who take their shirts off, and they’re bright red by the end of the game.

It’s nice to know that my story resonates with people. I just hope — if one person hears about it, and it causes them to make an appointment — that’s great.

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