JD Durkin: An Early-Stage Melanoma & Redefining His Relationship with the Sun

By Renee Orcione, MRA Digital Engagement & Communications Manager | 26 April 2023 | Melanoma Stories, Prevention

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A History of Skin Biopsies and Dermatologist Visits 

As he entered his 30s, skin exams and biopsies were a regular and frequent occurrence in J.D. Durkin’s life. Growing up with many irregular moles, he started seeing his dermatologist regularly at just 10-years old. Unfortunately for J.D., this meant many excisional biopsies. “Back when I was a kid undergoing biopsies, they all required stitches,” explained J.D. “Thankfully, the procedure has come a long way since then.”

Luckily, none of the biopsies or skin exams when he was a child led to any cancer diagnosis, though some of the biopsies were deemed ‘high-risk’ when evaluated by a pathologist.

“I was like any other kid,” said J.D. “I was just a bit more conscious of the sun than others my age.” Still, J.D. experienced his fair share of sun exposure and sunburns throughout his childhood, especially during the summers. “I thought getting the occasional sunburn was normal,” he remembered.

The Importance of Preventive Care

J.D.’s frequent skin exams came to a halt in his 20s. As he focused on building a career in the TV industry, he didn’t always have health insurance and put off many preventive appointments. “Given what I experienced in my childhood, it was especially easy to put off visiting the dermatologist – it was a scary thought,” said J.D.

After a few years, once J.D. was settled into his job as a White House correspondent for Cheddar News, he had the opportunity to travel to the West Coast. An avid hiker and lover of nature, he knew this trip would include a lot of time outdoors. Now that he had health insurance, J.D. figured this would be the perfect time to go back to the dermatologist for a skin exam. “I knew I wanted to have a clean bill of health before this trip,” he said. After all those years without any skin checks, the anxieties of his many previous biopsies surfaced for J.D.

The week before his trip, J.D. went to a local dermatologist for a full body skin exam. There, the doctor noticed an abnormal lesion on J.D.’s back – something he had never noticed himself. The doctor explained that the mole exhibited an uneven border and multiple colors – some of the hallmark signs of melanoma. The mole was biopsied for further testing.

An Early-Stage Melanoma Diagnosis

A few days later, J.D. was at the White House when he got a call from his dermatologist: the mole they biopsied was an early stage melanoma. Given the early stage diagnosis, J.D.’s doctor told him that he could still continue with his five-day long trip, as long as he came in for surgery immediately upon his return. “Try to keep it out of your mind,” his doctor suggested.

Heading into his trip, J.D. had the utmost confidence in his doctor, his diagnosis, and his treatment plan. Still, it weighed heavily on the 31-year-old. “I tried my best to enjoy my trip and the time I was spending outside, but it was difficult,” recalled J.D. “My relationship with the outdoors was being challenged.”

Immediately upon his return, J.D. heeded his doctor’s orders and went in for surgery to remove the melanoma. He felt prepared for the procedure: his years of excisional biopsies gave him an idea of what to expect. Since his melanoma was such an early stage, he did not require any further treatment or testing, and the melanoma was successfully removed.

Life as an Outdoor Enthusiast Post Melanoma Excision 

In the weeks following his diagnosis, J.D. wasn’t sure what his relationship with the sun would be like moving forward. But in the years since, he has become more confident in his ability to live life sun safe. Learn more about sun safety for people with a history of melanoma and other skin cancers.

In the two years following his diagnosis, J.D. was back at his dermatologist every 12 weeks for an exam. At his first couple of appointments, his dermatologist identified and tracked a few moles of concern, but none turned out to be cancerous. “It was a bit nerve-wracking at first,” said J.D. “Was this going to be my new normal?” Eventually, J.D. moved on to twice-a-year visits to the dermatologist, which he continues to this day.

Today, J.D. is an on-air host from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. With an online following in the thousands, he feels empowered to share his story and raise awareness of melanoma prevention and detection. Not only does J.D. have these conversations publicly, he also finds himself talking one-on-one with family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers about melanoma and the importance of sun safety. “I am not ashamed to talk about my diagnosis,” said J.D. “If my story can inspire just one person to get their skin checked, then mission accomplished.”

I know a lot of people have that little voice in their head that might be questioning something on their skin. I’m here to tell you that nothing will ever beat the feeling of being 100% sure.”

J.D. often urges people to be their own advocate as they navigate the healthcare system and to listen to their gut. “I know a lot of people have that little voice in their head that might be questioning something on their skin. I’m here to tell you that nothing will ever beat the feeling of being 100% sure,” said J.D. “You can’t be sure until you see a dermatologist.”

As J.D. continues to thrive in his personal and professional life post-melanoma, he has found a healthy balance with the sun and being outdoors. He hopes that he can be an example to those who might be struggling to find their new normal after their own melanoma diagnosis. Between identifying a daily sunscreen that he is happy with, investing in some good sun-protective clothing and gear, and checking his own skin monthly, J.D. has a good-faith relationship with the outdoors.

“I still want life to be a big and amazing experience for me,” shared J.D.