It was love that brought Celeste to Petaluma. Through a dating website, she met a wonderful man from Petaluma and they married in August 2014. Originally from Santa Cruz, she owned a hair salon in the East Bay for nearly 30 years. While at the salon, she spotted a black dot on two separate male clients; one behind the ear and the other on the scalp. The discovery? Melanoma, a form of skin cancer that isn’t common, but often deadly. According to Celeste, hairstylists are the number one identifier of melanoma since they see places not typically inspected, like the top of the scalp or behind the ears. Thanks to her observant eye, both men were diagnosed with early stage melanoma and spared further treatment.
When Celeste discovered a black dot on her own leg, she instinctively knew it was melanoma. After appointments with four different doctors, including a dermatologist, she was told it wasn’t anything to worry about. But Celeste didn’t stop there. Forced to be her own advocate, she prodded a doctor to perform a biopsy. She was then promptly diagnosed with melanoma and scheduled for surgery. If she hadn’t followed her instincts, the diagnosis could have come later, leading to chemotherapy, radiation, even death.
Sun exposure at a young age combined with the chemicals she handled at the salon, are likely factors behind her diagnosis. Today she must be vigilant about using products that contain harmful chemicals. “Your skin is the largest organ in your body and every product we apply–shampoo, lotion, or make-up–is absorbed into the blood stream” she shares. Celeste uses an App called Skin Deep, a database created by non-profit organization the Environmental Working Group. With cell phone in hand, she scans the barcode of a product to see the list of chemicals and the potential health risks posed. Don’t be surprised if you see her in the aisle at Whole Foods, scanning items with phone in hand. And don’t hesitate to ask her what she’s up to, because she’ll gladly share her findings. Away from the world of hair styling and chemicals, she really enjoys living in Petaluma, a town she calls liberal, artsy and eclectic.