Reality T.V. Star Becomes Melanoma Patient

TV star Kimberly Bryant's wake-up call came when her doctor found and removed a malignant mole.

From the WebMD Archives

On The Real Housewives of Orange County, you faced a serious health threat. What happened?

My doctor found a malignant mole -- a shallow melanoma in early stages -- on my thigh, a few inches above my knee. I've faced skin cancer before, but I never intended to share this "reality" on the show. Now, I'm glad I did. Since the show has aired, several people have told me they've gotten their skin checked because of me -- and it thrills me to hear it.

When were you first diagnosed with skin cancer?

At age 27 -- 17 years ago. I went in for acne treatments and my doctor gasped. He removed 22 moles from my body. He tested them all, and one came back malignant.

Were you a sun worshipper when you were young?

I got a tremendous amount of sun exposure as a child. All the damage was done before I was 25.

You write on your Bravo blog that you had an eye sewn shut for two months after half of your lower eyelid was removed due to skin cancer. Tell us about this experience.

I had a tiny tumor near my tear duct. It was not malignant, but I still tell everyone: Wear sunglasses! Make sure your children wear sunglasses! Protect your eyes!

How much has changed in the last two decades, in terms of prevention and treatment of skin cancers?

Not enough. It will take someone like Brad Pitt getting melanoma to get the kind of funding needed to get the research done that this cancer needs.

Any advice for other mothers trying to keep their families safe from UV rays?

When my kids were little, it wasn't hard keeping them covered up. Now they want to be at the beach with their friends -- and not look dorky in long sleeves. But there are companies that make cute clothes that have sunscreen built into the fabrics. Also, be creative. Don't tell your teenager she can't go to the beach. Instead, plan an indoor activity for her and her friends -- like going to a cool sushi bar or a museum -- then take them to the beach after 4 p.m. Watch the sunset together.

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Since facing cancer, do you view your life or relationships differently?

Completely. Yes, plan for the future. But enjoy the moment. Share your feelings for someone right now. Take more risks. Have a sense of adventure.

How do you feel about aging?

I like it. I am more confident in my 40s than I was in my 20s. I've got a great husband, great kids; I'm more direct. And physically? Well, I do look at my skin and wish I didn't get so much sun.

As a society, are we are growing more obsessed with appearance? Or is it a matter of wanting to look and feel great to be healthy?

Sure, it's vanity. But healthy looks good. Clear eyes, shiny hair -- we all want that.

You've been forward about getting breast implants. Any regrets?

I researched the procedure; spoke with my doctor; weighed the risks. I felt solid in my appearance, but I did it for my husband. He got a vasectomy for me, so we traded surgeries.

You are a fitness fanatic who regularly hikes, surfs, and takes Pilates. Have you always been so active?

My parents were active, so I have always been. But with any cancer, you need to exercise, eat right, and sleep to keep your immune system strong. So I am doubly motivated.

What about nutrition? Do you follow a special regimen, diet, or simply try to eat well?

Tons of water, veggies, green tea ... the works.

How would you react if your teenaged daughter asked for breast implants?

This was a major issue for me. I have never wanted her to have a false or bad body image. And I didn't want to contradict all the things I've told her, her whole life. I sat her down, explained that I had made this decision well into my 40s. I told her that once she is settled, has her children, and chooses whether or not to nurse, then if she decides to have implants, I'll even pay for them. I'll take care of her while she's recovering. But if she wants implants to help define herself or nab the right guy, then I'll fight her tooth and nail!

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What is your health philosophy?

Eat right. Exercise. Have fun. Stay active -- but active out of the sun!

What's better: real life or what we see on "reality" TV?

Real life! But reality TV is a kick in the pants.

WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
© 2006 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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