Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This picture pretty much sums it up!! (borrowed from a melanoma warrior's Mom)
  I had a patient ask me today about the black ribbon bracelet I wear everyday.  She wanted to know what the "black one was for".  I said, "Melanoma."  She asked, "Did you have melanoma?"  I replied, "Yes."  She asked I if was "OK now."  I simply said, "Yes".  I wish it was that easy.  I bite my tongue A LOT  in the medical field.  I wanted to say, once you have it, you are never "OK".  I wanted to say a lot to her.  But I didn't.  She seemed too content that I was "OK".  I have seen people come into the office with tans and one particular  tan lady is even being treated for skin cancer, not melanoma, but still!  If you have skin cancer and are being treated by a dermatologist and still are tanning there is a problem!!!!  And shame on the dermatologist if he hasn't scared her enough with melanoma to make her stop.  If I was a dermatologist, I would!  I had a co-worker, who I worked with when I had my surgery, say the other day that she didn't know that melanoma was "that bad."  I had been talking about a fellow warrior that is undergoing brain radiation because she had tumors in her brain.  She had no idea it was "that bad".   Oh yeah, it's bad.  It is amazing the people who I am associated with, have no idea what melanoma really is!  It is not just skin cancer!  I hope that they never find out first hand.  If I ever win the darn lottery,(it could happen!) the first thing I am going to do is take out ads everywhere about the dangers of tanning and melanoma! Then I am going to get a bunch of melanoma survivors, warriors and family members to make a documentary for kids to see.  I believe that if kids see this stuff, they won't do it.  Am I dreaming?  Maybe.  If we can actually promote that pale skin is healthy skin and a tan is damaging in so many ways, not to mention DEADLY, maybe someday no one will want to tan?  Ok, maybe I AM dreaming, but it is worth a try!  If you don't try how can you succeed?  I know there are many people getting the word out and it does seem to fall on deaf ears a lot.  But please don't stop.  It is reaching someone.  I have had people tell me that they quit tanning, or that they went to a dermatologist because of my story.  Keep telling yours.  It could just save someone's life!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Beast- Melanoma


The Beast- Melanoma

I haven't been on here in so long!  I have been busy starting my photography business and working 2 other jobs.  I have not been dedicating much time to melanoma, but that doesn't mean it is not on my mind constantly.  It is hard to not think about melanoma on a daily basis.  It is always there, looming behind the shadows, behind all my happy times.  It follows me everywhere I go, everything I do.  I can't shake it.  It will stay with me forever, unfortunately.  I am constantly accessing people's moles and looking at their tans, wondering if they will be next.   I had a dream a few weeks ago that  I was walking down the street, looking in store windows.  Shopping and happy.   It was a good dream that quickly turned terrifying.  I was walking along and all of a sudden there was a huge,black menacing blob.  It had an angry face and it screamed at me, really loud.  I felt like it was after me.  It was scary and looked like pure evil.  I screamed in my dream and when I woke up I was shaking and I knew exactly what it was.  MELANOMA.  It is a horrible beast that lurks in the shadows and pops up when we least expect it.  It destroys lives.  It mutilates.  It leaves devastation in its path.  It doesn't discriminate.  It just doesn't care about anything except destroying everything it can.  I saw the face of melanoma in my dream.  I never want to meet it again.  I have made a lot of friends though this journey.  I have met some really great people.  Some are battling themselves, others are caregivers or family members that have lost someone to melanoma.  ALL of them want to see melanoma die.  Including me.  There are days when I feel overwhelmed by this disease.  I wish I never had  it, but I do and I can't change it, as much as I would like to.  I am at a stage that the surgeon, melanoma specialist and dermatologist that treated me, all say I am cured!  Well, not according to what I have found in my own research.  Odds are that it will come back.  I feel like I know more than they do.  I have a ton of dysplastic nevi.  I have freckles covering my entire body and I have normal moles too.  A lot of them.  It is not fair.  But I am so glad it was me out of anyone I know.  I would not wish this on my worst enemy, let alone someone I love and care about.  I have spent a lot of time when I was first diagnosed, beating myself up about tanning so much.  I started it when I was around 16.  I liked being tan.  I had bad skin and it covered up a lot of flaws.  I only tanned in the summer when I could here in Michigan.  I did not indoor tan until I was 40, last January.  I wanted something that would be a treat for me.  I work a stressful job and being a Mom on top of it, I was pretty stressed!!  I instantly loved it and was going often.  I didn't care what my fiance or anyone else for that matter said.  My daughter wanted to go herself, as she usually did want to do what I did.  I tanned through the winter and spring and by June I stopped indoor tanning and tanned outside like I had for years.  I was dark, but I didn't see how dark I was.  I was trying to get a darker tan.  I went a couple of times in the fall because I had some visits left.  I was putting on the tanning lotion and noticed I had a mole on the back of my leg that felt bigger.  I looked at it and something about it made me feel strange, like, "This doesn't look right".  It looked bad.  But, instead of leaving, I tanned for 12 minutes.  It haunts me.  I wanted to tan so bad, I ignored something I KNEW was not right!  I was addicted and I didn't know I was.  If I had never felt the need to do something as a stress reliever.  If I had known that with my moles, I should have NEVER been tanning indoors or outdoors.  I wish I could go back so many times and change it.  I wish I would have listened to everyone.  I would give anything.  Anything.  I thought skin cancer would never happen to me.  I tanned well, had dark hair, brown eyes.  I though they just cut skin cancer out.  I didn't know about the most deadly skin cancer.  Melanoma.  It is deadly.  It tried to kill me.  I don't take kindly to that. It has messed with the wrong girl.  I am not going to be quiet about this.  I am going to keep educating about melanoma.  I think if I knew what it could really do to someone, to ME, I never would have tanned.  I didn't know and a lot of people don't know.  I know I can't change everyone's mind, but I can give them the information.  Information I didn't know.  I don't mean to preach, but it has become something I feel I was meant to share.  I am currently doing pretty good.  Trying to learn to live with melanoma has not been easy.  Most people don't understand it even after you explain it.  They think it is just "skin cancer".   Cancer IS CANCER! I have lost several friends to this beast and I have more that are fighting it with everything they have.  All we can do is pray it doesn't win.