Today was a strange kind of day. You know the kind I am talking about. When everything is just "off" all day long. One of my patients was late coming in for her appointment and she told me about a bad accident that was causing a lot of back ups on the main highway in our area. She said she heard a man was hit and killed while changing a tire early this morning. Not only was he hit by one car, but he was hit multiple times. My heart sank. I immediately grabbed my cell phone and texted my fiance to tell him, since he drives that way to work. I waited to get a reply and was so relieved when I got a text back, because then I knew it wasn't him. I know that sounds weird, but I am always worried about him driving. I don't know what I would do if I was the wife that got that call. My heart goes out to her and his children. He was a firefighter for 17 years. A good guy. Seems so senseless. On the news tonight, they gave tips on what to do and not to do when you have a flat tire on the expressway. I realized that he helped a lot of other people, because the word is getting out about how dangerous it is. I had two high school friends die the same way within the last 3 years. Something good from something horrible. I wonder how many people he has helped in his career and now how many he is helping in his death.
Ever since I was diagnosed with melanoma, I have wanted to help others NOT go through what I am going through. What I will go through for the rest of my life. I have spent hours researching melanoma and the dangers of tanning. Posting videos,information, pictures, etc. on here and on my facebook pages. I have several future projects in the works as well. I feel like it is what I am meant to do. I honestly didn't know what tanning could do to me. I know there are many that don't know either. I hate that young teen girls (and guys) are tanning because they think they look better with a tan. The damage is being done every single time they go, even though you don't SEE it, there IS damage. One of the doctors I work with went to Cancun on vacation for 10 days and he came back with a tan. One of his patients said, "You look like you got a tan." He replied, "Yeah, but it will only last for 5 days or so!" "Yeah, but the damage will last a LIFETIME", ran through my head. The damage will last a lifetime, if it doesn't kill you first. I see patients come in with tans and some of them are even being treated for skin cancer and STILL continue to tan. I don't say anything, I am just there. Keeping my thoughts to myself. Wishing that the world would understand how bad it is. I don't feel comfortable saying anything at work to patients because I am too passionate about skin cancer prevention. If I started, I am afraid I wouldn't stop and I would hurt people's feelings. It makes me sick and angry that people tan. I try to remind myself that they don't know it can kill them. Just like me. I didn't know. I learned first hand. I just hope they don't learn like I did.
Then, something else occurred to me. If I don't say something, then who will? I work so hard to spread the word on the web, but i haven't done much in my public life to educate people. Most people don't know the "MELANOMA ME". Most people know me as their co-worker, a Mom, a friend, a customer. They don't know the work I do for melanoma awareness. Not even my family. Most of my posts are only viewed by fellow melanoma warriors. It was kind of a sad realization. I even keep my personal facebook and melanoma page separate because, I felt like I was losing friends and upsetting people. No one would comment or repost anything. No one was viewing my blog or liking my facebook page. No one wanted to hear it, not even my relatives and close friends. So I started hiding the "MELANOMA ME" and pretending melanoma never even existed in a way. I did it to protect myself from being hurt by people. I am just so passionate about it that I don't want anyone to make me feel bad about it. But, if they don't know the "MELANOMA ME" they don't know the REAL me. Melanoma affected me like nothing I could have ever imaged, or prepared myself for. It rocked my world to be told I have melanoma and that I would have to have surgery. That I could possibly have more surgeries and treatments that may not cure me. That I may die from this. I was fortunate that it was Stage 2a and required no further treatment. That was great news, but bad news at the same time. No scans to make sure it wasn't in there? No radiation to make sure if it was, that it will be treated? Nope. Just watch and wait. I think about it every day. It has become part of me. I should not have to hide it. I will not hide it. No one should have to hide part of them to make others feel comfortable.
Cancer makes you stronger than you ever knew you could be. And I am forever grateful for it, because it has taught me so much about life. Melanoma gave me strength, and it helped me find myself. I wasn't living before the cancer but, I sure as hell am living now.