One of the hardest things about melanoma, for me, has been learning to cope with the after math. It is not easy being told you have cancer. It wasn't easy for me hearing it, even though as soon as I had a change in my mole, I looked it up online. What I saw scared me to death, but I guess I was still hoping that the dermatologist would say, " Nope, it wasn't melanoma! Just an ugly mole!" Wishful thinking.
I was not prepared for the look on my fiance's face in the derm's office. I wasn't prepared to tell my family or my kids. That was the worst. You tend to make light of it. "Oh, I just have to have a small, quick little surgery to get some that they left behind to get rid of it." I told my daughter this. She could read the fear on my face though. She knew at 16 that it was more serious than that.
Then after I made it through the surgery, I had to recover. That would have been impossible if not for my support group, which consisted of, my family, kids, my fiance, and my online friends. Returning to work was very difficult. I felt no support from them. I am just an employee. I felt like as time went on, that people didn't want to hear about melanoma anymore. I went into full education mode once I was diagnosed, mostly because I didn't know the dangers of tanning. I didn't know about melanoma at all. I felt that it was my duty to educate everyone about it, because I figured they would want to know! I thought they would all stop tanning and thank me for sharing this news Wrong. I was shunned, de-friended, made fun of, told off, and ignored. I became so depressed. My kids and fiance even got sick of hearing it. It was all I could talk about. I recently realized that I was living in so much fear that I was crippled by it and all I could do was educate. It was my coping mechanism. I am so glad that I realized this and have slowly made changes to spend more time with everyone and LIVE my LIFE. I could have easily lost my life. I believe that melanoma was given to me for a reason. I believe I am supposed to share my story. I am supposed to warn people of the dangers of tanning.
So share I have. Pictures and everything are out there for people to see. I have done a TV interview and other interviews. I have spoken at the Relay for Life in my area as a survivor. I have shared my pictures numerous times, for a calendar, for a website. I will not turn down any opportunity. That is how I cope with melanoma. I attack back. It wanted to kill me and it did hurt me, but it doesn't control me. I will not lie down, I will not let it win. I am a warrior and I will fight until I can not fight anymore! I fight for the ones that have passed away and for the ones that are yet to be diagnosed. I fight for those that are living and fighting the beast, and the ones that are paralyzed with fear that can't speak about it. When one of us takes a break, another one of us is speaking out. We will not be silenced. This can all get very overwhelming. To see warriors pass away after fighting so hard. "They were fine last month". That is how melanoma works. It is a sneaky little bastard. Likes to hide and rear its ugly head when you least expect it. We all mourn and hurt together, and some of us get darn right pissed off! We are bound together by our diagnosis. We fight together, because we need each other. When I get angry, I fight harder. I am angry. I hate melanoma. I was recently told that my pathology report was great, meaning that the possibility of my melanoma coming back, is slim to none. It took me awhile to digest it. I wanted to believe it, but I was scared to let myself. I know how this stuff works. One minute you are fine, told you are clear and the next you are gone. I had to let it all sink in and I did a lot of research on path reports and talked to my new oncologist on the phone twice. I guess after feeling I was stage 2a, and feeling like I was not a high enough stage to be a "warrior", going to a stage 1b, was like I didn't even have melanoma. But, I had it just as much as anyone who is diagnosed. I went through, and am still going through, fear of melanoma. I had a very intense surgery to remove it and a long journey to recover from the physical and emotional scars. I am a melanoma warrior. I stand with melanoma warriors of all stages, and we are ALL important in this fight.
Being part of something like this has its ups and downs, but it has taught me a lot and has made me a better person. I have taken a good look at myself, and I like me. I didn't like me before and that is why I tanned. I wanted to change me. I have learned to love me for who and what I am. The parts I don't love, I am changing so I do, but not in an artificial way. I am being good to myself for a change. I deserve it!! We all deserve it! Take care of yourself and others. It will come back to you tenfold.
If you need to learn how to cope and be good to yourself, follow your heart. It is usually right. I have had to learn to listen to myself. If I feel like I am getting too depressed and overwhelmed by it all, I step back. If my family tells me I am not paying attention to them, I stop and make sure I spend more time with them. I listen to them. And I don't forget to LIVE and enjoy life!! ;)