Thursday, November 1, 2012

Not Playing the Blame Game

As October and breast cancer awareness month ends, November and  lung and prostate awareness month begins.  I just want to say that although breast cancer gets a lot of attention,  and that I have a bit of "Pink Envy", I do hope that all other cancers, including melanoma, are someday acknowledged as much as breast cancer is.  I want a cure for all cancers.   We NEED a cure for all cancers!

I haven't been on her much lately, but I wanted to share a few things :)

At work today, one of the other nurses told me that one of their patients was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma.  He is a middle aged white man, and he had a mole on his leg, just like me.  Groin biopsy with a lot of lymph node removes.  3 were positive.  He went through treatment, chemo and radiation....he just had a MRI and it is in his brain now.

I can't explain what it does to me to hear of a complete stranger being diagnosed with melanoma.  I wanted to just walk up to him and give him the biggest hug.  I saw him when he was leaving, and he looked pretty healthy.  I couldn't help thinking, "He doesn't look sick".  That is how the BEAST works.  On the outside you can look perfectly normal and healthy, and on the inside you can have tumors everywhere.  Not to mention the fear we hide on the inside that we hide.  People not getting that you are in a serious fight for your life, like when you have breast cancer, or lung cancer.  We don't always LOOK sick.  We don't always LOOK like cancer patients. 

I am pretty sick of melanoma right now.  I really,really, REALLY hate it.  So, if you think I am crazy for getting upset that you are sun-tanning, or sun-burning, then you really must not get it.  And you probably won't truly get IT, until YOU get IT.  It took me awhile to get THAT.   I have learned not to push it onto others.  I say what I have to say, and either they accept it, or question me about it, or they don't get it and do what they want.  It isn't my problem after I give them info.  If they want to continue to hurt themselves and risk getting melanoma, that is their right.  It still pisses me off though!

But I will get over it.

There are a lot of people that can't accept that it is harmful to tan, or burn.   I recently lost my "best friend" because of my melanoma.  She thought I blamed her for getting skin cancer, because I used to sunbathe with her when we were teens, 20 some years ago... How ridiculous.  I downplayed my cancer when I first told her.  She had a lot going on with her son who has cerebral palsy and was ill for quite some time.  I spent most phone calls comforting and listening to her.  Inside I was battling depression and fear.  I was a wreck, but didn't want to impose that on her.  We talked less and less, the more I went through the after math of my diagnosis.  Anything I did say, she didn't quite get what I was talking about, so it became easier not to mention it.  It made me hold a lot inside, which was really not good.  I wanted to talk about it, but anytime I did, I just felt bad because, it seems like no one wanted to hear about it, unless they were personally affected by it themselves.  ( So thankful for my melanoma peeps on Facebook and Twitter! xo).  I assumed that since she was my "best friend" she would feel the same way my family did.  I felt like people thought I did it to myself because I tanned too much. I felt like they blamed me for my melanoma.  I blamed myself for it, why shouldn't they?  I needed the ones close to me to confirm that it was going to be okay.  That I wasn't a complete idiot for tanning so much I got 2 types of skin cancer.

 I didn't have many people outside my family that were really understanding and there for me.  She should have been there for me.  She wasn't.  A little over a year after my surgery, she posted on Facebook that she went to the beach (for 6 hours I found out late between 10-4pm. We all know that is the worst possible time to go!)  and that her and her 2 very fair skinned, young, daughters were "as burnt as lobsters, lol!"  Well, I was really upset by that to say the least.

She didn't get it.  Her oldest daughter who was 14 at the time, didn't get it.  Her friends (who I don't personally know and are VERY rude and verbally abusive and threatening, by the way)  don't get it.  In the interim I was verbally abused by her and her friends, and I was told that I was wrong by a mutual friend of ours.  The entire time, I held my head up and decided that if she really wanted to end the friendship, then that is what we would do, but I was not going to change the way that post made me feel.  If she would have held a gun to her children's heads that would not have felt any different to me than what she did.  She let her children get burned badly when she knew what had happened to me.  Her "best friend".  Who the hell was I to think that she would care enough to protect her very own children from the same thing that her "best friend" was fighting.   It was a very sad way for a 30 year friendship to end.

I don't play the blame game anymore about me getting melanoma.  It doesn't get me anywhere.  I have decided that melanoma has taken enough from me.  I am not going to live with guilt about choosing to tan, when I didn't know it was hurting me.  I am in a much better place after letting that guilt go.  I focus more on the fact that because of my melanoma, my daughter will never set foot in a tanning bed.  EVER.  That alone makes it worth it.

I hope you all never have to know what it feels like, or to have to try to explain it to someone else.  I hope that you never have to walk in our shoes.  It is not fun.

You don't just cut melanoma off and move on.   It is not JUST skin cancer.

I am doing well today.  I am over 1 1/2 years post melanoma surgery.  I remain stage 1 NED.  I know everyday that it could change.  I am busy living life, and not looking over my shoulder (as much!) thinking that I am sick and no one is doing anything about it. At stage 1, they don't do bloodwork scans, or even xrays.  I don't even have to see my oncologist for follow ups.  I am pretty much left to myself.

But I am happy, and celebrating life.

That is what it is all about.  Not letting melanoma win.


  1. Melissa, I enjoyed reading your posting. I can truly relate to getting upset when hearing about someone being diagnosed with melanoma. Then, hearing that someone within the melanoma community passes away makes me both angry and sad:( I am sorry to hear that you lost your best friend because she thought you had blamed her for getting melanoma. But I agree with you, she should have been there for you! You sound like a very caring and creative individual that I would love to call my melanoma sister. Email ( or tweet me ( Stay strong and keep fighting:) Melanoma warrior, Donna Piunt

  2. Thanks Donna! I also hate hearing about friends passing away in the melanoma community. I have a great group that supports me through the good and the bad with all of you. :)

  3. I'm really sorry that you had to go through that experience with your friend. I've found that going through something like a melanoma diagnosis helps you figure out who your true friends are, and quickly. I also completely relate to you wanting to give that man a hug :( I don't know what it is about melanoma, but even if I barely know someone and I learn they've had it, I feel like we share a special connection that not everyone can understand. That "uh.. how did my tiny little mole turn into cancer?" feeling.

  4. It sure does Katie. We do have an instant connection with others with melanoma. Sometimes it feels like I am so different than everyone else, and then you find someone that is the same. I work in a doctor's office, so I meet a lot of people who have it or have had it. They are all special to me!

  5. Hi Melissa, I Just came across your blog via FB from Chelesa's page and want to reach out and send HUGE KUDOS your way for sharing your experience in this journey.

    This is a beautiful post and wanted to say like the rest of the folks here, that you nailed it. Cancer affects everyone in different ways and we find out during our journey who our real friends are. As sad as that is because we lose a lot of people we held dear, it makes a huge difference in the support we receive and how we heal.

    If you haven't already, come check out my blog. I talk about my battle as well- not in the extent that many people do, but I do share and last week I shared more then I ever have because I believe it is important.

    1. thank you! I would love to check out your blog. Send me the link! :)