Friday, December 16, 2011

My Christmas Gift

I feel like I have been taken off guard by something that I couldn't really explain recently.  I have been trying to feel jolly, and "Christmasy"  but I am not.  I have been trying to get in the holiday spirit, buying gifts and planning what I am going to buy everyone and what we are going to do on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  I have been trying to be in the mood, but I just haven't been feeling it.  I thought maybe I was depressed.  I do feel like I am some days.  It usually doesn't last though.  But, this is different.  I am very excited about the idea of Christmas.  The spending time with my family and kids and for the memories that we will create.  Seeing my parents, sister and brother, nieces and nephews.  The kids all together, etc..  But I am just not into the commercial aspect of  what Christmas has become.  I am stressed because I want to make Christmas special for my kids, as usual, but I just feel like buying them gifts is not enough.  Anyone can do that. I feel like no one understands that it is so much more.  My favorite Christmas cartoon ever since I was a little girl, has always been "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."  My favorite part of it is when his heart grows bigger when he realizes that Christmas means more than gifts.  I was already given my Christmas gift early this year.  My gift this year is to BE HERE.   To celebrate another birthday.  To celebrate another Thanksgiving.  To celebrate another Christmas.  I count my blessings and every day is one to me.  Once you have the diagnosis of melanoma, the future is unknown.  I could live to be a very old lady, or it could come back and take me away from all of this.  I have been having a very hard time ever since Thanksgiving.  I felt like no one felt the way I do about the holidays.  I was very emotional about Thanksgiving.  I was crying all day, privately, because I was so happy just to be here to celebrate and to spend it with my family.  I thought they would be as thankful and as grateful as I was.  And as emotional as I was.  I was so excited to get to my parents house to help my Mom cook and see everyone, but when  I got there, it was just like another day or something.   My Mom never hardly even has a chance to sit down and talk to anyone because there is so much cooking to do and then she has to take care of everyone.  I just wish it could be simpler.  That we could just bond and appreciate each other.

My fiance will be working for Christmas Eve and Day and my kids will be with their Dad Christmas Eve and part of Christmas Day.  I will be alone and it is just sad to me.  I don't want to be alone, but it's okay.  I just wish that I didn't FEEL so alone.  Most days I feel like I am do different from everyone else.   The song "Live Like You Were Dying" comes to my mind a lot.  If we could all just live like we are dying, we would see and feel so much more.  We would appreciate and understand so much more. We wouldn't take so much for granted.  We would see things others don't.  As a photographer, I find beauty in things others just walk by. I feel like I have a better photographic eye because of melanoma.  I love nature.  Even the most gloomy day, I can find so much beauty.

I am not looking for someone to cheer me up.  I need to go through my journey with melanoma and feel all these emotions.  My whole life has changed now that I have melanoma.  I will learn to live with it, but it isn't going to happen over night.  I may be moody and crabby one minute and laughing or crying the next. I may feel the need to remind you to use sunscreen or spend hours posting awareness about melanoma.  I may feel the need to just hide from the world and not hang out or even want to interact with my friends.  I still love all of you.  I just need to be alone sometimes to sort things out.   I may be impossible to deal with, but all I really am looking for is someone to just be there.   A friend said it best today...
"It's okay to be sad. I am sad. Don't try and cheer me up. I don't want to be cheered up. Love me more when I am sad because that's when I need it the most. Hold me and let me cry. Tell me you are here for me if I need you. That's all I need. I won't be sad forever but while I am sad just try and be understanding. "
When I read this, I understood what I had been feeling was okay.  I didn't need anyone to make me feel better.  It was okay for me to feel down sometimes.  Even if I didn't understand why.   I just need my loved ones to be there for me when I need them.  To just BE THERE.  I will heal and I am still me, just a little bit different.  But, it is not different all in a bad way.  I have been given the gift of looking at life differently than most.   And it IS a gift.  The BEST gift.  One that has changed my life.  FOREVER.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Melanoma Pictures

This is a melanoma cell under magnification and dyed to see it better.  This little thing is what tried to kill me.  You will NEVER GET ME!!

Ugly isn't it!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Hardest Lesson I Have Learned

After everything I went through with melanoma, the hardest part of this whole journey has been realizing that I can't MAKE people stop tanning.  I have not been quiet about what I went through, nor have I been shy about showing my scars or posting pictures on my blog, or Facebook pages.  I have talked to others when they have asked me questions about melanoma, my surgery, and my prognosis.  I have comforted scared people that come to show me a mole that they are worried about and then watched them continue to tan.  At first, I thought that I was doing a great thing alerting everyone to the horror of melanoma.  I mean, they must not know, like me, how deadly it is!  I thought everyone that saw my pictures would never tan again.  I thought that they would research melanoma and skin cancer and find out what tanning does to their skin and stop tanning.  I thought tanning salons would end up going out of business, because, OH MY GOODNESS!  TANNING IS DEADLY!  IT CAUSES MELANOMA, WHICH IS NOT JUST SKIN CANCER!!  It didn't happen.  I watched my friends post about their sunburns and their vacations in the sun.  I saw their pictures of tanned or burned skin sometimes.  I was so upset and I didn't understand why they would keep doing that when they knew what had happened to me!  I took it very personal.  I thought that they just didn't care about me at all!  I was so depressed over it, but I never stopped posting things.  I even had a some people "de-friend" me on facebook.  I had others privately ask me if I was "ok", because I was taking it "WAY OVERBOARD".  I didn't care.  I felt like I HAD to get the word out!  I didn't know what tanning was doing to me when I was doing it, and I was trying, (as usual) to be the hero and save everyone and NO.ONE.CARED.  What hurt the most was when it was my own family.  I kept trying for quite a while and then I just said "FORGET IT!!"  If they all want skin cancer so bad, then so be it!!!!  I had a hard time throughout the summer seeing all the pictures and posts about tanning, and summer stuff.  I was a little jealous that they were having so much fun and I had just dodged a bullet.  My whole life had to change.  I could not even walk outside without going into a full-blown panic attack.  I was afraid for the sun to "touch" me.  I stayed inside a lot in May and June.  Then I realized that I was missing out on my life and I found a great sunscreen, lathered myself up and went to the zoo for the day with the family.  It was sunny and very hot that day.  I brought my camera and had fun taking pictures.  I didn't get a sunburn or even a little bit of a tan!  It was great!  Now I could BE outside and still enjoy things without worrying so much.  I sat in the shade all summer and it was the best summer ever!!   I didn't have to worry about not having time to tan.  Or that I wasn't dark enough.  I was FREE FROM THE TAN!!!    I haven't tanned outside or inside since November 2010 and I STILL can see tan lines a year later.  That is how dark I was and how much damage I did to myself. 

I am still upset when someone talks about tanning, or no one comments on my posts and  I always will be.  But, I know that I can't make people do what I want them to do.  It is a free country.  As much as I would love to see all the tanning beds in the world destroyed, I have come to terms with the fact that just because I had melanoma, doesn't mean that people will stop tanning.  It's ok.  Now I just pray for them.