Monday, April 23, 2012

Thank You For Being a Friend

There is nothing quite like having people reach out to you and tell you that they think you are amazing and inspirational.  To get their approval and for them to tell you they relate to what you are saying. For strangers to change their minds about the damage they are doing to their bodies.  For my family to try to help me raise awareness.  For friends to send me links to articles about skin cancer.  It is amazing to me that I have such a support group in my melanoma community and here on my blog.  I started this blog after I was diagnosed with Stage 2a melanoma on 4-1-11.  It has been over a year ago that my whole world changed.  I am gearing up to celebrate my one year cancerversary soon and I have a million thoughts running through my mind.  I just want to shout out to all of you who read my blog, follow me on facebook, or who I know personally, that have traveled this journey with me.  Many of you have given me support from the beginning.  Some have hurt for me and haven't known what to say to me.  For those that have not abandoned me when I needed you the most, I want to say thank you.  For those of you that did abandon me, I also want to say thank you.  I don't need friends like that.  As I travel this journey, I have learned a lot and I will continue to learn a lot.  I definitely have learned a lot having melanoma.  I am in remission.  I will always have melanoma, but I am still Melissa.  I may have changed a bit, but I am still Melissa.  Melanoma will not define me.  I love all of you and want to know that without each of you, I would not be the person I am today.  You guys give me hope and strength and make me keep spreading melanoma awareness.  You allow me to be myself and you accept me for who I am.  I will continue to do this for you, as well as for myself.  Thank you for being a part of my life! XOXO

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spreading Awareness

It isn't always easy spreading awareness, or sharing my story.  I have come to the conclusion that people are going to still tan even after hearing  my story.  I was so sure that they would stop when they heard about melanoma.  I mean, I didn't know about it when I was tanning my skin every chance I could get.  I felt like it was my duty to tell everyone what I had found out, the hard way, so they wouldn't go through it too.  It was very hard  to accept that they still tanned, some in tanning beds,  but I do accept it and I am much less stressed about it.  Yes, it still shocks me when I see a tanned person.  Tan doesn't look as attractive as it once did.  I feel scared people who tan sometimes too.  I hope and pray they never know what melanoma is first hand.  And I know deep down that a lot of them will.  I never push my story or beliefs on people.  I put it out there on the web in the form of awareness, but I don't get in people's business and get mad at them if they don't listen.  We all have the right to do what we want.  As much as I would love for everyone to stop tanning because of what happened to me.  I know that reality is, that is not going to happen.   I still get upset and I still cry, but for my sanity, I have had to step back and let people be human.  We all like to think we are invincible.  I wish that were true, but I know first hand it isn't.

Friday started off like any other day (other than it was my daughter's birthday!)  I got ready for work,dropped my daughter off at school and went to work.  I work in a doctor's office and I was rooming a patient.  She was in her 70's and she was very tan.  I usually just ignore it, because I don't open up about myself to patients with personal info very often.  I was taking her blood pressure and before I know it I said, " You look like you were on a tropical vacation."  She replied that she knows it is bad for her (meaning to be that tan, I assume), so I reply, "Yeah, it is pretty bad for you.  If you ever want to tan I will show you my scar from melanoma."  She said she had 2 spots removed the day before and pointed to 2 bandaids on her lower right leg.  She said, "The dermatologist doesn't think it is melanoma, but one of the "other ones", squamous cell carcinoma."  Then she asked to see my scar.  I told her I would show her after I got all her vitals.  As soon as I would do something, she would say," Let me see your scar."  I knew I had her interest, and didn't just want to SHOW her the scar on my leg.  I also wanted to EDUCATE her.  After all, I decided if I have to live with this scar, I am going to use it to my advantage! To educate about the REAL dangers of tanning.  So, I finished working her up and then I said, "Ok, here it is."  I pulled up my pant leg and she got off the exam table and came down to get a good look.  She asked me questions about it, like, when was my surgery, and did they get it all?  I answered her questions and told her that I felt lucky to be alive.  We talked and she asked questions and I answered them.  She told me that her sister in law had died from melanoma and that  daughter had died from a brain tumor and she herself had been treated for stage 1 breast cancer.  I  told her that there is a link between melanoma and breast cancer.  She didn't know that.  No one at the cancer center she goes to ever told her not to tan.  She then said something that really made me happy.  She said, "You are amazing and I thank you for sharing your story with me.  I won't lay in the sun or use tanning beds anymore."  I felt like I was flying I was so happy!  I told her that I have a lot of info on my blog and my facebook page, "My Journey with Melanoma"  She asked for the links and again thanked me for sharing my story.  She called me inspirational.  It was the best feeling ever! 

Later that same day, I was taking a blood pressure on another lady who was about my age.  She grabbed my bracelets on my arm and asked me what "the black bracelet was for?"  I said "melanoma".  She said, she has one just like it.  I just stared at her for a minute.  I thought maybe it was her that had melanoma. She then said her friend died from melanoma.  We had a quick chat and she asked me if I was NED and I told her I was currently and that I was going to celebrate my one year cancerversary on April 27th.  She told me that she never knew that melanoma was so bad until she watched her friend go through his battle.  He was in his 30's and used tanning beds in his teens a few times.   It felt good to talk about the real me.  The melanoma me.  I feel alone in my world most days because of my lonely diagnosis.  I have my friends and family and my fellow melanoma warriors, but in the real world on most days, I feel alone.  I feel like there is no one in MY world like me. But, I am really not alone.  There are too many people just like me. 

For my one year cancerversary, I have been trying to think of something special to do to celebrate.  I think the answer is to keep on spreading awareness.  To be the REAL me.  Melanoma is not something I wanted in my life, but we are stuck together and I plan on being here a long time.  I will celebrate by telling my story.  I will celebrate by showing my scar.  I will celebrate by being alive.