I couldn't sleep last night. I tossed. I turned. My husband probably thought a few times about pushing me out of the bed. I tossed and I turned some more. What would have me up at 2:30 A.M. in such a fit? The title "Cancer Survivor."
Some of you know that wearing the hat "Cancer Survivor" makes me cringe and quickly change the subject. To many people who have not battled melanoma, that probably seems ridiculous. After all, I've sat half naked on a cold exam room when the dermatologist mumbled those two words, "it's melanoma." I've seen the sympathy in the nuclear medicine tech's face as the radiologist informed me of the "hot spots" on a scan. I've looked an oncologist in the eyes as he told my then-boyfriend and I that melanoma would not kill me "right now." (And then I basically fired him.) I spent a month recovering from a brutal surgery only to have a more invasive surgery a month later that kept me in the hospital for 4 nights. I knowingly signed up for a 3 year clinical trial involving a placebo and a drug the doctors didn't know all that much about for stage 3 patients all because I didn't like my two other choices: "watch and wait" or Interferon.. I FINISHED the 3 year clinical trial with only a few bad memories. I've spent 3 and a half years of my time and effort sharing my story on every social media outlet in hopes of saving one person from making the poor decisions I've made. I've traveled to Richmond and met with committee members begging for them to protect Virginia's teens from the dangers of tanning beds. I went from having no scars on my body to having more than I can count. But I still cringe at being called a survivor.
I am surviving. Every new mole, every swollen lymph node, every 3 months with the oncologist and dermatologist, we do what needs to be done to make sure we keep one step ahead of melanoma. And despite that, the sneaky beast has come back twice. So tonight, when I walk the stage with other cancer survivors at Cure By Design, I'm walking for all of my mole-mates who are no longer here to strut the stage. I'm walking in honor of my melanoma friends, many I've never met, as thanks for the love and support you continue to give me. I'm walking as a survivor because I know that's what they would want. I'm walking as a survivor because that's what I intend to do: survive.
To learn more about the Cure by Design event that sponsors the American Cancer Society or to donate in honor of your favorite cancer survivor, please click here.