Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Let's Not Say That.

I read an awesome blog titled:Tips on Surviving Your Cancer today during my lunch break. It hits on a few topics that cause a lot of debate within cancer patients. Do you tell people you have cancer? Do you shave your hair or let it fall out on its own? Do you ask for help?

Well, it made me think. 

Instead of the typical advice that I would give a newly diagnosed melanoma warrior, it made me remember some of the comments that people have said that have made me cringe. Remember--you must censor yourself sometimes. My life is in danger, you know.

"It's just skin cancer. They will remove it out and you will be fine."
          This simple statement has the ability to turn me into Mega Bitch. Yes, I thought melanoma was just skin cancer too back when I used the tanning bed and spent numerous hours in the sun. And yes, I am guilty of saying that statement myself. AND yes, if caught early, melanoma can be cut off of you, and you will just need to follow up with a dermatologist throughout the years. However, for many of us, melanoma is so much more than just skin cancer. It is the very thing that wants to kill us. Need I remind you that your skin is your largest organ?

"Well, you don't look sick!"
        Sometimes I think people would take my cancer more seriously if the treatment options caused us to lose our hair. People associate cancer as a bald head with a scarf. I do not look like the typical cancer patient. Because I have my hair, people assume I am not that sick. You know what scares me most? I don't know what's going on inside of my body. I would much rather look like crap on the outside and know that my miracle drug is healing me. I was recently introduced to this incredible blog (seriously, have your tissues nearby when you read this.) The blog is written by the husband of a recent melanoma angel. Nick writes from the point of view of the caretaker. In this particular post, he is discussing waiting rooms. He writes, "Meagan looks fantastic, as she doesn’t appear to have cancer, so sometimes you get the feeling people are looking at her and wondering, what the hell is she doing here messing up our ‘hood - this is for CANCER patients. I sometimes feel like standing up and announcing, “we are here for a reason - my lovely wife has fuckin’ metastatic melanoma!”. Amen, Nick, Amen.

"Thank God it's not breast cancer!"
        I am not trying to discredit breast cancer patients. Their own personal battles are no different than my own. Cancer is cancer. However, do not tell me that I should be thankful that I have melanoma instead of a cancer like breast. Do you know what it feels like when your oncologist, a melanoma specialist, tells you that they just don't know the best way to treat melanoma? With many cancers, there are certain treatment plans that have been tested and have been proven to work time and time again. With many cancers, there are numerous years of extensive medical research. With melanoma, we are just now beginning to progress with research. (Speaking of which, did you all read the AMAZING news today?!!!) 

"I have a family history of skin cancer but I have never been to a dermatologist."
       Family history is a huge indicator of what you will eventually have. Don't wait until it's too late.

"My brother died from melanoma." 
      Please, I am already scared. When you are stressing the big work project you have coming up, I am wondering what it is like to die. (Sorry, dramatic. But it's true! I think about it.) Instead, tell me something that will give me hope. Knowing that this cancer is not going away--ever--I need things that will inspire me.

"But I LOVE being tan!"
...I am pretty sure you love being alive too. Pick one. 


 And I repeat...

                          "It's just skin cancer."

"Melanoma - a word that changes your life forever. 
To all the survivors you make us believe in miracles. 
To all the beautiful angels you make us believe in love. 
To all the amazing warriors you make us believe in hope. 
We will never give in and will never give up. 
Melanoma you've got a one way ticket to hell. ♥"
        ~Borrowed from a friend on Facebook, Melissa.


Becca said...

Wow, as always, so SO well said!! You say all the things we're all thinking and feeling. Especially the part "But I love to be tan", but you love to be alive, too.

Pick one.

That just said it all for me.

Anne said...

Chelsea- You are such a gifted writer and your blog is a blessing to so many of us. Thank you for sharing your experience and telling it like it is! XO!

Al said...

Through your blog...and those of many others...I've learned to express to others the hope (and demand) of survival. Yes, "my brother died of melanoma" ( that was my only relationship with the disease. But after meeting so many online, such as you...I've seen so very much more...become so much more aware of the disease and the community of melanoma. Your blog continues to be inspiring and best of all, educational and informative!

Tim said...

Unfortunately, almost ANYTHING someone says can be a problem depending on what my state of mind happens to be at that particular time.

When I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all and someone says something positive; "you look great" or "you'll beat this thing" I get annoyed... If they're expressing sadness or sorrow when I'm in an up mood then I get annoyed... It's gotten to the point where I feel more sorry for those who have to deal with my mood-of-the-minute than I do about my own situation!

I try to just let this kind of thing slide. I do my best to keep in mind that these people aren't TRYING to annoy me... they're just doing an absolutely HORRENDOUS job of trying to be helpful! :-)

If they persist, then I'm honest with them. I have been known to correct people when they're off base or being especially (in my mind) insensitive. I obviously try to do it as politely as possible, but in my situation, I'm sure it doesn't always come off that way (especially when the topic is something like indoor tanning). Most people seem to accept it just fine because... well... what else are they going to do?... Get bent out of shape with a cancer patient?

I haven't actually told all that many people about my situation (my family and a few close friends obviously, but it's strictly "need to know" at work and among casual friends, etc.) I'm sure more have found out through the grapevine, but for the most part, I just avoid the whole "C-word" topic if at all possible. I don't hesitate to shut the discussion down with a polite but firm "I'm fine right now so it's not something I want to spend time talking about". It was hard at first, but after a year and a half I think people are starting to get the point. As long as I'm NED, I'm back to living my life as normally as possible (as normal as prudent visits to the Dermatologist, Oncologist and Radiologist allows).


Kelly said...

What a great post. I'm so glad I found your blog. I have Stage 4 melanoma and everything you said in this post is so true. I can't wait to read more :)

Take Care!!

Anonymous said...

Recently I noticed a small brand new spot on my body and started researching what it could be. After reading a bunch of stuff I noticed a few other spots ive had for a while might be cause for concern and previously I never even gave them a second look over. To say the least I was concerned but was still saying to myself ahhhh its nothing, definitely not worth going to the Dr about. Then I stumbled into your blog, and then stumbled onto Nicks blog and just felt so sad and way more aware. Needless to say Ive scheduled an appointment to get looked at next week. Better safe than sorry. Im only 23, I dont want to look back one day and wish I had just gotten checked out. So if you even still check this blog, thank you for educating.