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."
~Borrowed from a friend on Facebook, Melissa.