Friday, January 27, 2012

"...But I Will Get Up."

Lately I have received messages from quite a few newly diagnosed melanoma warriors. Like I was only a year ago, they are overwhelmed, stunned, scared (what an understatement!) and buried underneath statistics and scary medical terms. They come to me to tell me that my blog has given them comfort and allowed them to feel not quite so alone. This post is for these men and women. 

I know how you feel. It was only a year ago that I heard the news that melanoma had spread to multiple lymph node basins. It was only a year ago that an oncologist looked at me and told me that I am an unusual case. Just a year ago, I was shocked into silence.

Then I started writing this blog.

However you decide to handle your cancer is completely up to you. My only advice is that you actually handle it, do not allow yourself to get stuck in the denial phase. This is your life that we are talking about. If you do not like what your oncologist tells you, go for a second opinion. If you are not sure if surgery or treatment is the best option for you, reach out to others who have experienced both first hand. Do your research.

I know it's scary. I know that scared does not begin to cover how you are feeling. Death in general is terrifying for most of us. The idea of yourself dying is paralyzing. Recently, a new molemate asked me, "How do you accept that you may be about to die?" Well, I cannot say that I have ever accepted that. Dying is not an option for me right now. Stubborn, I know, but I never gave into that fear. If I did, I do not believe I would be where I am today.

When it comes down to it, life is what it is. We have no control over how and when we will die. It could be death by melanoma or death by a vampire. None of us know. All I ask is that you do not simply accept that you are about to die just because you have received this diagnosis. No, there are not tons of options, but there are options. Call me Ms. Cheerful, but I believe attitude plays a key part in our health. No, a positive attitude cannot cure cancer, but it sure as hell can make this experience a little less difficult for you.

I know you probably feel alone. As awesome of a support group as I had last year, I still felt completely alone. I knew my family and friends were heartbroken for me and desperately wanted to be the emotional support I needed, but they could not possibly understand exactly what was running through my head. I was a 23 year old girl facing her own mortality for the first time. When my mom introduced me to the online melanoma world, I expected it to be a bunch of weirdos, people I could not connect with, sharing their melanoma stories. I never imagined I would actually post my own questions and intimate stories. Instead of being a silent observer, I made friends. (OK, we are ALL a little odd, I was right about that, but maybe that is why we get along? XO!)  I never knew how people could connect in such a way over the internet until I was diagnosed with melanoma. I have made lifelong friends thanks to the forums, Facebook, and this blog. You don't have to be alone. Reach out to us. There are so many people who have felt exactly what you are feeling.

You are going to meet people in your daily life who believe melanoma is just skin cancer. They are going to tell you to get the mole removed and get back to your life. It is easy--and acceptable--to become infuriated with these folks. However, didn't you once think the same thing? I did. Educate them. And if they still believe you are being a drama queen (or king!) then maybe they are not the type of people you need in your life anyway. Melanoma is a sneaky beast. You have done the research. You know how it works.

Lastly, do not let your normal life get placed completely on the back burner. As many people have had to remind me, I have melanoma. Melanoma does not have me.  I am not melanoma.  (And yes, sometimes I still need to be reminded of this.)

Whatever you do, do not give up. That, my friends, is when melanoma wins.


Becca said...

You're such a shining light for the Melanoma community and I think you're only starting to realizing how many people you will help in your amazing life. I'm honored to call you friend. :)

Julie said...

Chelsea this is maybe my favorite post ok ok I have a lot of favorites but this one I will continue to read over and over again!! Almost a year later for myself and I still find that I needed to hear these words, thank you!!