Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Daily Frustrations

It's not unusual for me to tell you my frustration with folks who think that melanoma isn't a big deal. How often have you told someone you have melanoma and they respond, "Oh, skin cancer?" like it isn't anything to worry about? Yeah, it happens.

Today I found myself even more frustrated than usual. I wasn't even talking to anyone about cancer, I was simply carrying around a heavy heart thinking about how Hillary Quinn Kind's family cannot celebrate her 26th birthday with her today. Why? She passed away two days ago from melanoma, skin cancer.

Even now, even with the research that is slowly getting out there in the media, folks don't see the importance of skin protection.

Your friendly reminder to wear sunscreen

When I was in New York City this month for my latest set of scans and treatment, I began reading Pale Girl Speaks, by Hillary Fogelson. Hillary discusses her anger with people who acted like she ought to be grateful that she only had skin cancer. Hillary writes:

"It's like Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment: "It's okay to talk about 'the cancer.'" My problem is, no one seems to know diddly squat about melanoma, so I end up defending my illness. "People die from melanoma, you know." "Melanoma spreads throughout the body faster than any other cancer." "Melanoma is the number one cancer among women twenty-five to twenty-nine." "Second to lung cancer, melanoma is the fastest-growing cancer in the world." "If not caught early, melanoma is almost always fatal." "Melanoma doesn't respond to traditional chemotherapy or radiation." Yeah, that's right. I've been doing some online research. So fu** you! Sorry. Like I said, bad day (40)."

What melanoma patient hasn't felt like Hillary? What family member of a melanoma patient hasn't fought the urge to slap the post office lady after she started to laugh while reading a melanoma t-shirt? (OK, maybe that was just my mom...) The point is, there are many people who don't know the seriousness of this cancer. I used to be one of them. It's frustrating. It's risky. And as the person who has had to defend her illness, it tends to piss me off when someone brushes it aside like it's nothing to stress. (Hey Khloe Kardashian and Bruce Jenner!)

This is when we have to try to ignore our own personal frustrations and find the opportunity to educate these people. Instead of getting pissy with the person like I'm often tempted to do, share a statistic with them. Mention why you have such a strong hate for tanning beds. Briefly tell them your own story. Whatever you have to do, force them to think twice. Most of them won't absorb the information you are sharing. But some? Some will go home to their friend Google and type in one word--melanoma--and begin to educate themselves and possibly change the way they live their lives.

Oh, the shock they will have when they realize that melanoma is so much more than just skin cancer.

*Happy birthday, Hillary. My thoughts are with your friends and family today.


Light Skinned Mother said...

Chelsea, I love reading your blog. You put it out there like it is, and I am grateful for that. Many people have no idea how scary melanoma is, or the fears we live with daily worrying about what could happen. Thank you for being such an inspiration to me and so many others.

Danielle said...

Heartbreaking story of such a beautiful, strong woman. I just shared her story of facebook. Thank you for getting the word out there!

Rose ~ from Oz said...

I feel so sad today for Hillary's family. A real life tragedy.
Chelsea your site is amazing and you are a fantastic ambassador - keep on keeping on tellin' it like it is.
(Take care of you too)

Anonymous said...

Thx for your post, I really enjoy your blog. Long time lurker, first time commenter, you know the drill. I tried to share this one time before, I don’t think it posted correctly…hopefully it will this time!

Unknown said...

I am deeply saddened by Hilary's story.

Although I didn't have Melanoma myself, it took my father a little over 3 years ago. I found myself struggling with taking care of my skin (still do sometimes, although I've never been a real tanning bed user). I find it incredibly frustrating when people that I care about don't take Melanoma seriously. My old roommate tans several times a week and uses the excuse that her boyfriend doesn't like pale girls. Another just likes the warmth of the bed. I've told both of them how horrible Melanoma is and that it doesn't know age, but they don't seem to care.

I find your site and your journey inspiring.

Ashlee said...

Even when I had a giant bandage on my calf and was having trouble getting around (I have a seven-month old baby) after surgery, a "friend" of mine still acted as if my melanoma was not a big deal. It hurt my feelings so much. I gues it is our job as fighters / survivors to let people know how serious it really is. Thanks for being one of them!

Kisma said...

You are alone in your frustrations! I believe and have said this before, that only when people are struck with skin cancer or cancer of any kind will they truly understand the impact it has a person.

The first time I heard " it is just skin cancer" I totally went off on the guy asking him point blank if he had any clue WTH he was saying? I lectured him up one side and down the other and informed him that maybe next time before he shares his thoughts he should really think about them and the effect they will have on the person directed at in regards to any type of cancer. Followed by you are an idiot- made me feel better.

Anyway, great post as always and I have said a silent prayer all day for Hillary.

Aunie said...

oh my goodness. that looks really scary! i know you can read about it and hear about it... but true photos like that make a world of difference. thank you so much for sharing!

PS> your new header is outstanding. you are SO BEAUTIFUL!

Jenny said...

Hi Chelsea,

Thank you for sharing your story with us. You're such a strong girl! <3

Jenny said...

Hi Chelsea,

Thanks for sharing your story with us. You're such a strong girl! <3

*dana k* said...

i hear ya lady ... everyday i maintain peoples medical and family history as a nurse. its incredible how many patients i see every day who list lung cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer etc as their only familiar history.... but u bet ur bottom i ask every fair skinned, blue eyed, *high risk* patient if they have any family history of skin cancer - so many respond with "oh yea, but they caught it early and got rid of it"... kinda like people fail to mention when they're exposed to an std (non-spoken of unless they are asked directly or have an obvious funk that requires treatment). Then when i tell them that i was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, they look at me like i have three heads most likely because of my age. i share ur feelings of disgust about people being so evasive and care free about the cancer that has the potential to steal my life ... it honestly hurts my heart when i get this reaction - as id i would make this up ... i even carry around pics of my scar to prove it ... ( its not appropriate to drop my drawers which is necessary to show my most impactful scar )so pics suffice and i know my efforts leave an impact when they request a referral to derm and leave with a diagnosis of "neoplasm of uncertain behavior" ... needless to say ... knowledge is power !!!