I thought I would be done with melanoma after my doctor removed a stage 0 mole from my upper thigh. Another biopsy, wide excision and another scar. This went on five more times before I accepted that being high risk for melanoma would be a lifelong journey. As they say, a melanoma patient, is a patient for life.
My cancer was never invasive, but because it has that potential, it is treated surgically. My doctor doesn’t stitch my excisions so when I saw each layer of skin right down to my fascia for the first time, I “got it” very quickly. How insidious, and horrific this disease is—I know the statistics—my risk factors—how long before this becomes invasive? Did we catch it early enough? At times these questions became all consuming.
There have been stretches of time during the past two years that I am NOT proud of—but In hindsight, I know I had a right to be angry and confused. Every biopsy brought an onslaught of anxiety. I felt guilty for feeling all of these emotions knowing (and trust me, I KNOW others in a far worse situation than mine). Ironically—it wasn’t until I allowed myself to feel them, that I began to move forward. We each meet challenges with an accumulation of past experiences, that shapes how we respond and illuminate what we need to learn. Comparison is not only the thief of joy but robs us of everything we are. Your melanoma journey is yours alone and sometimes it’s not clear when life is going to hold you back or propel you forward. Scream. Cry. Be anxious. Be stuck. Jump for joy. Be exactly where you are.
These biopsies. These scars. They have changed me in ways I never imagined. I’ve been blessed with some of the kindest, most loving people, including my dear husband, who saw through to my better side and gave me space when I needed it. He held on when I pushed away, did not judge me. Who knew there was more to me than a patient trying to managing the “what-ifs” of melanoma. Whether it’s your disability, your mental illness, your cancer, it does not define all that you are. In the midst of pain and suffering we lose sight of our wholeness. For a while, I lost sight of mine.
This journey is not over. There will be more biopsies. More scars. I’ve learned the long way around, that as much as I try to, I cannot control everything. I’m slowly learning to let go. To reach out more. I’ve learned that I can live even my most anxious day and still make room for extraordinary joy and gratitude. That I am here at all, that any of us are, is miracle enough.