My procedure was quick and I recovered in about four weeks. However, the emotional impact of what has happened to me will last a lifetime.
As my wound physically healed, my friends and most of those who knew me began to move on from this “unusual” experience.
I tried to move on as well, but soon realized that the emotional recovery would become something unlike anything I have ever experienced.
At first I would shake it off when people asked about the cancer, or laugh it off as if it did not faze me. I even commented that it was just a big scar that would make for a pretty tattoo on my back one day.
Everyone always joked I was the girl slathered with sunscreen sitting under the umbrella at the beach. Somehow I felt like since everyone else had moved on from my experience and had acknowledged it as a big scar, I needed to do the same.
Who was I to pull an “I had a cancer story,” when the process of removing the cancer occurred in a span of three month, years, and even a lifetime, and thinking of these individuals made me feel slightly guilty.
I felt like I was being selfish for grouping myself with people who had suffered throughout their entire lives, people who had their worlds consumed by their diagnosis, and who had to be continuously strong.
It has taken me almost two years to figure out what has happened to me.
The emotional recovery is an ongoing process in my life, unlike my speedy physical recovery. I am still trying to discover why this happened to me and how I can use my experience with cancer to help others. I am not a cancer survivor with a medical or spiritual miracle story to tell, nor did I physically battle for years with my diagnosis.
However, I still had cancer. I still want to be associated with all the brave individuals who have cancer and those who are continually coping on a day-to-day basis. Every three to six months I have to go to the dermatologist. Each time I visit the doctor I wonder if shoe will find a mole that will need to be removed.
If they find a mole, will it be cancerous? Will it change my life again? Hopefully I will be lucky enough that if cancer is ever detected, it will be caught early enough so as not to become more serious than stage one melanoma.
I think I realized how serious my diagnosis could have gotten and how lucky I was, when a local reporter interviewed me right after my surgery.
He asked me, “So how does it feel knowing that you could have died.”
I laughed at this question and replied “That could never have happened to me-this cancer was not like that.”
That question didn’t impact me until two years later, and at the age of 20; I finally began to understand that could have died from my melanoma if it had gone undetected. I was one of that lucky ones.
I am beginning to realize that even though cancer diagnoses vary in severity, the emotional and spiritual impacts can be very much the same.
I realize that my cancer, though just a scar on my back now, is a big part of my life that will follow me forever. It has become a part of me. I realize now that it is ok to sit and cry every so often and to think, “I can’t believe this happened to me.”
It’s ok for me to feel like I can relate to those who have experienced all types and extremes of diagnoses, and feel like I am connected to those individuals.
This event has and always will define me as a person. Not just because of the physical scar on my back, but because of the person I am today and the person I will continue to grow into. ”
This May (and every month this summer) please take extra care to avoid burns and over exposure to the sun.
Use the above chart to help monitor your body. If any spots or moles start showing warning signs, please inform your dermatologist.
Cancer Changes Lives…So Do We!