We all know what Melanoma is and what causes it. Tanning. Sun. Genetics. It will never happen to you though so, don’t worry about it. That’s what I always told myself anyway.
Until I felt a small, dark spot on my back. For some reason, I got a bad feeling instantly. I’d never seen it before. I went to the dermatologist a couple of days later. She didn’t like it either so she biopsied it.
And when I was 7 states away from home, two weeks before Christmas, away from my loved ones, I got the phone call that I had Melanoma.
I really wasn’t sure what to think at first. I know Melanoma is dangerous but the dermatologist reminds me that it’s the deadliest form of skin cancer. She tells me we caught it early, but it’s not ‘superficial’. So, it’s not best case scenario, but far from the worst. She continues to tell me all the steps I now need to take in finding an Oncologist Surgeon and the risks of this cancer. She asked if I had questions. I knew I SHOULD have questions, but I didn’t.
And then I cried, a lot. The only feeling I can say I had was fear. I mean, deep down I figured my results wouldn’t be good. But, I was so terrified because I really didn’t know what this all meant. Oncologist Surgeon. Surgery. Cancer. Deadly. Invasive. Words that I never thought would apply to me.
I then did the worst thing you can do in these situations, I Googled. I’m reading about Melanoma survival rates, people’s stories, what my future may hold. Needless to say this scared the shit out of me even more. Even though I was away from home, my classmates that I was staying with were so amazing in keeping me in good spirits. I’ll forever be grateful for them.
Due to an insurance change and a LOT of frustrating days full of tears, a month later I finally met with an Oncologist Surgeon. He tells me the surgery – wide excision – should get rid of the Melanoma, no radiation or anything else should be needed, as long as they don’t find any more cancer while he’s in there. Great, now I can worry about that. But – he had high hopes and made me feel much more at ease.
I didn’t tell many people about my diagnosis. I didn’t want to worry anyone, or just be like hey, how is your day, I have melanoma. I realized a lot of people think, oh – skin cancer, that sucks. Some even compare it to squamous cell or basal cell. Yeah, they all suck, but Melanoma can spread and kill. So, I avoided the conversation all together. My mom and boyfriend were my immediate support systems, and I thanked God for them through this whole journey.
I am now two days post-surgery. Let me tell ya, they strapped me down to a table, so I wouldn’t roll off. It was strange and slightly psychiatric-y. But – the best nap ever, that anesthesia. The incision is on my upper right back. The pain has been pretty real the last two days. Every time I use my right arm it hurts. I tried to do laundry, bad idea. I can’t dress myself, and can’t get the area wet until tomorrow (yeah, no showers). I can take my bandage off tonight, and I’ll be able to see the damage. The scar won’t be pretty. I get my results next week. I have high hopes that he did not find more, but there’s still a small part of me dreading bad news.
Best case scenario, I have to get full body checks every three months for about a year, and then it will lessen. Unfortunately, this cancer comes back pretty often. I’ll deal with this for the rest of my life. I can no longer lay on the beach in a bikini to get a beautiful tan.
I think that’s been the hardest thing for me lately. Everyone looks better tan. I hate being pale. I did everything I could to prevent it – hence the tanning beds throughout college. And now I have to accept it. I can’t leave my house without SPF on. I’m told to wear a hat and clothes if I’m going to be in the sun. My vacations will never be the same. My summers will forever be changed.
But lesson learned, I will never see a tanning bed again. Going tanning before age 30 increases the risk of Melanoma by 75%. I can warn my friends all I want, but they will make the decision for themselves. Everyone should go get checked, no matter your skin tone. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. & Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer of people my age.
That’s my story. I love and thank everyone who has thought about me, prayed for me, texted me, etc. A loving support system like mine can get someone through anything. Pale is my new tan. I will fight Melanoma for the rest of my life, no matter my results next week. So, don’t be silly – go get checked.