Life in situ is a very strange and confusing place to be.
Almost three years ago, when I got that diagnosis, I didn't know how bad melanoma could be. I had my initial screening with the dermatologist. She performed the original punch biopsy that left me with a 1" incision and three stitches. Then she called and said that it was Malignant Melanoma in Situ, but that they could not rule out a tumorous spread, so I needed to see a general surgeon. He would take out a 6 cm x 2 cm section of skin around what had already been removed. Then I would see her every three months for a few years and every 6 months for a few and after 5 years if it hadn't come back, I could go to yearly.
Ok, lets get this sucker cut out and move on with life. But wait! There was more... What is this about seeing her every few months? It's gone. That's when I began doing research.
Doctors hate it when we research. We definitely know which questions to ask, but we also make situations much worse than they really may be. As I researched, I became uneasy. They originally couldn't rule out the tumorous spread, but they believe they got it all the second time. Why was it in situ if they had to go so deep I had two layers of stitches below the skin and a steri-strip seal on top? Why have I never gone for any kind of scan beyond a skin screening with my dermatologist? Should I be?
On on hand, I am extremely thankful that it was caught early. I am so blessed and I thank God for that every day, every time I see my scar, every time someone asks about my scar. I watched this mole for several years, it was a "twin" and the previous dermatologist decided to take the other one first for cosmetic reasons because it was between my toes. It came back fine, so I had a false sense of security, and the "come back next year to check your arm" became 3 years very easily. It wasn't until I realized that people were talking to the mole on my bicep instead of me (or even my chest) that I went back. For it to still be in situ, I have no words for how thankful I am.
On the other hand, you become a bit of a hypochondriac. Every single mole, and even my millions of freckles, are suspicious and many have been sacrificed "just to be sure". As I've done research, I've discovered that melanoma probably wont reappear on my skin. That is worrisome, and I am not the worrying type. Although I was in situ, that ugly bugger was still on my body, so the fear of it returning in my body is sometimes hard to shake. Just this week, while sick and on cold medicines, I was stuttering and slurring. My ADD has gotten much worse since things in my personal life has changed. It's hard not to let the mind go there, when you know what this monster can do. I suffer from polycystic ovaries, if I have pain and it isnt the usual time in my cycle, guess where my mind goes. Now I know that because I caught it early, there is an extremely high percentage of a chance that I will never see melanoma again personally. That does bring me comfort when my mind starts going where it should not go until the time for it to go there gets here. However, it also plays a very motivating factor in why I have changed my and my family's lifestyle and am always eager to get the word out.
People in my life treat me differently. I've mentioned several times that I do not share who I am publicly because my close loved ones are not the most supportive. I'm told that my odor makes them think they are at the beach, that I'm to pale, that I am overreacting because any damage I have now came from my childhood. I'm told that I need to let my child be a child as I put sunscreen on them. That I should relax because they have had pre-cancerous lesions removed too and they are fine. I have been told to stop preaching. I have been taunted with a "well, you cant come out in the sun, you have to stay under that tree". I've gotten eye rolls as I have been creative in my seeking slivers of shade. I have also seen support from unlikely places, like the outdoorsy sun worshiper who tells me to keep sharing, that she may not have changed yet, but she hears me and so do others. Or my former tanning friend who now has a pre-teen daughter and wants her to be confident in her own skin. Or the molemate who was very private in her journey, but one wrong comment about her being pale and now she is getting loud. You have people who stare at your scar, many will ask, some act like they understand, some ask questions.
In the online melanoma community, I really struggled with whether or not I was worthy to go to an event because I was "just in situ", but I was welcomed with open arms by those I met. I have also met adversity in the online community too. I was added to a group, welcomed by many. I was friend requested and emailed by a few. One heard my brief story and disappeared from my friend list. Another responded to my brief story by asking why I thought I belonged in that group, they also are no longer on my friend list. I hesitate to include that, but I wouldn't be as real if I didn't share both sides. More importantly though, I have seen and felt so much love and support among you. Besides, we all are warriors supporting each other and working together to get the word out.
I don't know if there is any purpose to my sharing this. It is something I have had on my heart for a couple of months now, and for the past two weeks every chance I have gotten to sit down I have had an overwhelming urge to share a perspective on life in situ.