Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Life Changes

You are in your prime years.  You have a wonderful family, friends and life is good.  Everyone is healthy and happy.  

Then suddenly one day, you get a phone call.  "I'm sorry, but your test came back, and you have cancer.  You are lucky though, because it was caught early, but you do have to have one more surgery because they cannot rule out a tumorous spread"  You are crushed.  

You have the surgery, you recover and are left with a scar from the incision, but the news is good.  They got the entire tumor this time.  You don't need any further treatment, but you will have to have scans every 3 months for a few years, then every 6 months for a few years, then after 5 years, the screenings are just yearly.  

This is commonly known as remission or cancer free.  There's one problem though.  Your cancer was melanoma.  It is different.  With melanoma, even if they remove the entire tumor, you are not cancer free.  That's because just once rogue cell can get into your bloodstream and one day, with no warning, decide to grow with fury again.  That one potential cell keeps you from being cancer free.  You don't know if or when it will ever return.  You pray it won't, but the possibility never leaves your mind.

Your friends and family don't understand.  They think you had it cut out, so you are okay.   You find yourself constantly trying to educate them.  They just don't want to get it.  They make jokes about tans and paleness.  They tell you they respect you, as they check in at the tanning salon.  They tell you that you are being too sensitive, as you struggle about whether or not to react to their jokes.  They tell you that they have had precancerous spots removed, that they were told by their doctor that all damage to their skin was done in their youth.  You get very good at tuning out the comments. You are also good at thanking people for their compliments about you smelling like a beach. You learn to be very non-confrontational when you are tuning out a conversation someone you don't know is having, and your mutual friend asks you what your thoughts are.  You learn not to take the comments personally. You also learn that every conversation isn't the right conversation to be educating. You pray for the day that everyone gets it, not just out of respect for you and your experience, but also out of respect for themselves.  

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