Friday, July 17, 2015

A Note About Yesterdays Post

So yesterday I was whiny.  Please let me note that I am aware that I "just" have a new scar.  My cancer is not back, it has not spread.  Once again, I was able to "just cut it out" and no more atypical cells are in my body.  I am still 5 years NED.  I should be thankful.

8 1/2 years ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.  She defied all odds, first infertility, then loss, then giving up, and finally being born with the cord around her neck and in a knot.  She is a perfect, smart, funny little girl.  She is a blessing on all levels.  So after she was born, I went into a depression.  I couldn't understand it.  Here I was, with my beautiful second child, my family complete.  Why was I in such a funk?  Nobody could see it, it was just there, and I couldn't explain the weighty fog I felt I was in. Well, it turned out that another gift the pregnancy gave me was a thyroid imbalance.  A few days on medication and I felt like a new person again.

I think any sort of health problem, visible or not, has an emotional toll.  Some of the less visible or stereotypical problems, people just cant or don't want to understand.  That can make you feel misunderstood or lonely.  I have felt both of those in the past month.

So God has blessed me, my cancer was found early.  It did not spread. I am now 5 years NED.  I need to stop focusing on those who misunderstand or criticize.  I have found a wonderful community in those who do.  I am so thankful for them.  No matter what stage, we are all welcome, known, loved and cared for.

I'm not going to quit sharing. I cant.  I believe that my melanoma was found early, so that I can share.  I will work on how personally I take the dismissive responses of others.  It isn't a reflection of me.  It is a reflection of them.

I have seen someone who in the presence of 3 melanoma warriors, and another who has had one of the carcinomas removed and had to rebuild her nose, gets blistered red, and snaps at people when they comment about her needing to be careful, stating she will be tan tomorrow.  She likes the provoking feelings she creates, not just in this, but in all aspects of life.

I have seen tan people listen, ask questions, say they didn't realize, they will think about it.  The seed is planted, now it just needs the right nurturing.

As warriors, we need to focus on the nurturing, eventually the others will come around.  Just pray that they get it before they get it.

I will work on this.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

5 Years NED - Scars

I just read over my post from last month.  I think I should have called it the lonely side, but instead I called it emotional, because I was a basket-case then.  I think the thought of having a scar on my face, right above my eyes, which I consider my best feature was scary.  You learn a lot about yourself and your vanity with this disease.  While you prefer a scar to a cancerous tumor, you still have to emotionally accept some of the scars.  Some of them take some getting used to.

I went through that a little bit with my bicep.  I think my scar is great, it has even had a shave biopsy off the top of it.  It is a line scar, has a little bit of red pigment, and 5 years later it still dimples out on the ends.. While I am so thankful that my 3" scar is not more, I did have to come to terms with it being somewhere that it was always seen.  Now, I love that I have instant access to an example of what melanoma can be, even when caught early.  

I didn't have it so much with the one on my scalp.  It is a 1" scar, a perfect silver line.  He did amazing.  He left a 3/4" scar from the biopsy, then went around that for the wide excision.  By the time he "pulled everything back together like a gift box", as he put it when he asked the nurse to hold it, there isn't even a bald spot. Just a line that you can see because it is right in my part, to the side and where the bangs come forward.  I will point it out to people, and I have made them feel the "divot" that was left behind.

When it came to my forehead, I was extremely nervous.  I guess I tried to express that nervousness to the wrong people.. aka those I know in real life.  I was told that it wouldn't be as big as the one on my arm (3"), I wish she had said the one on my scalp (1"), but she didn't.  So that told me it would be somewhere between.  She did the biopsy as an excision, so that she wouldn't have to go back and take more, if it was something.  Plus a punch or a shave would have left an ugly scar, she wanted me to have a line scar that would blend in with the lines on my forehead.  I heard a lot of "you'll be fine", that may have been their way of support, but to me it felt dismissive.

After the excision, I had to keep pressure on my forehead for 24 hours.  She hit a vessel, and this would keep it from forming a blood pocket underneath.  My bandages went from my eyebrow to my hair line.  I didn't know what to expect.  I knew I had 3 stitches, but were they close together or far apart?  After 24 hours when I changed the bandage, I was shocked.  It was just over the width of my index finger!  I was so happy.

Over the course of the first week, I cut the strings on the stitches a little shorter, so by the end of the week, I was using a strip of gauze and paper tape to hold it on.  I actually got a snarky comment about my bandages getting smaller.  I responded about cutting the stitches down and how glad I was that they were.  "Yeah, it obviously doesn't cover your whole forehead like you acted like it would"  What??  I was told it would be bigger, I'm thankful it wasn't and you are going to act like I was attention seeking.

Then came the stitch removal. I was as excited as possible, because I could tell the incision was going to be a "cute" little line. Unfortunately, one of the knots was inside the incision line.  He had to partially open it to remove the stitch.  I was pissed.  I went from a line to what might as well have been a shave biopsy in appearance.  I had to heal again.  So I kept it covered for another week.  I slowly started going out with it uncovered, because I was sweating off the bandages (gotta love southern heat/humidity). I got so many comments along the lines of what I heard above.  Again, I learned that I tried to seek comfort from the wrong people..

Since then, I have only allowed one picture of me.  At one of my best friends wedding.  I'm not one for selfies, unless there is a reason, but I have avoided group pictures, selfies, everything.  I know, let me repeat, I KNOW, this scar is not going to be noticeable to those who aren't looking for it, but to me (and I am getting misty eyed as I type), it is what I see.  What I see is a hole in my forehead.  Am I thankful that it is just a little hole in my forehead? Absolutely.  My appearance has changed, however slightly, or visibly, it has changed.  I have to come to terms with that.  I know I will.  I know soon I will embrace it, just as I have the other two.  I have already told a tanning family member that her behavior is why I have a hole in my forehead right now.  It's coming.

I just wish that people in my life understood that what I was told, was different than what was. That they were thankful with me, that it was smaller than I was told, not larger, and that all the atypical cells were taken the first try. That they didn't act like I was just making up what I was told.  I mean I wouldn't have purposefully acted like a visible scar would be larger for attention, the truth would come out eventually.

I have many scars, I had 2-3 biopsies at every dermatologist visit over the course of the past 5 years.  They are all over my body, from between my toes to my scalp.  These 3 are the biggies.  I honestly hope that my forehead continues to heal in a way that it is not noticeable unless I point it out. A month later, it is a red hole.  I hope I grow to embrace it, sooner rather than later. Honestly, I feel like a petty little drama queen at the moment, because I am having to adjust to the change, because they are critical and dismissive, because I am vain.  I think I am beating myself up for even having these feelings probably to the point that I am making them worse.  I am thankful for this blog, that I can express the feelings, regardless of what they are, claim them as existing, and hopefully begin to get some closure over them.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

5 Years NED - The Emotional Side

I'm a little emotional today.  I've been in a funk all week.  I don't know why, but if you have ever been in a funk, you understand how the little things tend to become bigger than they should be.  Things bother you more, and that sometimes just letting it out can help you feel better. Please bear with me, because I'm resurrecting my blog as an outlet.

I feel very alone in my personal life when it comes to my melanoma journey.  I am so thankful for the people I have met online, my melahomies.  Even though my early stage journey is nothing compared to what some of them have been through, with multiple surgeries, treatments and even loss, they have never once made me feel like I don't belong.  I am so thankful for each and every one of them/you.

This week I celebrated 5 years NED.  I made a quick post about it on Facebook, but knowing the nature of the beast, in my mind, I compared it to a birthday.  Oh, this big birthday is coming up, and you wake up feeling no different the morning of.  Even so, I was very disappointed that my family didn't seem to care.  I know it was Facebook, but any other cancer and they would care about 5 years, right?  It was disappointing, it hurt.

So I ended the week with a trip to the dermatologist.  I have one mole on my arm, that I subconsciously pick at, and don't realize I've done it until it is blistered or scabbed over.  I asked her to remove it.  She said she wasn't concerned about it, it was flesh colored, had an ugly black hair, and had not changed in size since she first measured it years ago.  It is being tested, but was really just a cosmetic thing.

As she checked me out though, she asked about another spot on my forehead.  I have mentioned it once before.  I reminded her that she said it was an age spot.  She brought out her lighted microscope thing.  She said it looks more like a mole, but it is a purple/blue color.  You don't have any other ones like that.  I asked her if she thought it changed, and she said yes.  So on Thursday, I get to go back for a surgical appointment so that she can remove it in a way that will leave me with "a small line scar, not as big as the one on my arm, that will blend in with the lines on my forehead"  I came home and inspected what is still just fine lines, thanks partially to the mini-facelift I got with my scalp excision 2 years ago.  I'm not so thrilled, but as I'll say in a second, I prefer a scar to the alternative.  My family's response.  I haven't really gotten much of one yet.

So, there's the latest on what I like to call the roller coaster ride of my melanoma journey. Please don't get me wrong.  I am thankful, words cannot describe how thankful I am.  I was around a lot of friends and family last night.  I really just wanted someone I could physically touch or hear to give me a hug and say "I'm glad you are at 5 years NED" or "I hate that you have to have another excision, but everything will be okay no matter what"

On a good note, my family may not be checked in, but I did get one person to stop ignoring a spot that was bothering them.  Our neighbor found out she had to go back in for further excision on atypical cells.  I told her that I was glad she got checked and that my theory was that I'd rather a scar than cells that could grow into more being on my body.  I told my dermatologist about this conversation, that she had said she got checked because of me, and she, the dermatologist, said "I really hope you did say that to her"  "Of course I did, this isn't anything to play with"  She just smiled and said she was glad I got it.   Oh, I get it all right.