mel·a·no·ma ˌ/meləˈnōmə/

  1. a tumor of melanin-forming cells, typically a malignant tumor associated with skin cancer.

My friend Misti shares her journey of finding out she has cancer and what she learned in the process.  In her own words:

When people ask me what kind of cancer I have they seem almost relieved it’s ‘only skin cancer’. But skin cancer is still cancer. It’s very real and can kill you. It has a low success rate of survival and the treatment is one if the longest and hardest treatments out there.

 

Recently someone said to me “you joke about cancer too much” and that got me thinking. So I decided to write a little about it. Here’s what happened.   A few years ago I had a funky freckle looked at by a dermatologist. He said, “It’s nothing now and never will be.  Don’t worry about it.”  So I didn’t.   Even as it became larger, his words lingered in my head.   “Don’t worry about it!

 

The Culprit

Two years later it was a big, ugly mole and I just wanted it off my body!  So I went to a free, cancer screening.  The mole had recently started bleeding and crusting over but I didn’t really ‘worry about it’.   After all, there is NO HISTORY OF CANCER in my family and I pretty much always expected to die of heart disease.   So I went and the doctor decided to remove it.

I didn’t ask about results because I didn’t ‘worry about it’.  I went in on a Friday and had it removed. I was left with a cute little scar with a story, right?  Wrong!

“Normal freckles and moles don’t change for no reason. If it starts changing, it IS a problem that needs to be addressed.”

That night, I made a delicious meal of rice, broccoli and some faux chicken.  I’ll never forget that meal.  It was nothing special, but what happened during dinner would change our lives forever. The phone rang, it was my doctor.  I figured he was checking on me to see how I was doing.  The conversation went like this:

DoctorMisti, your mole was tested and was shown to be a Clark level 3 melanoma.

Me: Oh okay, good!  ….pause…..Oh wait, you said it IS melanoma?  I have cancer?

There it was! The dreaded “C” word.  I was still in shock but we talked some more.

If you get just ONE bad sunburn before you’re 18 you are much more likely to get melanoma as an adult.

He’s an awesome doctor who took time after office hours to call me and explain stuff to me.  He asked me to come in his office the very next morning so he could go over the process.  I returned to the dinner table, clearly shaken but unable to speak.

I excused the kids and just stood there in the doorway.  It was hard to say that word to my husband, Paul.  I was so vague that he didn’t really understand what I was trying to say.  So I just said, “That was the doctor.  He says my mole was melanoma.  I have cancer!”  I have to admit, if they had tested the mole and somehow found that I had heart disease that would have made more sense to me than cancer!

I guess it was ok for me to start ‘worrying about it’.

Over the next few months I had 3 more surgeries. One more mole removed. Countless blood work, PET scans and MRI’s. I’ve been poked and injected with dye and radiation.  My entire life has changed forever.   At first, I didn’t want to become this disease. I didn’t want to be “Misti with cancer”. But, as it turns out, that is exactly who I am.

 

Just like other things I can’t change about myself like my skin color, my height, and my DNA.  I am Misti with cancer! I embrace it because it’s part of me now.  I have always loved humor because laughing feels good! So the two may not seem to go together but in my world they combine nicely. So, that’s why I joke about my cancer a lot! I am Misti with cancer and I’m doing my best to beat it.  I am not always chipper but as a self-proclaimed, hopeless cynic, I think I’m doing pretty well.

KNOW YOUR BODY

  • Get to know every freckle and mole on your whole body and check them regularly.  If you can’t see a spot, ask your loved one to check it out for you.
  • Be proactive with your health.  Get those moles removed before they turn into something that could kill you.  Now is the perfect time to call Valley Health Care for a complete skin checkup.

Jennifer Bell

Jennifer Bell has managed many specialty areas of healthcare including, kidney transplant, physical therapy and surgery.  She combines her expertise in patient relations with her love of writing to bring awareness of health related issues.   In her blog, Dreamlife Moments, she writes about mindfulness of time and recognizing more of the positive moments happening around us every day that creates a more positive life experience. Jennifer and her husband Byron are recent empty-nesters who enjoy traveling with their bichon Aissa, geocaching and volunteering wherever they go. Who is this chickie anyway? Connect with Jennifer on her Facebook Page, Blog and Twitter to find out more.