An Accidental Advocate….Who Sometimes Wants To Quit
I never intended to be an advocate for skin cancer awareness. In fact, it had never crossed my mind. That all changed when a post I made on Facebook in 2015 discussing a surgery I had for skin cancer removal and the first four weeks after surgery unexpectedly went viral. At last count, the post had been shared over 244,000 times. Two hundred forty-four thousand? That seems crazy, doesn’t it?
Connecting with thousands of people
But it’s crazy in a good way. It has brought me into contact with thousands of people who have messaged me to ask questions, or share their story with me, or tell me about a loved one who has battled skin cancer. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone to talk with media outlets about skin cancer awareness.
Spreading the word that skin cancer is serious
I am grateful for the path I’ve been put on, being allowed to help raise awareness. Too many people don’t take skin cancer seriously, and the more awareness that is raised, the more people who will realize that skin cancer isn’t something to be taken lightly – and that in many instances, skin cancer can be prevented.
Feeling the pressure to deliver
What it’s also done has provided the opportunity for me to write articles for SkinCancer.net. While I love writing, writing articles that will be read and commented on by lots of people (most of whom I’ve never met) can sometimes be daunting. It definitely can cause a bit of self-doubt at times. Am I writing about things that interest people? Am I sharing useful information? Exactly how much personal information should I share, when I’m writing an article about my own experience with skin cancer?
Dealing with negative comments
Despite my sporadic moments of self-doubt when writing articles, being an advocate for skin cancer awareness has become my passion. So what would make me at times second guess being an advocate? One in awhile, I get a private message on Facebook that is discouraging. Yes, I know that it seems silly to let one message cause so much doubt about what I’m doing, but it still happens sometimes. The other night I was catching up on messages, and someone had written me to say that basal cell carcinoma doesn’t need treated unless it becomes ‘too unattractive to bear or begins bleeding’, that it doesn’t cause problems if left untreated, and in fact, basal cell carcinoma isn’t cancer.
Being told I don’t have cancer
I responded that basal cell carcinomas are indeed cancer, and while they are rarely fatal, they aren’t ‘fine’ to leave them alone as they continue to grow and can cause significant damage to tissue and bone surrounding them. I mentioned that I have numbness in my face and scalp due to a basal cell carcinoma that grew around a nerve, which my doctor had to move during my surgery. This person then responded that she googled it and that it wasn’t dangerous, and that I was making myself out to be a cancer survivor when in fact I don’t have cancer, although I am unlucky that I have numbness. She said I need to make sure I’m not panicking people because of my pictures and info I had posted.
Shake it off
That, my friends, is discouraging. It brought in more self-doubt. Are people interpreting my posts as merely trying to panic others? It took me a couple of days to shake the feeling of self-doubt, and I realized this exchange reinforced why we do what we do. We need to continue spreading awareness, and we need to continue sharing our story. We need for people to have access to accurate information about skin cancer. And so, I will continue telling my story. I will continue posting accurate information about skin cancer. I will continue responding to messages, and I will continue to be an advocate for skin cancer awareness.