We asked our advocates for their perspectives on the different emotions that come at each step of the skin cancer journey. In part one, we asked about the emotional impact of their diagnosis. Here in part two, we asked “How did/do you feel when getting treatment?” to learn about the emotional impact of skin cancer treatment.
I felt alone in my treatment
Scott Matheny: My surgery was traumatic. I hadn’t even had surgery for a torn ACL and LCL from high school football and this mole issue gave me this huge scar. I didn’t know anyone being treated for melanoma. I didn’t know anyone who had ever had it. I felt alone in my treatment. This was before the Internet and cell phones. I just felt like I was the only one with this uncertainty and pain. I still felt angry as I began to understand that much of the risk associated with melanoma could have been mitigated.
I am a nervous wreck
April Pulliam: My treatments involve yearly rounds of Efudex, a topical chemotherapy. I apply this cream twice a day for four weeks to my face or chest. The first year I used it (with very little information from my dermatologist about its side effects), I went into it headfirst and positive. Since then, I am a nervous wreck heading into those first applications each year. I know it will do the job, but it is a harrowing experience for me. Efudex takes a toll on me physically and emotionally.
I feel sad – skin cancer is a lonely cancer
Judy Cloud: I have a mixture of emotions. I’ve realized that I usually feel sad during procedures – skin cancer is a lonely cancer, and treatments exacerbate the profound sense of being alone in this. I really don’t have a support system for skin cancer. One of my sisters will listen if I want to talk about it, and she encourages me to continue to tell my story, but I can tell she doesn’t quite ‘get’ it. The same with my close friends. The rest of my family members act like my having skin cancer is no big deal. If I do mention I’m having a surgical procedure or that I’m doing something related to skin cancer awareness, that news is met with blank stares or disinterest. Also, I’ve realized that while I have anxiety before a procedure to remove skin cancer, deep down I’m resigned to the fact that this will most likely be how the rest of my life will play out, in that I’ll continue to need procedures to remove cancerous areas.
I tried to focus on feeling positive
Renee Feldman: When I had Mohs surgery, I tried to focus on feeling positive that I was taking care of the skin cancer. But I was also anxious, wondering how many layers the surgeon would have to remove.
T.J. Sharpe: Most of the time – I simply felt like there was one more hurdle I needed to clear. Particularly during my first clinical trial, where there were a number of treatments and hospital stays compressed into a short time, it simply was “Get through this part”. Then, as the melanoma tumors began to shrink (on my second trial), it was “Let’s get the next dose!” as an uncertainty began to transition to a positive response.
Stay tuned for part 3 when the advocates’ share their opinions on recurrence.