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How I Survived DFSP Without Losing My Mind

I was diagnosed with dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans in February 2021, and my life completely changed in that moment. I am generally a positive and happy person, and I always look for the positive aspects of any situation, but this was extremely difficult for me to comprehend. Do I really have cancer? How could this happen? What if it never goes away? These are just some of the many questions I asked myself over the next several weeks while waiting to schedule and undergo two surgical resections of the tumor on my right lower abdomen.

Being happy took some effort

Since I usually have a positive viewpoint about life, I decided to have that same mindset with this diagnosis. I had to actually make a decision to find things to be happy about in order to make it through this journey without losing my mind. Although I took some time to grieve the healthy life with no medical conditions I once knew, I knew that I couldn’t stay sad or angry with the world because it wasn’t good for my mental health, and I needed to pick myself up and continue to live my life as emotionally healthy as possible.

Gratitude is the root of happiness

To start my day right, I woke up every morning and wrote down 5 things I was grateful for, even on the days when I could barely make it to the bathroom without assistance. Sometimes, I woke up and was in so much pain and I was in such a terrible mood because of the pain and disability.

It's the simple things

Those days, all I could write were “I’m grateful for my eyesight thanks to Lasix”, “I’m grateful for the ability to breathe clearly”, and “I’m grateful that I have someone here to help me walk to the bathroom”. Writing down things that I was grateful for every morning helped me to find the value in waking up and finding some good in every day. I was able to see that there was more to life than this temporary situation.

Pain is impermanent

I reminded myself that the pain was temporary. I wouldn’t have to deal with this pain for the rest of my life, and my wounds would eventually heal. I had to have surgery to remove this cancer from my body, and if I didn’t have the surgery, the cancer could have spread. The pain and aftermath were necessary, but they were also temporary. At the time, I had to tell myself I could expect to feel better soon, and I would be back to my “normal” self in a few months.

Finding beauty in vulnerability

I also had to remind myself that it was okay to NOT be okay. I am so used to “being strong” and holding myself together, no matter what life throws at me. During my surgical recovery, I learned that I was allowed to rest, to ask for help, and to be vulnerable. I no longer needed to force myself to do anything my body wasn’t ready for, and I didn’t need to do anything I didn’t want to do.

The best time of my life

My time off after my surgeries was the absolute best time of my life because I allowed myself the opportunity to simply exist without responsibilities, and I was able to do everything that I had been missing, such as reading, napping, having brunch with friends and family, and binge-watching tv with my husband and daughters. Enjoying my life during my time off helped me find the positivity in my diagnosis, and it helped me get through my surgical journey to remove DFSP skin cancer without losing my mind.

What did you find helped you cope with your skin cancer journey?

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