alt=a person describing her diagnosis feelings to another person

My Initial Skin Cancer Diagnosis: How I Felt

I recently met a close friend, Rhonda, for coffee at Starbucks. We had been catching up for a few hours when, somewhat out of the blue, she asked, “How did you feel when you were first diagnosed with skin cancer?” Her question caught me by surprise. No one has ever asked me that question, and it stopped me on a dime.

At first, I was in denial

I did the best I could to explain to Rhonda how I felt at that time, you know, how I really felt. I shared with her that I did not express any emotion during the time of my first diagnosis or that time period, but I am thoroughly convinced I was in denial. I told Rhonda that I did not feel like I addressed my feelings head-on at that time, but the feelings were there all along, just under the surface.

Multiple emotions at the same time

To be totally honest, I had a whole mix of feelings when I was initially diagnosed with skin cancer. First and foremost, I was scared. You know, really, really scared.

What did a skin cancer diagnosis mean? I have never known anyone who was diagnosed with skin cancer. Well, I had an aunt with skin cancer, but it was absolutely never discussed by my family. From the looks of her visible skin, my aunt had been through several surgeries and lots of skin grafting. It was all very hush-hush. As a child, I remember asking my mom what was wrong with aunt’s skin, and my mom whispered back, “She has skin cancer.” Why was it something to whisper about? Did my aunt do something horrible to bring skin cancer on herself somehow? I did not know.

Many unanswered questions

I am not a doctor, and I do not have a medical background. I also wondered what the ramifications of a skin cancer diagnosis was. Of course, one of my first concerns was to find out often people die from skin cancer. Is there treatment available for skin cancer? And if there is treatment available, what does that look like? How successful are the treatment options? At that time, my mind was reeling with questions.

I also felt very ignorant about what I was facing. How did I get skin cancer? I am generally a very healthy person. I exercise regularly and watch my diet. I am not overweight. My aunt apparently had ongoing skin cancer from the looks of her skin, but did that mean I had a family history of skin cancer? Did skin cancer run in my family?

Am I to blame?

Did I somehow bring skin cancer on myself? If so, what did I do? I always thought skin cancer was reserved for those who are light complected and/or have blue eyes. I color my hair, but naturally I am a dark brunette with very dark brown (almost black) eyes. I am certainly not light complected.

My initial skin cancer diagnosis in June 2018 was a very difficult time in my life, for sure. I was surprised when my friend, Rhonda, asked me how I felt at that time, but it was something I needed to think through and work through in my own mind.

What about you? How did you feel when you were initially diagnosed with skin cancer? Do you feel like you have now worked through those feelings? If yes, how did you work through your feelings?

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