The Emotional Impact of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer effects go far deeper than any scars. For most people dealing with the diagnosis, every day brings new struggles with fear and anxiety, as well as frustration about managing day-to-day life without much sun.
To get to the heart of skin cancer, we reached out to the Skincancer.net community on Facebook. Back in February we asked, "Are there any aspects of skin cancer that really piss you off?" More than 40 of you answered, speaking to the emotional struggles of this disease. Here's what you find hardest to deal with.
Fear of skin cancer recurrence
Because skin cancer has a high likelihood of returning, many of you spoke up about the fear of reoccurrence. That fear, that nagging worry can show up daily, ruining even the good days when you're NED and doing well. But it's hard to let go of these thoughts. One solution that can help is to remind yourself that right now, today, you know where you stand and you're OK.
"The unknown. Will it come back, where will the next one show up, what procedure will be required to take care of it, how long to heal the incision, will I have a scar? I try not to worry but it is always something I think about."
"Never knowing if, when and where melanoma will happen! It's like a time bomb! Having it show up in a new place scares me. Plus, having melanoma puts me at higher risk for other cancers."
Missing out on activities
"Being left out of activities…"
It's frustrating to either have to opt out or not be invited in the first place to events taking place outside. For some in the community, vigilance regarding sun protection can mean little to no sunlight, and friends and loved ones often don't know how or aren't willing to support skin cancer survivors in their continued battle for self-care.
"Being left out of activities because they involve being outdoors. My daughter, sister-in-law and niece did not invite me on a girls-only weekend because they were planning on lounging by the pool. Grrrr! Not to mention that my children and grandchildren are not wearing sunscreen when they really should."
"I would have to say the worse part is all of the things you miss out on with the ones you love because you can't go outside much during the day!"
Living in a sun-worshipping culture
"When people show off sunburns…"
Our sun-worshipping culture reveres tanned skin, forgetting-or ignoring-that over-exposure leads to scarring, cancer and death. Seeing this aesthetic reminds us not only of what those in the community are still struggling with; but also of those already lost to the disease.
"When people show off sunburns on social media. My mom died last year from melanoma and she suffered for nearly five months. It was under her hair at the top of her head. I wear hats now. After witnessing what I saw her go through, I will embrace my non-tanned skin."
"You come back from a vacation, during which you've worn your sunscreen, hats and clothing to protect what you can...and people comment that you didn't get a tan!
A huge thanks to everyone in the community for opening up about the emotional side of skin cancer. It's our goal that the Facebook Skincancer.net group continues to be a safe space for venting feelings and finding support.
Have you taken our Beyond the Cancer Diagnosis Survey?