My Skin Cancer Friends
For a few years, my daughter had a favorite t-shirt and wore it every time we went shopping. On the front, in not-so-obvious print, were the words, “Assistant to the Regional Manager". Most people who crossed our paths on the average shopping trip paid no mind to her shirt. You’d have to look closely and relate to it to really notice it. However, once in a while, she received a compliment on it - a simple, “Like the shirt!” or “Nice shirt”. I told her that wearing that shirt was how she would find fellow fans of The Office - her people. Every time someone directed a bright smile her way and gave the shirt a nod, I was tickled for her.
Finding your people
There are little things we do throughout life to find our people, and many aren’t nearly as easy as wearing a t-shirt (though a shirt can clearly help). If you are a skin cancer patient, you might find yourself looking high and low for your people. When you find them, it’s a feeling like no other. No one knows the dread of the next dermatologist appointment like a fellow skin cancer patient. By the same token, no one can rejoice with you when you get the coveted 'all-clear' at a checkup, like someone who has also walked that road.
Skin cancer can be a lonely journey
In 2007, I was diagnosed with melanoma and went on to have three Mohs procedures for basal cell carcinoma. I literally knew no one who had taken this journey and was alone with my frustrations and fears. Family and friends would listen, don’t get me wrong, but they just couldn’t relate in the way I so desperately needed. They’d have to look closely and relate - most couldn’t.
An Efudex connection
In an effort to warn others about the dangers of disregarding sunscreen, I shared my experience with Efudex in a video on Facebook and was introduced to a whole new world - a world full of people who were looking as hard for their people as I was for mine. I have even connected with a few people in my hometown who treat their skin with Efudex, a topical chemotherapy. Joining a Facebook support group filled with others like me who know the rigors of using Efudex has been a lifesaver. Slowly, over the years and thanks to social media, I have found my people.
My skin cancer friends
Two years ago, following the sharing of my video on Efudex, I joined Health Union and was introduced, by way of SkinCancer.net, to a host of people like me who have battled skin cancer and continue to put up the good fight. When I am scared, they know what to say. When I am at my wits' end, they are there for me. On those days when I am not sure what to say, they are there quietly waiting for me to be ready. They look closely and, boy, do they relate. They are my people - my friends.
Open ears and open hearts
I think I said all of that just to be able to say this: There is always someone out there who knows what you are feeling. It might take some time, and you may get discouraged, but giving up should never be an option. Whether you realize it or not, they are searching just as fervently as you are for a listening ear and an understanding heart. Sharing your skin cancer experience and your fears. There is nothing better than finding your people - t-shirt or no t-shirt.
How well have your skin cancer diagnoses been explained to you?