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How Do I Feel?

A skin cancer diagnosis stinks. It is scary. One goes through a myriad of emotions that begin the first day you hear the “c” word and continues throughout your life. Getting a handle and dealing with these emotions has helped me tremendously.

Coping with melanoma

I have been all over the map emotionally since my diagnosis in 1988 and maybe my thoughts on this can help you in your journey.

I feel angry

At times, I feel angry. I feel angry at my parents for not doing more to protect me from the sun as a child. I feel angry at myself for making poor decisions later on in life when I knew better. I feel angry at the whole tanning industry who continue to play on people’s insecurities and sensitivities. I feel angry at lawmakers who put business interests before the health interests of their constituency. Does this feeling of anger help me? I guess if it motivates me to action, then I would say it does. But, for the most part, it just causes a bitterness inside of me and I want to let that go. I am not sure that the blame game is really all that helpful, if it does not lead to any sort of reform and change.

I feel anxiety

The unknown nature of this disease makes me feel anxiety. I feel anxiety wondering what my next skin examination will bring. I feel anxiety when I think about my children and their potential skin cancer issues. I feel anxiety when I see people tanning and getting sunburned. I feel anxiety and wonder if I am doing enough to educate others. Much of my anxiety is directed at things that I cannot control and this serves me poorly. If anxiety leads me to helpful actions, then “bravo”. But, too many times it can paralyze me and that’s not good.

I feel sadness

Reading about those who have lost their battle to melanoma makes me feel sadness. Too many otherwise healthy folks have suffered because of this disease. It’s sad and I feel the weight of it. Even when I interact with others in our skin cancer community I can start to feel overwhelmed by the suffering of others. At times, I need to step back and process that sadness and find a better spot for me. Once I get out of my funk I am able to advocate for others and help people through education and empathy.

I feel empathy

Because I am a melanoma survivor I am able to feel empathy with others in this battle. This is where I find my joy in this community. I have walked in someone else’s shoes and can give words of comfort and encouragement. I have a platform on which to give words of wisdom and instruction. I have lived it and I have something worthwhile to contribute. I feel empathy and this brings me purpose.

I feel contentment

I feel contentment when I know that I have contributed in some way to the betterment of my community and in the individual lives of those for whom I care. I feel contentment when I have written a good blog post, spoken a word of encouragement, and lobbied for “safe sun” legislation. I feel contentment knowing that I have made a difference in some tangible way. What began as a simple mole check in 1988 and has led me through an emotional roller coaster always ends up in a place of contentment and purpose. Thirty years later I am at peace with this.

I feel joy

I feel joy when someone thanks me for my contribution. I feel joy when someone’s life is saved because I encouraged them to see a dermatologist. I feel joy when I hear the good report of a friend who saw a doctor for the first time. This joy is not based on any particular event, but more in the knowledge that I am helping others live safer and more productive lives.

In the end

Seems like a roller coaster, doesn’t it? The ups and downs of this skin cancer journey are so evident upon reflection. Thirty years have passed and I am sure that I will experience all of these feelings again. But at the end of the day, I end up in a place of contentment and joy and I am thankful to be able to share that.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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