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.
How well have your skin cancer diagnoses been explained to you?