A Skin Cancer Journey: Life Must Go On

I was first diagnosed with skin cancer in June 2018. Since that time, I have had three recurrences and other skin cancer issues. Most recently, in February 2018, I had a severely atypical dysplastic nevus. In March 2022, I had an excision surgery. At my first skin check after the excision surgery, in August 2022, my dermatologist informed me that I had a concerning mole with markers for melanoma. My dermatologist stated he would follow me closely and do skin checks every three months.

Learning as I go

On this skin cancer journey that I am on, I am learning. I am learning how to navigate my life with a chronic health condition without allowing it to completely consume me.

Until very recently, every time I had a new skin cancer issue, I took a break from life and essentially pushed the pause button.

I put life on hold after each diagnosis

For example, in February 2022, when I was diagnosed with a severely atypical dysplastic nevus, I had to wait over a month to get a second opinion at a major medical center. During that time, I just waited and waited to see what the next step with my skin would be. I did not and really could not make plans outside the moment. I did not go out socially during that time. And with every minor life decision before me, I thought, “I need to see what is going on with my skin before I can move forward with that.” I also thought, “I will deal with this after my skin issue is settled and not a minute before.”

Then, after my dermatologist told me I had a concerning mole in August 2022, my life was once again put on hold. I could not commit to scheduling a vacation or making any long-range plans because I needed to see what the next step would be with the concerning mole. I was scheduled to be seen at M.D. Anderson at the end of October 2022, to transition my care there. Shortly before that visit, M.D. Anderson called to say the doctor I was to see needed to move the appointment a few weeks out to November 11, 2022.

When M.D. Anderson called to reschedule me, I thought to myself that my life would be on hold for a few more weeks--yet again.

Realizing I don't have to stop living

Then it occurred to me that I really needed to stop putting my life on hold during a skin issue. My life is precious, and I have no idea how many days I have left to live.

The same holds true for each of us. I need to enjoy every minute I have as if it were my last, because at some point, it will be my last. Skin cancer may ultimately be the cause of my death, I do not know. On the other hand, it could be something else entirely that ends my life. For instance, I could get killed crossing a busy street tomorrow. I do not know what my future holds, no one does, but we all know that our time on this Earth is limited.

Further to the point, my skin cancer journey seems to be rather ongoing since June 2018. If I am going to stop living my life each time I have a skin issue, when am I going to live my life? Am I going to have a life, or will I continue to allow skin cancer to stand in my way? I am the only one with the power to make those decisions.

Deciding to keep living life

In sum, skin cancer is scary stuff, for sure, and it can be easy to let it consume your life and dictate your moves. However, I have one life to live, and I plan to work on living mine. I refuse to allow skin cancer to continue to call the shots. My life must go on.

How about your life? Does skin cancer interfere with it? What steps do you take to manage skin cancer rather than allowing it to manage you?

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