A woman emerges from a dark sky to bright light.

Skin Cancer and Mourning the Loss

Skin cancer can feel like such a loss.

Skin cancer and mourning the loss

For some of us, our diagnosis forces us to lose our sense of infallibility. We realize that we are vulnerable, and that is scary. For some of us, our diagnosis forces us to change our lifestyles. It feels like a loss to give up beach vacations, long days on the golf links, or endless summer days chasing the sun on mountain hikes. Of course, we can make accommodations to modify our sun exposure, but it doesn’t feel the same. It feels like we have lost something.

Changing appearances

For others of us. our treatment has changed our appearance in some way. Maybe we have scars or discoloration. We know that we are still the same on the inside, but something feels different. What have we lost here? Maybe we have lost something on the inside as well. Maybe we have lost our confidence. Maybe we have lost our joy or our contentment and just hurt inside. It feels like we have lost something.

How we live, work, and relate

For some of us, our diagnosis and treatment have changed our career paths. Maybe we have lost out on opportunities. Maybe we have lost our motivation. Maybe we feel so distracted that we lose our focus. Maybe our diagnosis and treatments changed the way that we relate to people. The aforementioned lifestyle changes alter the way that we engage the community. It feels like a loss.

Our perceptions of ourselves and others

For some of us, we have lost a sense of well-being in our most important relationships. Maybe we blame our parents for not protecting us as children. Maybe we resent family members for not following our admonitions to protect their skin or for not seeing a dermatologist. Maybe we are angry with close friends who see it as “only skin cancer” and seem to belittle our concerns.

The loss of a loved one hurts the most

For many of us, we have lost some of our physical capabilities. We simply cannot do the things we used to do. For some, we have lost some of our independence. For some of us, we have lost a friend or family member to skin cancer. This loss feels the greatest. This one hurts the most. We also wonder about ourselves. What will become of us?

Tips for coping

How do we deal with loss and mourning? Skin cancer alters lives. Things change. Here is how I have learned to cope with the loss:

  • Call it out. Change is not fun. Losing out is not fun. It is okay to feel loss and hurt. It is okay to cry and mourn.
  • Find others who can sympathize. Find others who will hold your hand when things get rough.
  • Learn from the experience. Control what you can control and don’t obsess over things that you cannot.
  • Find the light at the end of the tunnel. Anticipate the morning sky after a long, dark night.
  • Count blessings and write down what you have gained from this experience.
  • Comfort others with the comfort that you have been given.
  • Let your loss and pain be a personal beacon call to help others who have lost and are in pain.

What have I gained?

Skin cancer has taught me to appreciate every day, every relationship, and every opportunity. It has helped me take the focus off of my “tanning” self and refocus on serving and helping others. It has taught me to look for the gain in my loss realizing that I am actually becoming a better person in the process.

What do you feel you've "lost" with skin cancer?

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