No More Living Scared: My Skin Cancer Manifesto
Worry is exhausting. When I say “exhausting,” I mean it will suck the very life from your body and leave you physically weak, mentally spent, and questioning every move you make. I know because I am a worrier. Over the last few months, my tendency to worry has blossomed beautifully into full-blown anxiety. Short of having all-out panic attacks, I have experienced some of the most crippling anxiety of my life. I worry about everything–to a ridiculous level and about things that don’t need a second thought.
I want to change because I am completely beaten down. Though I can’t change many of the things I worry about, I can start looking at a few things differently. Small steps, right? One thing that plagues me 365 days a year is skin cancer.
After having had several excisions and Mohs procedures for melanoma, basal cell, and squamous cell carcinoma, I expect no less than a new diagnosis at any time. I live in fear of another biopsy revealing that my melanoma is back. I worry that the next suspicious dry patch on my face will turn out to be basal cell and require surgery that will leave a scar. It’s a cycle of worry that knows no end.
I am doing my best
I can do one thing for myself–I can stop worrying about skin cancer 24/7. I do a much better job of protecting myself than I did pre-diagnosis. I wear sunscreen. I avoid the sun during peak hours, and I don’t tan–ever. I am on the right track and living a healthier life than the one that led me to develop skin cancer and my countless precancers.
Feb 4 is World Cancer Day. How Are You Feeling About the Progress in Treating Skin Cancer?
My best is good enough
I went through a period of panic after my first skin cancer diagnosis. I worried the sunscreen wasn’t enough. I worried about driving and how much the sun affected my skin through the windows. I even worried that I would never be able to take a beach vacation with my kids.
I am doing my best now, though. There is no reason I can’t enjoy the beach. There is absolutely no reason for me to obsess over sunscreen. I trust my doctor’s recommendation of at least 30 SPF and her instructions to reapply regularly. I have everything I need to be safe, and I am doing it.
I won’t live in fear
There are many newly diagnosed skin cancer patients who are wondering if they will have to cover head-to-toe and live the vampire life in order to stay happy and safe. I know. I was one of them. I am not doing it anymore.
I will keep up with my self-exams, see my dermatologist regularly, and wear sunscreen. I will also visit the beach, play mini-golf with my kids, enjoy the afternoon sun, and wear summer clothes.
Being sun-safe is important, but I won’t worry myself into anemia over it anymore. When I scroll through the lengthy list of things I do each day to stay sun-safe, I will just pat myself on the back and move on. I have plenty of other things to worry about. Believe me.
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