alt=a woman putting on a sunhat, preparing to walk outside into the sun

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.

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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.

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.

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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