It's Only Skin Cancer
I recently read a post where some members of our community felt the sting of having others minimize their skin cancer experience because they did not go through chemotherapy. Some related that coworkers, friends, or family have made comments that they should be happy with “only” having skin cancer. This makes my blood burn a tad because we are skin cancer survivors.
Second class cancer survivors?
I recall the early days of my journey being at a local bike-a-thon for cancer research and having the emcee over the loudspeaker call out for cancer survivors to come to the podium to share their stories. He added the proviso that he didn’t need skin cancer “patients” to join him. The implication seemed to be that skin cancer was not in the class as other forms of cancer and maybe not as noteworthy or as important. I was miffed, but not surprised. He probably was just not very well informed and felt the pressure of having what he considered more provocative testimonials. We know that he was wrong. Skin cancer survivors are courageous and have great stories to share. More importantly, they can share advice that saves lives and this is the point of the story.
It’s about the message
For me, it’s not about being deemed worthy of praise, admiration, or affirmation (although who doesn’t like that?) because I had Melanoma. Being considered a legitimate cancer survivor is important because it gives weight to my message about skin protection. The more people respect my story, the more they will listen to my message about the dangers of UV rays. The more people understand about skin cancer, hopefully, the more they will change their behaviors. In the end, it’s not about someone showing me empathy for my pain, but listening to my tale that can help them from feeling their own.
Dealing with the naysayers
Here is how I deal with the naysayers:
- I show them my scars (enough said).
- I explain the latest research (This means that I have done my homework).
- I show sensitivity to whatever issues that they may be facing (The old adage applies here, “They don’t care about how much you know until they know that you care.”)
- I realize that they (or someone they know) may have had other forms of cancer that they deem more serious and has affected their thinking.
- I realize that their experience has taught them to think less of skin cancer. This may be possible because it was easily and effectively treated without apparent further consequences.
- Sometimes it’s best to just walk away because the wrong message may come across in anger and when emotions run hot. Pick your battles and find another time to share your message, if possible.
Skin cancer is not a joke
Skin cancer is legit. It harms people. Some die from it. It’s not a joke and it’s not “less”. It may not seem as serious as other forms of this horrible disease, but it’s no less deadly in many cases. The most important thing is that it is both preventable (in many cases) and treatable, if caught early. It is a cancer that we have some say in. So, let’s not treat survivors like they are in some way, less important or valued. Their message can save lives.
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