Man in the spotlight on a podium giving a speech while another man sits lower down behind him looking dejected and ignored

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.

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.

    This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The SkinCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

    Comments

    View Comments (32)
  • rolanstein
    1 month ago

    Terrific article, Scott, and I identify with everything you wrote. And great comments from all in response.

    Like you and I’m sure many others who have experienced any form of skin cancer, I feel the need to try to alert others to what I now know – that NO skin cancer is “nothing much”, that all are malignant with the potential to disfigure, incapacitate or even kill. And that early detection and regular checkups can make all the difference. eg: Early intervention = an excision under local in your GP’s surgery; protracted delay = full-on plastic surgery, scarring and possibly much worse.

    I recently had 2 BCCs excised from my left shin and the skin grafts failed, blowing out the rehab time from an anticipated fortnight to 3 months+. I was really hurt when someone I thought was a good friend didn’t even bother to ask after me after the surgery, and hasn’t since, especially since they knew the op was not trivial and would leave significant scars.

    Knowing that people generally do not regard skin cancer, except melanoma, in the same category as other cancers, I decided to write an extensive blog post detailing my experience, and including a close-up pic of my wounds post-surgery. I felt the pic was necessary to have readers recognise from the outset that skin cancer is not something to be lightly dismissed. I don’t know whether that message has gotten through – one lives in hope.

    Anyway, if sites like this and posts like mine on my blog can change even one person’s thinking and prompt them to get regular checkups etc, it’s worthwhile.

    For anyone interested, here’s a link to the post (but of course people here are educated on the realities of skin cancer and are not the target audience):

    https://www.boomtownrap.com/11653/basal-cell-carcinoma-not-so-serious-think-again/

    As you’ll note, Scott, my post is along similar lines to yours, although you’ve distilled your message into a few potent words by contrast with my expansive recording of my BCC experience.

    Best to all.

  • ScottM moderator author
    1 month ago

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply and I was able to look over your blog. I hope the best for you moving forward. Keep up the fight.

  • ShelliAS
    1 month ago

    Very well said. My grandmother died of melanoma, and both my parents had numerous abnormal skin lesions removed. I am of Irish decent, and grew up in Texas. Except for two years in Boston for career reasons, I have spent my life in the southwestern, sunny US. My skin was made for rainy northern latitude locales. And I did major damage to it in my youth. I spent Summers on the beach and countless hours laying in the sun in my backyard. A suntan was a status symbol. Later, as a geologist, I spent many hours outside mapping and wreaking even more havoc on my skin. I have to be grateful that I was exposed to my parents’ skin issues, because it placed me on high alert about my own as an adult. And I have had 7 skin cancers to date (I’m a baby boomer in age), a combo of BCC and SCC. I am grateful that so far, it hasn’t been melanoma. My grandmother was not a sun worshiper, and her melanoma was very sobering. But yes, even if we’re never diagnosed again with skin cancer, our lives do become a series of yearly skin checks, daily applications of sun block, getting nervous with every weird new blotch on our skin, wearing hats working or recreating outside, huddling under canopies at the beach (and re-applying sunblock hourly, and not even thinking of coming out of hiding until evening, etc etc.) It’s always in the back of our mind. How could it not be? And though I have stayed out of the sun and worn sunblock daily for the last 30 years, they say the damage is done in your youth. I’m walking proof. I’m new on this site and grateful to have found this community. I have felt very isolated with my experiences with skin cancer.

  • ScottM moderator author
    1 month ago

    Skin cancer has really affected your family in so many ways. Thank you for your thoughtful response. I wish the best for you. Thank you for joining our community. You are welcome here.

  • JerseyGirl
    1 month ago

    Any type of cancer is very scary. We all go through the fears, the stress, and the what ifs. Sometimes people don’t understand that skin cancer is a life long commitment. Wearing sunscreen, a hat, and protective clothing if you have to be out in the sun. Careful body checks all the time and being prepared to have growths/moles removed. If the cancer is serious, we have the chance it could invade our internal organs, loosing body parts, and possibly death. All cancers can do that too, but no one thinks about that.

  • ScottM moderator author
    1 month ago

    Wise words Jersey Girl

  • Nina M moderator
    1 month ago

    Wise words, @JerseyGirl, that there are some common fears across cancers, and people sometimes don’t think it applies to skin cancer. The prevention methods for skin cancer add another layer of opportunity to catch it early but also sources of worry and anxiety. Thank you for commenting – we’re very glad to have your reflections here! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • SusanByShore
    3 months ago

    As someone who lost both parents to malignant melanoma despite vigilant check ups every 3 months, I get angry hearing people minimizing skin cancer. I myself, have had Mohs surgery, both BCC, SCC and am currently using Efudex therapy while awaiting my next Mohs surgery in 3 weeks. My last skin check (every 3 months) involved nine biopsies; of which 4 were ok.
    I understand much of that thought process is ignorance and lack of education but the bottom line is ANY cancer is serious.
    As I said to my dermatologist recently I feel like I live with a ticking time bomb. There’s never any sense of complete relief.
    Although I have never used tanning beds or anything similar, I believe they should be outlawed or at least be required to post large signs showing the damage done by these. They almost guarantee cancer will occur at some point in the lives of those using the horrific devices.

  • ScottM moderator author
    3 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I know the “ticking time bomb” feeling.

  • Vonslife
    5 months ago

    I use to look at mine as, its just skin cancer till I started getting more and more. My scars are on every part of my body. I’m 57 and I have had over 50- 60 removed by the knife! Even had a squamous on my foot. Recently I had the one on my lip done again. It looks horrible and its been almost a month and still hurts. I pray after it heals more I can have reconstructive surgery to fix my smile. I miss smiling. Skin cancer is cancer. There is no cure for it. It never goes away. Remove it and it comes back near the one removed. I wish I had stayed out of the sun!

  • Nina M moderator
    5 months ago

    Such important messages for those who don’t understand skin cancer, @Vonslife. You remind me of this story from another member: https://skincancer.net/life-with-skin-cancer/awareness-story/. It is so hard thinking back to what you wish you’d known. I hope you’re able to smile again soon. – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • Brenda
    7 months ago

    Go today to have squamous cell removed by Curettage and electrodesiccation,never had this done before,but did watch a video of it being done. Nurse said they will send in another biopsy. And it was a small area that they took first biopsy from so I’m not worried about this procedure.

  • Vonslife
    5 months ago

    Praying for you

  • Nina M moderator
    7 months ago

    Thank you for reporting back, @Brenda! It sounds like it went pretty well. How was this new method compared to your others? I’m glad there are no further worries with the next biopsy! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • Brenda
    7 months ago

    It went well enough ,if I have to have more done I’m not sure just have to wait and see .

  • Brenda
    7 months ago

    So sorry but your right if you act like its a big deal your having surgery for squamous cell cancer they say oh your lucky it’s the skin ,then I do get a little mad and tell them how I had it on my face and when they’ were finished I looked like frankenstine ,and 5 surgerys to fix that. Then they got it. I think they need to be on tv telling people what the sun can do to them with pictures .i hope your ok now

  • Nina M moderator
    7 months ago

    Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts, Brenda. You’re right, TV would reach so many people. They only seem to mention skin cancer when it’s about sun safety during the summer, and then they never talk about the actual damage it causes. I think having public figures and celebrities talking about it makes a difference too. Hope you’re well! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • Brenda
    8 months ago

    Can someone answer this question, a dr does a biopsy, and says it will take around 2 weeks to get results. So why in MOHs surgery they can tell you if they got it all in about 2 hours .

  • Vonslife
    5 months ago

    Mine came back after Mohs surgery so 7 years later I had another Mohs surgery. After deeper cut twice Dr said it was gone. Like I said my lip looks horrible.

  • Nina M moderator
    8 months ago

    A week can crawl by, @Brenda. I hope you find out soon and hoping for good news. – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • Nina M moderator
    8 months ago

    Good question, @Brenda. I wonder if it has something to do with the ultra-thin layers that are taken off? I’m not sure! If you happen to be back at the derm (hopefully not too soon!) perhaps you can find out and let us know. Thanks for bringing up this interesting question! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • Brenda
    8 months ago

    I sure will, don’t know why after all these years and all the biopsys I’ve never thought of that. Waiting on results of biopsy now it’s been a week.

  • Brenda
    8 months ago

    You have a right to you own feelings. Never let anyone make you feel your making too much of it. And all skin cancers can be bad . Hope your ok

  • Nina M moderator
    8 months ago

    Thank you so much for sharing this encouragement, Brenda <3 We're so glad you're here. - Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • diana.zarate
    8 months ago

    I agree in my own experience my own mother says it is not that bad.. that i AM dramatic that this is not hurting me as i feel… But in some thougts i understand her because my dad past away last november for lung cáncer -_-

  • Nina M moderator
    8 months ago

    What an interesting and perhaps frustrating situation, @diana-zarate. I can see why your mother might feel that your father’s passing from lung cancer requires more attention, But that doesn’t mean that your experience isn’t difficult as well. Please know that we are always hear to listen to any skin cancer pains or challenges. Thank you for sharing this observation with us! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • DanaEllingen
    9 months ago

    I have had skin cancer and prostate cancer. Both have had huge impacts on my life.

  • Nina M moderator
    9 months ago

    I’m sorry you’ve had a double whammy of this awful disease, @DanaEllingen. They are both devastating, but it seems to me in slightly different ways. Would like to hear more of your perspective. Thanks for commenting! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • DanaEllingen
    9 months ago

    Prostate cancer impact was in things that were visible primarily to me, while skin cancer shows on the outside, causing embarrassment and/or shame. Both cause pain and threaten death.

  • Nina M moderator
    9 months ago

    That makes a lot of sense, @DanaEllingen. Both an effect on ones mental well-being, but pc more private and skin cancer more public. Thanks for elaborating! I also manage our brother community for prostate cancer, ProstateCancer.net, if you’d like to participate there. We’re glad to have you here! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • April Pulliam moderator
    1 year ago

    Powerful words, Scott! Every one rings so true!

  • ScottM moderator author
    7 months ago

    Thank you

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