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Skin Cancer – Party of 1

Skin Cancer – Party of 1

As the saying goes, “one is a lonely number”. And as far as cancer goes, skin cancer is a lonely cancer. I’ve had skin cancer for over 23 years. For those 23 years, I’ve felt mostly like I’m battling skin cancer alone.

Not just a ‘one and done’ experience

Many people don’t take skin cancer seriously. Too many of us have heard “it’s no big deal, get it taken off and you’ll be fine” or “it’s just skin cancer; you should be thankful you don’t have real cancer.” Even I didn’t take skin cancer seriously when I was first diagnosed with it. I thought it would be a ‘one and done,’ and I regrettably continued my ways of too much sun exposure.

It took a second diagnosis of skin cancer for me to start realizing it was a big deal. Turns out, skin cancer was something I would end up dealing with for the rest of my life. That doesn’t sound like ‘no big deal’, does it?

‘No big deal’?

Why, then, is the reaction to skin cancer different than with other cancers? Why, then, are doctor’s appointments, where I may end up getting numbed, biopsied, cut, and/or stitched, viewed by some as ‘no big deal’?

I’m even guilty of downplaying them; after my last excision (which left me with a 3” incision on my chest and an internal and external layer of stitches), I went to the office and put in nearly a full work day.

Pointing fingers

I’ve had previous health care providers remove an area of skin cancer then tell me I have it because I laid out too much. Along with the medical procedure, I receive an admonishment that I brought this on myself.  I can’t help but wonder if they would tell other cancer patients that the cancer is their own fault.

No one understands

And it’s not just some of the medical providers. My family doesn’t really understand what I go through with having skin cancer. My friends don’t fully understand either. No one truly understands, unless they’ve experienced it themselves.

It’s hard for someone to understand

It’s hard for someone to know the feelings of anxiety before an appointment for a routine skin check. It’s hard for someone to know what it’s like to check your skin every single day for anything that looks suspicious, unless they’ve been in that situation. It’s hard for someone to know what it’s like waiting for biopsy results so you can find out whether or not you’ll need yet another skin cancer surgery. It’s hard for someone to truly understand what a big deal it is to receive a good biopsy or pathology result.

I know all of this, but it doesn’t make it any easier for those of us who have skin cancer. It doesn’t really do anything to help alleviate the loneliness.

A range of reactions

All of that makes me hesitant to talk much about it with friends and family. When I have, some of the reactions in the past range from total disinterest, to ignoring, to blank stares, to slight interest, which leaves me feeling like people don’t really care to hear about it….again, it’s not ‘really’ cancer if it’s ‘just’ skin cancer, right?

Not so alone in this community

Until I became part of this wonderful community, I wondered if it was just me who felt this way. After becoming part of the community, I realized others feel the same way. There are other people who know what it’s like to feel lonely during a medical procedure, and to feel nervous waiting for test results, and to feel a sense of dread when a suspicious area appears out of nowhere. There is a whole community of people who “get it.”

Thanks to all of you, one isn’t such a lonely number after all.

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

  • LEO2018
    8 months ago

    Thank you for posting this. My mom sent me this link today, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I just turned 37, and I was just diagnosed with my 30th basal cell – I have 2 Mohs surgeries to schedule (my 3rd & 4th) and have been feeling especially anxious and scared. I appreciate your words and knowing other people understand.

  • Nina M moderator
    8 months ago

    We’re so glad you’re here, @LEO2018, although I wish you had no reason to be. There’s so much anxiety around treatments, skin checks, biopsies, etc. This article talks about the frustration of biopsies and the hope for new technologies: https://skincancer.net/life-with-skin-cancer/biopsy-fatigue/. Thanks to your mom for thinking of you and sending this! Please reach out any time 🙂 – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • Judy Cloud moderator author
    8 months ago

    @leo2018, Sometimes the battle seems never-ending, doesn’t it? Please know that we are here for you and will be thinking of you with your upcoming surgeries. Let us know how they go. Hoping for easy surgeries and smooth recoveries for you. Judy, SkinCancer.net Moderator

  • maggienice
    8 months ago

    I was so pleased to see this post. I have experienced, and amstill experiencing all of the things you are going through. I had a pink patch of skin on my left cheek, and in 2000 I was diagnosed as being inIntermediate Stage of Melanoma. I had most of my left cheek removed. Between 2000 and2002 I had four more smaller surgeries. I appeared to be free of the cancer until this year, 2018, when I noticed a small red patch at the intersection of my scars. This proved to be melanoma again, and I’m now waiting for my third surgery this summer on my left cheek. So good to know that someone else understands the fears and nervousness that this brings. I wish you all the very best, and please know that I will be thinking about you.

  • Nina M moderator
    8 months ago

    Hi @maggienice, I want to echo Judy’s words and say you are such a fighter! We’re so grateful for you r encouragement to others. If you ever want to comment on or share your own story, we have a special spot for member stories here: https://skincancer.net/stories/. We are thinking of you for this upcoming surgery! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • Judy Cloud moderator author
    8 months ago

    @maggienice You have been through so much with skin cancer; you are a true warrior. It is comforting to know that there are others who understand what we are doing through, isn’t it? Please take good care of yourself, and keep me updated how you’re doing. Sending you an extra dose of healthy wishes!
    Judy, SkinCancer.net Moderator

  • cancerstinks
    8 months ago

    This is very true. You don’t know what it’s like till you’ve been there.

  • Nina M moderator
    8 months ago

    We’ve heard that so many times, @Cancersticks. No matter how hard you try to explain it, it doesn’t sink in. We’re glad you’re here to share and support! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

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