A profile portrait of Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With The Wind.

Scarlett O'Hara Was Right After All

Some people are cool as cucumbers and take everything in stride. I, on the other hand, am a member of a much less laid-back group of individuals. We are called worrywarts. We worry about anything and everything. Hey, we even worry about the fact that we may not be worrying enough. Our days are long, and our nights are often sleepless. Those of us who have been diagnosed with skin cancer know the added worry of finding a new spot and waiting on an appointment that may or may not be in the near future.

Drawing on doctors’ advice and research

Worry can consume you. We know this. It can take over your entire body and affect everything you do from morning till night if you allow it. Finding a new spot or noticing a change in a spot can ignite a fire like no other under this worrywart. It is incredibly easy to get caught up in the what-ifs when waiting on that next appointment. Waiting and watching...watching and waiting. It’s a vicious cycle.

Trying to find the balance between being proactive and having a healthy amount of worry is a struggle, but it’s not impossible. After fourteen years of regular dermatologist visits, I feel much better about checking my own skin. I have been fortunate enough to have some compassionate and thorough doctors over the years. They have taken the time to show me spots they want to freeze or biopsy prior to each procedure. Using what I have learned from them and the information I gained from research, I feel much better prepared for the worries ahead.

Seeing it in black and white

There are many different ways to keep up with skin changes. I think we all approach this task differently. Body mapping is a great way to keep up with suspicious spots or areas you want to discuss with your dermatologist. I have to admit, I am not at all formal about my documentation. In fact, I keep up with my new spots and areas of concern the same way I keep up with most things I need to remember and know I will forget if they aren’t in black and white: I text myself.

This is how I remember things

It’s not fancy, and it’s not difficult. I find that if I text myself a little blurb about the new spot and include a picture, I am much less likely to stress over it. It’s there as a reminder, and I have some proof of its original state should I start to notice any changes. It’s actually kind of great to have one place to keep all my worries. There they sit--disguised as a text thread until I can see my doctor.

Appointment anxiety

Waiting on a regularly scheduled six-month appointment can get under my skin--no pun intended. Biding my time until someone can examine a suspicious or itchy spot can become overwhelming if I allow it. It’s not always an option, but every once in a while my dermatologist is able to fit me in if they have a cancellation. Knowing this option exists helps curb some of the anxiety of waiting.

Watching suspicious spots is important. So is documenting changes. Neither will do any good if I worry myself sick before a dermatologist can ease or confirm my fears. There are enough worries and troubles for today; no need in adding to them if I can prevent them. Sometimes, it all comes down to summoning my inner Scarlett O’Hara: “I can’t think about this now. I’ll go crazy if I do. I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

How do you cope with worrying about your skin cancer?

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