Don’t Keep Your Melanoma Diagnosis a Secret
I’ve never been great about sharing any personal aspects of my life, regardless of who I’m speaking with. I tend to keep everything close to the chest. However, when it comes to my melanoma diagnosis I try to be an open book and encourage others to do the same. Sharing my diagnosis with my friends and family has helped reduce the anxiety associated with skin cancer. And it's done so in ways I would have never expected.
Sharing might not always be easy, but it will be worth it
My wife, who shares her every feeling, often jokes about my inability to connect with anyone on an emotional level. I have a bad habit of bottling everything up and keeping my thoughts and feelings to myself. When conversations start to get personal or emotional I may listen, but I’ll rarely share.
I’m not proud of it, but I will own up to it - it’s just who I am. This is especially true when it comes to personal weaknesses and vulnerabilities. When things are bothering me I never want to burden anyone else with my issues. However, when it comes to melanoma or any life threatening disease, don’t shy away from telling others your story.
Everyday life is a little less stressful
My melanoma diagnosis started a new chapter of my life, one where I fear the sun. And unfortunately, the sun isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Like all skin cancer survivors, that means I’m faced with the fear of UV exposure every single day for the rest of my life. However, I’ve been surprised how accommodating my friends and family have been in understanding this fear. They are not only understanding, but helpful in reducing my daily anxiety.
After sharing my story, my friends and family not only understood my fears, but they proactively help to make sure I’m more comfortable on a daily basis. When we are meeting friends out at a bar they will often find the shadiest table before I arrive. I play volleyball every week and they started gathering an hour earlier to reduce the UV exposure. My wife and I have two dogs, and rather than having me go into the sun to pick up their poop from the yard every day she handles it (who said melanoma doesn’t have its benefits?). These are just a few of the countless examples, and I’m endlessly appreciative of each.
There are a lot of small things that can be done to limit the anxiety associated with UV exposure. By sharing your story, your friends and family have the opportunity to help even when you aren’t asking for it. It’s often small gestures, but these small gestures have made a huge difference in my life and something I’m extremely thankful for.
Discover new sun protective products
Some of my favorite products are from unsolicited recommendations from others. Recommendations I would have never received had I not shared my story. My new favorite sunscreen came as a recommendation from one of my old business partners. My new favorite bar is one that was recommended by a friend because of how much natural shade it has. A former colleague of mine introduced me to new vitamins that help protect your skin. With the seemingly endless amount of sun protective products online it can be difficult to find products you truly love. Having friends and family help with that process can be extremely helpful. Help I would have never received had I kept my diagnosis to myself.
This might be the biggest reason to share. Until I was diagnosed, I was wildly uneducated in proper skin care and skin cancer prevention. Now that I’ve experienced melanoma first hand, I understand what I should have been doing my whole life and I share those lessons with everyone I can. My stories have not only helped my friends understand the risks associated with UV exposure, but it’s helped them to better protect themselves on a daily basis. While my diagnosis has been extremely stressful, it’s also been extremely rewarding being able to help others avoid a similar fate.
Don’t be a robot
I know I’m not alone. I’m sure I may sound like a robot to some, but I know there are plenty others like me out there with a steadfast aversion to emotional conversations. So I know how difficult it can be for people like myself to share something as serious as a melanoma diagnosis. However, if you decide to share your story, even if it’s just with your family and close friends, I know you won’t regret it.
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