1,000 Skin Cancer Treatments

As a radiation therapist, I have been a part of one thousand skin cancer treatments, but not one of them was mine. This prompts some people with skin cancer to reasonably ask this question: “How can you possibly be an advocate when you have never had skin cancer?”

Why I'm a skin cancer advocate

I am a skin cancer advocate because even though I have not experienced a skin cancer diagnosis first-hand, I am passionate about making sure that people in your position understand their treatment options. I am advocating for skin cancer care, regardless of my medical history, because I want those who I treat to get better.

People also tell me, “you don’t understand.”

They're right, I do not understand what you are going through at this very moment. I do, though, understand your skin cancer very well. I know where it has originated from, its size, shape, and what needs to happen for it to be eliminated. I understand the treatment you will undergo, as I have studied and perfected it for years. I understand the process by which the treatment will destroy your skin cancer and the stages of healing that you will experience following it.

Some other completely reasonable things that I often hear are:

“How can you know what I am feeling?”

I cannot, but I can listen. I have heard the concerns and fears of others in a similar situation to yours. I have been there for them through their treatment course, and, as their radiation therapist and a skin cancer advocate, have done my best to ease their fears. I am here to help you through this process, even if I have not been through myself. Your appointment time is about 10 minutes, and the treatment will only take me 30 seconds. Those other 9 minutes and 30 seconds are yours, and I am here for you if you need to express your feelings, no matter what they may be!

“You don’t know what it’s like!”

You’re right: I don’t know what it is like to have skin cancer. I can only imagine how it must feel to have a part of your body turn against you. I have not experienced the treatment that I will deliver to you, but I have studied it. I have asked each patient how the treatment feels, if anything is bothering them and if they have any side effects. I am ready to listen to you, and you can tell me what it is like; I would love to know. You sharing your experience with me will only help me improve the care I can offer you and all of my other patients.

“It is so hard to come in for treatment. You don’t get it!”

I may not know what struggles you have in your life, but I will do anything to help you receive your treatments. I understand that having to come in to see me multiple times in a week is an inconvenience. I make my schedule is extremely flexible, and I will work with you. I am here 8 hours each day; if you need to adjust, I am still here. If you miss your appointment, don’t feel bad. I am here all day no matter what; just give me a call. If it is easier for your appointment to be “sometime Monday afternoon,” we can make that work too.

“I hope I never have to see you again, no offense.”

None taken! I know you may associate me with skin cancer for the rest of your life, and that is fine. I do not take it personally. I knew what I was doing when I got into the field of treating cancer. I hope, maybe, if you do happen to cross paths with me again, I am not a reminder of a struggle but of your triumph.

These one thousand skin cancer treatments may not be listed on my medical history, but they are a part of my life. And so is being a skin cancer advocate.

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