A Walk in the Park: My Stage 4 Melanoma Journey
On Saturday, August 5th, my wife and I participated in our fifth annual Miles for Melanoma 5K held in Memphis, Tennessee. I say participated because I no longer run in road races – no matter how short the distance. Instead of a competitive run, we walked the three-plus-mile course taking our time to enjoy the fresh air and the quiet of the outdoors. It was also a chance for us to reflect on our journey together over the last six years.
Everything changed with stage IV melanoma
In late July 2013, I was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma. Our lives, our future together, and our family dynamic all came to a standstill. Nothing would ever be the same again. Yet, here we were walking through Shelby Farms Park talking about our grown children, our extended families, and our crazed border collie, Zoe. We laughed, we sighed, and we sweated. (August in Memphis can be brutal.)
I felt alone
I’ve previously written on Skincancer.net about my melanoma journey and how thankful I am that my journey continues to this day. But I didn’t always feel that way. Early on, I truly felt alone – even with a strong, loving spouse and a highly supportive family. I simply felt isolated. Alone. Frankly, I was scared and a bit angry…along with an overwhelming sense of guilt. Once again, I had become a burden to my family. A distraction in our otherwise normal lives.
To move myself past those feelings of isolation and anger, I took control of my journey – at least the parts I could control. I reached out to every melanoma and skin cancer resource available to learn what I could about this horrible disease. I made connections – online and over the phone – with other melanoma patients to share stories and information. Finally, I became an advocate. I decided to use my situation to do what I could for current and future melanoma patients and their loved ones.
There are resources
My journey, however, has been anything but easy. All of us know that a skin cancer diagnosis – at any stage – is no walk in the park.
But there are resources to help you with your diagnosis and your journey. Skincancer.net, for example, provides online resources and a community forum. Our Community Advocates share their stories and offer advice and support. Please understand that you are truly not alone. It took me a long time to figure that out. There are people who care. Your doctors, caregivers, and fellow patients are all part of your support community. Reach out to them.
While I’m fortunate to continue my journey, I still have cancer. Melanoma does not define me, but it is a part of me. I take an active role in my melanoma treatment, and I continue to live my life.
Miles for melanoma
Miles for Melanoma is now one of the Melanoma Research Foundation’s signature fundraising events. Races are held throughout the year in over fifteen cities across the country. Miles for Melanoma is more than a race and a fundraiser. It’s an event to help raise local awareness about skin cancer and, on race day, Miles for Melanoma brings together the local community of patients, survivors, caregivers, and other supporters.
How well have your skin cancer diagnoses been explained to you?