Skin Cancer, A Traumatic Journey
Last updated: April 2023
Skin cancer is traumatic.
For years I have been listening to our community. I have been hearing your stories. I have been laughing with you, crying with you, and at times, worrying with you and about you. I have felt your pain and concern. I get it. It runs deep. There is this side of the disease that is particularly traumatic.
Sunlight causes us anxiety
Recently I have had conversations with many of you who have been so affected by skin cancer that the mere idea of going outside causes stress and anxiety. Maybe you are newly diagnosed or have been affected so deeply that even the thought of sunlight hitting your skin causes anguish. Sun triggers fear. It is traumatic.
I am not a psychologist (although I have played one on television). I am not here to diagnose people who have been traumatized. But as a layman with considerable experience in the skin cancer community, I see it often. People are traumatized and it can affect their daily lives.
Skin cancer is unpredictable
This disease is so insidious. It can pop up seemingly at any time and in any place. It feels so unpredictable. Once you have had it, it is so hard to relax. You never really feel safe and assured that it is gone forever. The fear lingers.
Feb 4 is World Cancer Day. How Are You Feeling About the Progress in Treating Skin Cancer?
Living from checkup to checkup
Many of us live from appointment to appointment, from checkup to checkup, always hoping for good news but anticipating just about anything. For those of us who are new to the disease, this load almost seems unbearable. It is so cumbersome to carry alone. We may be the only person in our family and among our friends who have had this disease and it can feel lonely.
For some, triggering events may be a simple stroll in a local park and seeing others tanning along the way. Some may feel anxious after viewing something on television or the internet. We ask ourselves what we could have done differently. Did we do enough to protect ourselves? Did our caregivers do enough to protect us?
Dealing with the trauma of skin cancer
It’s very layered and complex and, most of all, it feels traumatic. So, how do I deal with the trauma? How do I get through the day without collapsing into a rabbit hole of negative feelings and emotions? How do I overcome the negative effects of having skin cancer?
My best answer is that I am happy to control what I can control and I focus on enjoying each day as it comes. Every day can be beautiful in its own way. I know that I am not guaranteed perfect health. I know that there will be disappointments along the way. But I want to live my life with joy and contentment and not fear and trepidation.
I will not give skin cancer power over my mental health. Yes, I am concerned. Yes, I take precautions. Yes, I have bad days. But they cannot rule me. I am not defined by any medical condition of disease. It IS a part of me, but it is NOT all of me.
This is how I deal with my triggers and the trauma. I recognize them and create emotional boundaries.
Life is hard but I am determined to live each day of mine without fear. How about you? What triggers fear in you regarding skin cancer and how do you cope with that?
Do you sunscreen in the fall?