Trigger warnings: cancer, scar pics
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. And it just so happens, it’s also when I was diagnosed with melanoma myself, one year ago today.
Which means, I’m officially a ONE YEAR SURVIVOR!!
I know, you may be thinking, what’s the big deal? It’s just skin cancer; it’s not REAL cancer. And it’s true that I did not have to endure chemo, radiation, or many of the other horrible side effects that so many cancer patients face. For that, I’m thankful. But, let me assure you, when you hear a doctor tell you that you have cancer (no matter what kind), the fear and distress are real. Even with skin cancer.
My diagnosis affected my mental health more than anything. Am I going to die? I can’t leave my son without a mother. Did we catch this soon enough? What if it has already spread? Why is my body turning against me? Does this mean I’ll be more susceptible to other cancers down the road too?
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. If it’s not detected and treated early, things can go south quickly. A year ago, I spent many restless nights worrying whether I would even be here today.
But fortunately, my skin cancer was able to be treated. A surgeon performed a wide excision procedure on the back of my left arm to remove the entire melanoma and all surrounding tissue. My pathology afterward showed clear margins. And one year later, here I am.
My scar is huge. (My melanoma was relatively small, by the way. You can read the full story here.) But I’ll gladly take a large scar, if it means I’m cancer free.
I’ve learned a couple things from this experience. Things that I already knew, but they’ve hit home more deeply after going through this.
1. Take the sun seriously. Wear sunscreen. Wear protective clothing. Find shady spots outside. Use hats, umbrellas, tents, etc. And for the love, stay away from tanning beds. While you’re at it, check your skin and see your dermatologist on the regular.
2. Trust God. That doesn’t mean everything will be easy. God didn’t promise a problem-free life. But He will carry us through the tough times. I said it last year and it’s still true today—when I was faced with such fear and panic, I was left with no choice but to surrender my entire life to a loving God who invites us to cast our cares on Him. “Cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you.” -1 Peter 5:7
There’s freedom in that surrender, friends. There’s peace in accepting that God is holding me in the palm of His hand. I can choose to live my life in fear, or I can choose to breathe easy and put my trust in God. “Who of you by worrying, can add a single hour to your life?” -Matthew 6:27
One year post diagnosis, the fear has subsided some, but it still creeps up more than I’d like. I’m a work in progress. But I’m trying to rest in the knowledge that God created my inmost being, He ordained all my days before one of them came to be, and He’s not finished with me yet.
Thanks for the love, prayers, and support, friends. Love y’all! ❤️