It takes some time to settle into a melanoma diagnosis.
In early 2016, my father had extensive melanoma surgery, which prompted me to schedule a second full body skin exam within the year. During my exam, the doctor froze a few “spots”, decided to biopsy a few others, and advised me to keep an eye on a small freckle he discovered on my abdomen. Something about this “small freckle”, and my dad’s diagnosis, alerted me to do more than keep an eye on it. I urged my doctor to do a biopsy of this “small freckle”.
One week later, I received the call and it was Stage 1A melanoma. We caught it early. With the news of my diagnosis, I was instantly overcome with emotion. I felt totally out-of-control and paralyzed with fear of the known and the unknown. Thoughts whirled in my head, “I know melanoma is dangerous, and yet, I don’t know how bad mine is? Will it keep coming back? Will it become something I cannot stop? Can I still be outside when it’s sunny?” Anxiety and fear suddenly controlled my life.
I learned everything I could about skin cancer and melanoma for comfort and my own peace of mind. It was my way of controlling a path I had not chosen. Educating myself with information and accepting the care and advice of skilled and experienced healthcare professionals, like Dr. Atkins at Georgetown University Lombardi Cancer Center, empowered me. I felt armed and ready to embrace my diagnosis.
Melanoma is not a choice, but living with a positive attitude is. I parlayed my diagnosis into a career with the Melanoma Research Foundation, where I am passionate about the work we do and as a patient, I know first-hand the difference this organization makes. In addition, every morning I journal the 3 things I am grateful for and the 3 things that will make my day great. It’s amazing how much this simple routine launches my day in a good direction and reinforces my mind set on gratitude.
I will continue to research melanoma, but it will never consume me or compromise my positivity. I will always rely on the best specialists available to support my treatment and continue to be proactive with my frequent skin exams and sun protection practices. Being positive makes me who I am, not melanoma.