But you need to know. And, frankly so may your doctor. So, if you're a doctor and you're reading this, please take notes and make any necessary adjustments. Your patients will have even more reasons to rise up and call you blessed! Note: these are in no certain order; just as they come to mind.
When given that melanoma diagnosis, you may not be told that...
1). You need to be in the hands of a melanoma specialist. This is particularly true if your melanoma is invasive as opposed to in situ. This is Aim at Melanoma's link to melanoma specialist oncologists in the USA and in Canada. If you are in another country, please either contact me and I'll help you, or, do an Internet search for a melanoma organization in your country and contact them. They should be able to help you. Where you find oncologists who are melanoma specialists, you'll also find surgical oncologists and dermatologists who are melanoma specialists. About dermatologists in general: ALL should know at least the basics about melanoma and skin cancer, but not ALL make it the focus of their practice. We are in a specialized world and that is their right. You need to be in the hands of one who HAS made melanoma and skin cancer their focus and you need FULL-BODY skin checks twice a year (some advocate for one if you're lower staged).
2). Doing an Internet search on melanoma is a bad idea. OK, you may actually be told not to turn to Dr. Internet. But, let's face it, you probably WILL. So, what you won't be told are the best sites to read. The following are my preferred sites. Look over them carefully as they each offer special helps and resources for us. Aim at Melanoma, Melanoma Research Foundation, Melanoma Research Alliance, The Skin Cancer Foundation, and the American Academy of Dermatology.
3). You are going to change. And it won't just be visible scars from biopsies and any surgeries that may follow. It will be those invisible scars that can be the worst. The more you learn about this disease, the more scared, and maybe angry, you'll get...particularly as appointments near...and these mood swings can kick in months prior to the appointment and get worse as the date nears. You won't calm down until the appointment is over and any results are in. I call this "attirude" and you can do a blog-site search for the term.You'll probably find your priorities changing also.
4). Some of your relationships may change. There are still a lot of misconceptions and downright ignorance about this disease. I can't tell you exactly what to expect or who to expect it from. I can't tell you that it definitely WILL happen, but I can tell you the possibility exists, so be prepared. But don't look for ugly attitudes under every rock either. Take support where you can get it and if you're on Facebook, look me up. While some relationships may change, do your part to cherish those you love and let them know you appreciate them. You cannot control other people and how they react to your diagnosis, but you CAN control how YOU behave and react to the people in your life.
5). You may want to talk with a therapist who is trained to talk with people who have been given a cancer diagnosis. If I ruled Melanoma World this is one thing I would make sure happens with every diagnosis no matter what the stage. If you want to know others things I'd do read this post.
6). There's a LOT of HOPE on this road you've just found yourself on. While you're on it for life, this is no longer the automatic death sentence that it once was. But that reiterates why you now need to be in the hands of a melanoma specialist because they are the ones who are up on all the advancements going on in our world. Give yourself every fighting chance.
7). You are not alone. Connect. Pray. Do something that is therapeutic for you: write/blog, advocate and educate, paint, do something you've always wanted to do. You have now faced your mortality but you are ALIVE, so LIVE! None of us, with or without melanoma, have any guarantees in this life. Make the most of the life you have. No regrets.
8). Look for miracles and blessings. They really are all around you. Make it a point to find at least five a day and be