The world of cancer is just such a place. A place that knows the darkness of fear and dread. A place that's all too familiar with the final darkness of death. Most cancers, though, in their ribbon campaigns use bright colors. Not melanoma. Our color is black and our mascot is The Beast. We are a dark-colored lot to be sure. But that is on the surface. Outsiders expect that our world must be truly hideous (and it often is); they expect us to be full of self pity and unapproachable (who has time for that?); they expect us to be in their faces telling them to practice safe sun and not to tan in tanning beds (well, yeah, duh); they expect us to want to bombard them with our stories and show them our scars and scare them silly...
And that's where we can fall short. Many of us do. But many of us retreat into cocoons and stay there. Nature never intended caterpillars to remain in cocoons; they must emerge butterflies and fly free from the restraints of being a caterpillar. So, too, those of us with cancer, need to strongly consider leaving the safety of the cocoon and being transformed into butterflies who fly into the face of cancer free from the restraints that would hold us back.
Cocoons may be "safe", but they are lonely places. One caterpillar per cocoon is isolating. They can't draw strength, hope, comfort, and peace from being alone and wrapped up in their own little world. They simply cannot. They cannot fight back, come together, support each other, and brighten up the world as long as they stay wrapped up in themselves.
But, oh how the world changes when they break free of those threads that held them back! How they have been changed as nature does what nature does to complete their metamorphosis! They look absolutely nothing like the caterpillar they were when they wove that cocoon around themselves. They act nothing like a caterpillar. Everything about them has changed; even what they are known as, for they are no longer "caterpillars" but now they are "butterflies." And the world changes. For the better.
Metamorphoses take time though. It's hard to rush right out after a melanoma diagnosis, or any cancer diagnosis, and claim it as your own and throw it in the world's face. Retreating into a cocoon is normal and natural. We can want to stay there where we can fool ourselves into a false sense of warm and cozy and safety. The truth is, though, being wrapped up, all alone with nothing but melanoma and no one but yourself is dangerous. It's also what the Beast wants.
So we must copy the butterfly and we, too, must change the world...our world, when we break free of feeling like "cancer is my private world and this is my private story and I just can't share it with anyone." When we dare to break free, speak up and speak out, and turn around and boldly confront that which seeks to destroy us. When we do that, we find we aren't alone. We find that there is community out there standing willing and ready to embrace us and walk with us. Support us, listen to us, commiserate with us, give us facts and give us hope.
We find there are people already flying free and shining brightly. We certainly find that in the world of melanoma. We find butterflies hold out candles that light the way for themselves and for others. And butterflies fly those candles, headlong, into the darkness of melanoma and all cancers. I recently put together a list of all the blogs I know about online of melanoma stories and awareness advocates: They Dare To Care. Support groups and melanoma awareness and advocacy pages are popping up regularly on Facebook. There are melanoma specific websites and some host discussion groups. Other butterflies are utilizing their own talents and business ventures to hold out candles that illuminate melanoma such as Kspin Designs. Then there are butterflies like the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund and AIM at Melanoma that refused to let the melanoma-caused death of a loved one have the last word.
I like the idea of being a butterfly that has left my cocoon. I like holding out my candle as a beacon of hope. I dearly love meeting others who break free, fly free, and burn free. And give freely.
I leave you with this video, Chris Rice's "Go Light Your World."
Take your candle and run into the dark world of melanoma! Shine some light into that darkness and light the way for others. As you do, you'll find other lights burning brightly. Together we will illuminate the darkness and make this world better for future generations.
And remember, we don't light our candles ourselves any more than we can emerge from our cocoons under our own power. We get our light from the Light of the World, the Creator of butterflies and caterpillars, the One Who truly illuminates all darkness and Who calls us forth from the dark, lonely world of the cocoon and bids us fly free. The One Who gave us our candles in the first place and Who will never put them out. May we light up this world and one day burn bright in the Light of God for all eternity.
For now, while melanoma may be part of your world, remember who you are and Whose image you are created in. You don't belong to the Beast and you don't need to live in darkness.
Hold out your candle. For all to see. Run into the darkness.
Make us all grateful.