Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ignorance Of The Law Is No Excuse No Matter Which World You Live In!

Occasionally there are discussions surrounding the old adage "If I knew then what I know now, I'd..." and we fill in our own applicable blank. That good old twenty-twenty hindsight works practically every time! Sure wish my vision, bolstered by bifocals, could look forward with equal precision.  I sure wish there were "laws" that could be ignored and there would be no consequences. Gee, it would really be nice to literally be ignorant of some laws, break them unknowingly, and life never know the difference.

Unfortunately, ignorance of the law really is no excuse; there are consequences to breaking laws; and being a habitual law-breaker eventually does catch up to the perpetrator, whether the law is known or not.

Obviously I am "guilty" of being a law-breaker and have learned the errors of my ways. Unfortunately my penalty was melanoma and I'll never know if I was also given the death sentence until I, possibly, die from it. Were my tanning ways and days worth it when I was a teen? NO! Was it worth it to stubbornly hang on to my mole knowing my family history of melanoma?  Well, it did drive my Mama crazy! But, NO! In the end, hearing her constant nagging to get it removed wasn't worth it. This is one time I wish I could turn back the clock and listen to my Mama. Was it worth it to watch that blasted thing start to change and HIDE it? Was it worth it to watch it bubble, completely raise, turn black and still nonchalantly have a dermatologist appointment months away? Was it worth it to never learn the first thing about melanoma knowing that that was what I was dealing with?

There are a few basic "laws" of melanoma. The cancer knows them, knows them well, and is banking on its victims to not know them. Which, truth be told, we usually don't. We learn about melanoma often after we've been given that diagnosis and then we can't change it. It's too late then to say, "If only I knew then what I know now."

Periodically there are Facebook conversations around our melanoma. Are people listening to our stories? No, not as many as we'd like and it really does hurt when you know our stories and merrily go on tanning as if our melanoma was no big deal. And for our friends who aren't Caucasian, it hurts when we try and warn you that melanoma isn't prejudice one bit and you don't listen.  But when we find out we've made a difference and one person has listened and changed their cancerous ways, we get excited! There isn't much excitement in Melaworld. Would we have behaved differently if we knew then what we know now? Some people probably would have done differently. I wouldn't have and I know it. I'm one of those who didn't get it until I got it.

I broke the melalaws, didn't know it, got caught red-handed, and the doctor said, "Melanoma! Life sentence for you!"

Law One: DO NOT stay blissfully ignorant, stupid, and naive about melanoma. That's actually pretty easy. Do NOT turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to everything melanoma. The stories you hear are other peoples'! They aren't yours, but they can be one day, so make changes in your life! Like to tan either in the sun or in a tanning bed? Stop it! Don't buy the deadly hype that you look healthy and sexy. That hype and those lies are pretty expensive. Last time I checked Yervoy costs about $30,000 a dose. Don't know what Yervoy is? Look it up and keep reading.

Break law number one by not learning about melanoma. Stay ignorant. Worked for me. I was stage 3b at my diagnosis.

Law Two: DO NOT say "it can't happen to me." This law is closely related to law number one. Melanoma is OK with you keeping law number one as long as you break number two. Like I did. The beast is happy if you learn about it but don't apply it to yourself. It wants you to say to yourself, "It happens to other people. I don't fit the stereotypical person with melanoma."

Break law number two by thinking melanoma will never happen to you. Worked for me. I didn't realize I could get it until that mole bubbled, raised, turned black, and finally bled. That bleeding convinced me that I did, indeed, have melanoma, even before I went to Duke Urgent Care and had it removed. I knew. By then though, I had also already broken law number three and didn't know it.

Law Three: Understand that melanoma is NOT "skin" cancer. I know that's what it's called. Melanoma knows it, too and is getting quite a good laugh as it racks up victims who fall for that line. If I had bothered to learn about melanoma and not broken law number one, I wouldn't have broken number two and I surely wouldn't be guilty of breaking number three. Breaking number three is probably the deadliest law to break. Because I thought melanoma was "skin" cancer, even though mine was in a mole, it was still on my skin, I figured the doctor would cut it out, sew me up, that would be that, and my life would go on as it had before the mole was cut out. I didn't have a clue, not a clue, how wrong I was. I'm coming across so many other people who thought the same thing! We have GOT to change our understanding AND naming of melanoma.

Break law number three by thinking "this is nothing but skin cancer." Act as if you've got plenty of time to deal with that changing mole or place in your skin or in your eye or in a nail bed. Fool yourself into thinking you'll just cut it out and all will be well. Worked for me. Worked too well. Remember that stage 3b? That can change at any time and the number won't go down. This so-called "skin" cancer isn't; but, it is deadly. Your skin can die along with that tan.

Law Four: Don't underestimate melanoma. Don't ever think you're cured. Don't ever get soft on being vigilant. Don't ever think it won't come back, even if it has been gone twenty years. Don't think if you're stage 1 that you're safe because the truth is that it can come back at stage 4.

Even if you've broken all the other laws like I did, don't break law number four. Works for me. So far.

And I am grateful.