Friday, February 17, 2012

Venting and Addressing A Few Things About Melanoma

I'm a person of faith who has an attitude of gratitude that feels a compelling need to address a few things. In no particular order as I'd make them all number one if I could:

1) An "attitude of gratitude" or "being a positive thinker," or anything else that's upbeat and perky does NOT mean that that is a cure for cancer! That seems to be the idea that some people have. I'm seeing it over and over in Internetland. Maybe somewhere there really is a person that has said or written that being positive and having a good attitude while living with cancer will keep you alive and eventually you'll be healed because of that attitude, but no. Today people with a deep faith, attitude of gratitude, and a positive outlook will die. There is research that says it may help a person live longer and better. And, for me, it's my general outlook naturally and it does make me more pleasant to be around, but it is NOT a cure!

2) People of faith living with melanoma, either personally or sharing life with someone who has it, can get negative. We can have our fears, our doubts, our questions. We are all over the map. Sometimes we take it minute by minute and renew our faith daily. We choose to cling to God because the alternative scares us more than melanoma ever will.

3) When you feel negative, fearful, scared, doubtful, are NOT ALONE!!!!! The millions of people worldwide who deal with melanoma ALL have the same feelings at some point or other. Please, do yourself and all of us a favor, and give them voice! I see it over and over, people think they are the only ones feeling these things, so they feel alone and isolated, and it's all so needless. We are not alone. No matter what we feel at any given moment, somewhere there are countless others feeling the same thing. It helps when we vocalize what we feel. And it strengthens us and it strengthens others for the journey. It also helps diminish those feelings when we realize we are not alone in them.

4) I'm here and you are free to email me. There are a lot of other people who will walk with you. Do you have melanoma? Are you family? Friend? Someone who wants to be educated? Someone ignorant and needs to learn? Someone involved in self-destructive behaviors like tanning that could lead to your own diagnosis and need us to open your eyes? There is a wonderful community of survivors who will hug you, love you, cry with you, help guide you, support you, jerk a knot in you, whatever you need and whatever it takes but you must take that first step and let us know you need us. We're in this together and we rely on each other for strength and support. And to vent. No one understands what we live with except one of our own. Melanoma is one of those diseases that people "don't get it until they get it". You can connect with fellow warriors of all ages and stages at Aim at Melanoma, Melanoma Research Foundation, Melanoma Prayer Center, Black Is The New Pink, and through blogs by warriors and their families such as Adventures With My Enemy...Melanoma and Hotel Melanoma. I have a list of bloggers. This is only the tip of the iceberg, but these are places you can start and follow the yellow brick road from there.

5) If you have been given a melanoma diagnosis, it is absolutely crucial, imperative, and vital that you be in the hands of a melanoma specialist! More than likely you'll get that initial diagnosis from either your dermatologist or primary care doctor. The minute they say "melanoma," tell them you want to be referred immediately to the nearest melanoma specialist oncologist and surgical oncologist. Generally, where you find one you'll find the other working together as a team. A general oncologist or an oncologist that specializes in another cancer is NOT who YOU need! Melanoma is not like other cancers! Aim at Melanoma provides a list of melanoma specialist oncologists and that's a great place to start to find where you need to be.

6) Remember, yes, what you've been told is scary. I won't lie to you. But, fear is every bit as much your enemy as melanoma is. Keep as clear-headed and focused as possible. You have a lot to learn and a lot of decisions to make. You cannot make the correct ones for you if you can't think straight.

7) Don't bury your head in the sand. That's dangerous and deadly. This is happening. It is what it is. Don't let it become more than that. Please read this particular blog post: It Is What It Is.

8) While melanoma has it's own diabolical and unpredictable nature; while it is what it is, remember, God is Who God is. Rely on God. Hold on to your faith. Hold on to hope.

As people of faith, we live with our eyes wide open but we also look beyond what our eyes can see.

And I am grateful!