Friday, December 14, 2012

Misconceptions In Melaland & What To Do About Them

The misconceptions kinda revolve around a big preconception--which is wrong--and that is that melanoma can be cut out, give a big high five to the doctor, pay the bill, and all will be well when the stitches are removed. After all, it is just skin cancer! Right?! No big deal. The only time you really have to worry is if you get staged in the 3-4 range. As long as it's less than 3, noooooooooooo biggie!

And heads in melaland shake in dismay and disbelief.

People with stage 2 melanoma know very real fears and concerns. And folks can understand that. I mean, they are right under stage, we'll give them that. But not too much. (And I'm using my sarcastic voice and imitating those that just don't get it). The reality is that people with a stage 2 diagnosis have well-grounded fears which are heightened by the fact that, usually, doctors don't do scans for stage 2s, though some do. People with a stage 2 diagnosis get it. They know their reality even if the people around them do not.

Frankly, it's the people with stage 0 and stage 1 diagnoses that concern me. So often, they themselves don't get the seriousness of this diagnosis. They can fall victim to the idea that it has been cut out and they're OK now. They may even use the "cure" word. The medical profession does absolutely nothing proactive for stage 0s and 1s like scans. Some of the lesser-informed in the medical world can, also, throw around the "cure" word.

And, truthfully, many will heal and be OK. They'll never have another melanoma to deal with. Some will continue to have more places on their skin that have to be removed...some of these will be more melanomas, some will be other skin cancers, some will be nothing. They aren't "cured" because there is no cure for melanoma and also, because it can come back. And come back stage 4.

Yes. Stage 0 and stage 1 can come back stage 4. It can take decades, or, it can take months. I'm seeing it. I'm hearing the stories. Granted, I'm seeing and hearing only a very small tip of a gigantic iceberg, but experience has taught me that where there is one, there are more. Where there are a few, there are many. While I, personally, know of one person whose stage 0, zero, melanoma roared back stage 4 in a short matter of time...that means there are others around the world this is happening to. It happens. People who have been diagnosed with stage 0 melanoma, do not let your guard down.

While I personally know of around 10 people whose stage 1, one, melanoma roared back stage 4 (some it took a while and some it didn't)...that means there are many more around the world this is happening to. It happens. People who have been diagnosed with stage 1 melanoma, do not let your guard down.

These are people that I know their stories. There are hundreds of people I come in contact with, dealing with melanoma, and I don't know their stories.

My issue is, if I'm seeing it, why isn't the medical profession seeing it and taking better, more proactive steps with their patients with stage 0 and stage 1 melanoma? Why aren't insurance companies insisting on scans immediately upon any diagnosis? Melanoma is far easier and cheaper to treat the earlier it is caught. Once it hits stage 4, it's a nightmare of monumental proportion...much of which may have been prevented if better standards were in place.

Standard number one should be: upon any melanoma diagnosis, of any stage, by any doctor...refer patient immediately to the nearest melanoma specialist. ASAP means ASAP!

Standard number two should be: melanoma specialist has full-body scans ordered for the patient, regardless of stage. Full-body means full-body...not just chest x-rays or brain scans. Perform every year or two...I'll let the patient and doctor confer on that one. But the minimum standard will be every two years. This is a disease that must be stayed on top of. That's imperative.

Standard number three should be: deciding on a uniform practice of what to do about lymph nodes when one or more light up the screen. Remove some or all? Ugh!  Doctors in the same facility can differ on that one. Needless to say, doctors around the world differ. My personal preference is to remove them all. Don't leave behind any nodes where that renegade cell may be hiding. It won't completely remove all chances of "no return," but it sure is a good start.

Standard number four would be: burning ALL tanning beds in home, office, business, you name it.

Standard number five would be: full-body skin checks, done by skin cancer specialist dermatologists once a year for people with no history of skin cancer, and twice a year for people with a history. During these visits the doctors will inform their patients of safe-sun practices for them and their children.

Standard number six: drop "just" from the name of any skin cancer. Skin cancer is cancer. You can't cut it out and be fine. Having one increases the chances of having any of the others. All are scarring and disfiguring. And, newsflash, though melanoma is considered to be "skin cancer" (which I strongly object and have blogged this site for those posts) is not the only one that is potentially fatal. Not to mention the fact that there are links to melanoma and breast cancer, and melanoma and pancreatic cancer, and melanoma and other cancers. Established links.

Standard number seven: love the skin you're in. Don't tan it, bleach it, bake it, or broil it. Take care of it. Be good to it and it should be good to you. Though there are no guarantees.

Standard number eight: learn there are no standards when it comes to melanoma. It behaves differently in everybody. It doesn't care who you are, how old you are, what skin color you have, or what gender you are. It is an equal opportunity cancer. It can be fatal. If "melanoma" has been attached to you, know your enemy, know your God, and get support. Stay vigilant. Start getting your children's skin checked by a melanoma specialist dermatologist...they now have this disease in their family history.

Standard number nine: don't let melanoma define you. You define melanoma. Live your life and love it. You have cancer. Don't let it have you. Learn what's important and what isn't. Love the ones that matter and let go of toxic people. Forgive, move on, take time to smell the roses and let the thorns teach you. Life is good. Life is a gift. Life is short. Life has purpose and you have meaning.

Standard number ten: Pray. Draw near to God and God will draw near to you. Be blessed and be a blessing.