Monday, November 18, 2013

Looking Back on November 16, 2013

And our Aim at Melanoma Walk for the Cure that was held in Charlotte. Last year, I felt like a roving reporter, writing all about our every move. This year I was on the quiet side.

Absorbing. Processing.

Don't get me wrong. It was wonderful seeing old friends and hugging new ones. And they came in from around the country to be here. For us all to get together and spend the weekend getting acquainted and reacquainted. Not to mention that the day was gorgeous. The weather beautiful. The people smiling, even through some tears. It was, all-in-all, a spectacular weekend.

And I got to hug and spend quality time with Crabby. My better half in our melanoma community. Susan Hayes, mama of Jillian who died from melanoma in December at the age of 23.

Jillian should have been here, on this earth, and not Susan at a walk. None of us should have been at that walk. And if life had gone differently, you know what? Probably none of us would have been. But, we were where we needed to be because life is what it is and this is where we are and what we live with.

Melanoma is part of our lives, in some form or fashion. Some of us live with it in our bodies. Some live with it seared in their memories. Some live with it up close and personal as they love and care for one with it. We ALL see what it really means to have this disease. To fight the fight and battle the battles. To die from it. We see it. We live it. We know what it means.

Susan and I got to have a long talk about all this. She's the person behind a growing series of billboards that feature melanoma warriors. Her latest billboard is dedicated to those, like Jillian, who are no longer with us on this planet...but who SHOULD be! She shouldn't be staring down at her mama, forever young with her dog, and her life now pictures, boxes and memories. Her mama shouldn't have been in Charlotte, and she wouldn't have been had Jillian been alive. Again, none of us would probably have been there if we weren't directly affected by this disease.

Susan and I talked about the progression of this disease. The Jillian on the billboard isn't the Jillian who died...in a way. Cancer changed her looks, her abilities. It changed everything about the life she lived. Jillian was beautiful and vibrant. She took center stage. She was athletic. She tanned. She got melanoma. She died. And between all those periods her dashes changed too. And all of that is Susan's to tell and share in her own way, in her own time, if she ever does. If a billboard is ever created that shows what warriors are like at the end of their journey...it will look VERY different from the billboards as they now are.

The world probably isn't ready for that. And neither, frankly, are the families with images of their loved ones final days permanently tattooed in their brains and souls.

We know the reality of this disease. And we walk to end it so it doesn't become the reality of other families. Other people so much like ourselves. There was a time that WE didn't get it. WE didn't know. WE didn't understand. WE ignored and looked the other way. WE didn't listen.

WE didn't walk.

WE do now because we get it.

WE GOT IT.

Melanoma. It isn't what you may think it is.

charis