I was asked today our communications team if I would write a blog post for the Foundation about being a skin cancer survivor in recognition of National Cancer Survivors Day on June 1st.
My first response was; "I don't consider myself a survivor." I don't. My skin cancer was squamous cell, not melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Yes, left untreated I would have had a little battle to wage. But mine was detected early and removed in the doctors office.
Survivors to me are those who have truly battled cancer. Those who went through chemotherapy, radiation or surgery and came out the victor. Survivors like my sister Michelle, a 10 year breast cancer survivor.
I wrote the piece because felt the message of early detection is an important one. It saves lives. I also believe that it's important to educate individuals about being their own self-advocate. They know their bodies better than anyone, and for them, it could be a matter of life and death. A little knowledge goes a long way. A little burying your head in the sand and not asking questions could put you firmly in the category of "should of, but now it may be too damn late."
So, I'm sharing the piece I wrote in hope someone learns something from it.
Everyone likes to feel like they’re part of a crowd. Except when it comes to the “cancer crowd.” That’s a crowd we’d all like to avoid.
In January 2010, I became part of the cancer crowd. One of those people who heard the words you never want to hear; “it’s cancer.” What I heard next was not what I had expected, and quite honestly, left me speechless. Without taking a breath from saying the biopsy she removed from the growth on my back was cancer, she added: “but let’s wait until August to do anything about it.”
August? Are you fucking crazy? (I'm sure "fucking" will not stay in the posted piece). I promptly fired my dermatologist.
By 2010 I had been working in the non-profit healthcare field – mainly cancer - for about 15 years, and I knew you never waited. Early detection saves lives. Thousands of lives each year.
Armed with my results I got an appointment with a new dermatologist who I'd worked with previously through the Foundation the same day. She reviewed the results, did a complete body scan, and said it needs to be removed now and not in August. A couple of days later I was back in her office where she removed the growth, along with a few other spots that looked suspicious which the other doctor had not bothered to even look at.
Luckily my skin cancer was squamous cell, and not melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Luckier still, I was an informed, self-advocate who knew early detection and treatment could possibly save my life. I’ve wondered what would have happened had I listened to that doctor and waited 7-8 months.
I don’t consider myself a cancer survivor because of the type of cancer I had. I consider my sister Michelle a survivor who battled and won her fight against breast cancer. Neither of us wanted to be part of the cancer crowd. Hopefully, neither of us ever will again.
June 1st in National Cancer Survivors Day. Hug the survivor in your life.