Warning: Real Pics of My Cancer
My truth - life is complicated, relationships terrify me and I hate "adulting." Last year was a difficult and scary year for all of us collectively. It was a year of pain and unplanned growth. It was a year that required adulting at levels we didn't know we processed. For me, 2016 was a year of personal hell, painful lessons and that level of adulting. I had finally left an unhealthy marriage and was discovering life as a single mom in her 40's. I hadn't even found my footing when I got the diagnosis of melanoma.
I still remember the phone call and the doctor telling me that the biopsy was malignant. I remember thinking, which one is that? Is malignant the bad one or is that benign? My brain was buzzing so loud that I'm not really sure what my doctor was saying to me at the beginning of that phone call. I'm listening to her speak and also running through half a dozen scenarios in my head. Do I have cancer? Do I have to have surgery? Chemo? How in the world can I do this by myself? I was standing in the radio studio and instead of talking on the air, I was talking to my doctor about cancer. Obviously she finally clarified for me that I had melanoma/cancer and probably told me a lot of facts. I'm honestly not really sure what she told me at the beginning of that phone call. I remember thinking how can I do this on my own? I believe that is probably the point at which I started my life-long habit of numbing out to pain. Whether it was physical or deep emotional pain, becoming numb and feeling like I was operating in a fog happened automatically when I felt severely overwhelmed. Somewhere deep inside of me I knew I should be dealing with the diagnosis and making the surgery appointment, I just didn't want to. I expertly filed the diagnosis and the doctor's phone call away and like Scarlett O'Hara, decided I'd deal with it another day. Fast forward two months and Dr. Francis (Francis Skin Care Dermatology) is personally calling me (again) to tell me that I needed to stop wasting time and schedule the surgery. Thank the Universe that whatever she said during that second phone call made it's way through my fog.
I'm not sure if I shut down out of just fear, the quest for a perfect solution or, because I just can't deal with life sometimes. This reaction is not something that I'm proud of, but it's one of many difficult truths that I have accepted. In fairness, I also suffer from diagnosed anxiety and know that part of what happens during an anxiety attack is that I can't see solutions to problems, and inadvertently emotionally detach. During an anxiety attack I literally feel like my heart is going to explode from my body and find myself so deep in my head that I don't see a way out. I have learned that this is a survival coping mechanism that I developed at a young age. In the case of melanoma, I couldn't figure out how I was going to make surgeries, my work and being a newly single mom work together. I couldn't see a solution, so I buried the melanoma problem deep in my psyche under a high dosage of anxiety meds.
In the end, I made the surgery (3 total were required) for Friday afternoons when I knew my daughter would be with her father. During that time, I was operating in a cycle of fear and anxiety. It was not a pretty place to be and living inside a mind filled with anxiety is thinking the worst is going to happen in just about every situation. I had upped my anxiety meds during my divorce and when I asked to up them again during this period I was told that I was "maxed out". That's when I knew that I truly needed to deal with the diagnosis and my anxiety. Thank goodness for my therapist who worked with me on both issues and helped me finally get a hold of the demons that were tying me to a block of fear. I had a giant hole in my head (it couldn't be sutured until the biopsies said all clear) and I was living out my most fearful life in my head. I was truly overwhelmed by life during those days.
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine told me about a book called something like "Eat the Frog". The premise is that if there is something you don't want to do, do it first. Eat the frog. If you have a spot on your body that you've been questionig, eat the frog. Call the doctor and get in for an appointment. Once I knew about my melanoma diagnosis, I should have scheduled the surgery right away. There are probably a lot of 'shoulds' in my life, but I also extend grace to myself and admit that I did the best I could at the time. Today my anxiety is mostly in check and although I still hate adulting - I do it. Usually. I'm sharing these pictures for the first time, because I want to bring awareness to Melanoma. It's also Melanoma Awareness Month and every year I tell myself that this is the year I'll write and share my real pictures. Every year I seem to decide that life is too complicated, busy and I'll do it next year. This year, I'm eating the frog. This year I'm trying to adult the best I can.