Are you cured?


Hooray, my melanoma is gone and my face is healing nicely.  The entire experience has been much more pleasant than I anticipated.  My surgeons are amazing, and obvious advocates of all that I value.  I was a bit surprised by the question one of them asked me at my follow up visit; ‘Are you cured?’  I certainly hope so, I thought.   ‘NO’, he confided, you are never really cured of melanoma.  Though unlikely, he informed me it could show up again in the future.  That news is humbling, to say the least.  I guess that’s what I get for curing my skin in the sun all summer for decades;   I have been addicted to sunshine and solar power for as long as I can remember.

We slathered ourselves with baby oil, making sure we maximized exposure.  My friend even held foil to her face for double trouble.   I remember my brother suggesting I would likely be quite wrinkled when I got old and I insisted I wouldn’t care, because I would be old.   Wrong.

Now in my early 50s, my skin certainly shows its age.  Unfortunately, sometimes that’s what it takes, but at least now I know better.

I have learned so much through this experience, I can hardly imagine what comes next.  What doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger, and I am grateful for the levity of this journey.

Emerging from my cocoon of naiveté, into a new reality is intimidating, invigorating, inspiring and empowering.

Now sitting in the sun, my favorite hobby ever, is something I have to do sparingly, after hours, with caution, sunscreen and shade.

I have run the Komen Race for the Cure for several years.  Okay, I walk most of it, but I do take a few sprints along the way.  Somehow, it always felt like something I was doing for others.  But being a ‘Cancer survivor’ means joining the ranks of courageous warriors everywhere, regardless of age, stage, or outcome.

I am now the self-appointed poster child for sunscreen and skin scans.   I look at skin and sun exposure differently now, and feel a responsibility to protect people from themselves.

My husband used to accuse me of being the dune police on the beach.  I am never shy about reminding people to keep off the dunes, and of the potential fine for disturbing them.  They protect the island from the ocean, much like our skin protects our bodies from the world.  It is mandatory we practice prevention, because once we lose what we have, we cannot get it back. The expression ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ is an understatement when it comes to our health.  Obviously, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure.


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