SolSurvivors is network of melanoma survivors, family, and friends who are passionate about melanoma prevention and early detection. We coordinate community events to educate patients and their families, advocate for sun safety, and are working closely with researchers at Oregon Health & Science University to wage a War on Melanoma.
“Ugh….I just finally stopped being scared.” “ I will get checked. I just hate it. I feel uncomfortable every time.”
After having an in-situ melanoma removed a friend of mine thought she was done. Unfortunately, this is still just the beginning. No treatments other than the cosmetic repairs that were needed. But an understanding the risk level she is now, and the regular skin checks she will need to have. Every time, worried that another spot may be a found, and a positive diagnosis will be given. There are theories on what and how melanoma is triggered. It is almost certain that it takes a combination of things to create a melanoma. And having had a single diagnosis means you must have had all the ingredients at some point and are probably still carrying them.
Most cancer, in a simplistic description, is to many of some cell continuing to multiply at exponential rates. Thus, flooding an organ and causing a disruption which affects the whole body. With melanoma regular skin exams can usually catch these events before becoming complete disasters. Here is an analogy most people will relate to:
You use your toilet and flush it before going to bed. AS you lay down you still hear the water running. You enter the bathroom to find the tank just about to spill over and shut of the water just in time. You flush again and wait but it works normally. But for the next month you continue to wait and check before leaving in case it happens again. One morning when running late you do not wait and run off to work. You get home later and find it had been running all day. I was confined to the bathroom for the most part and with a shop vac, towels, a mop, and some sweat equity you manage to get the bathroom back to normal. You inspect the floor and do not find and soft spots. No major damage. Disaster averted. But say you had gone on a month-long vacation. The overfill would have flooded the whole house. Carpet, flooring, drywall, and many possessions ruined. A major disaster needing a major renovation.
Regular skin checks, prevention, awareness, and vigilance are the key to survival and averting a major disaster. Do not let fear prevent you from saving your own life.
1.“A person who survives, especially a person remaining alive after an event in which others have died.”
2.“The remainder of a group of people or things.”
3.“A person who copes well with difficulties in their life.”
But “survivor” is more than just a noun, a word. It is a feeling, it is a state of being. My wife was diagnosed with melanoma in August of 2004. She was a survivor until May of 2008 when she lost her battle with cancer. I watched her suffer through scans, drug therapies, surgeries, and side effects. Myself and my children staying beside her through this journey and helping where we could. Witnessing the hell she went through created an image for me. I thought, this is what a survivor is.
In 2014 I was getting a spot on my chest looked at with my dermatologist. It was nothing, just an ingrown hair. During the skin exam a spot on my back was noticed and biopsied. It tested positive and the next week it was removed. It was found as “in situ”. Other than regular skin checks not other treatment was necessary. There was some discomfort while the incision healed but that only lasted about a month. How could I call myself a survivor after witnessing what a survivor is with my wife?
I look back at the Oxford dictionary version and focus on #3. “A person who copes well with difficulties in their life”. This by far is the broadest while still being the most accurate. The truth is our goal is that a melanoma survivor is to have an experience like mine as opposed to my wife’s. And the circle of survivorship expands well beyond just the person being treated. The family, the friends, the caregivers, the medical professionals. All these people carry the burden with the patient and all “cope well with difficulties”. We move forward helping with prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment programs. We raise funds for research to come up with a cure. It is how we “cope well with difficulties” and survive.
My fellow survivors, we have but one goal. And that is to simply create more survivors.