In honor of melanoma awareness month, I couldn’t decide if I should pay tribute, provide encouragement, or offer warning. So I think I’ll do all three. And I’ll start with this:
To my loves who live on in our hearts, thank you Thank you for the privilege of witnessing your fights. Thank you for showing us all what it means to be strong. Thank you for the laughter, the smiles, the expressions of love that eased all of our pain. You have shown us all how beautiful raw humanity can be, and that when you peel away the layers of life’s unimportance, you are just left with love.
To my warrior brothers and sisters in the midst of battle, keep going. One step at a time. One surgery at a time, one treatment at a time, one nightmare-filled restless night at a time, one desperate agonizing wait for scan results at a time. You can do it. In the midst of the pain and the fear, stay focused on the hope. Keep your eyes open to the love you are being shown, the clear sense of life’s priorities with which you’ve now been gifted, and the fact that you are now, and will forever remain, the strongest people I know. The nightmare will end and you will be free again, I promise. And when you are, you will revel in the beautiful lesson you’ve learned, you will be constantly amazed by everyday life, and you will know, with certainty, what true happiness means.
To my survivor soulmates, celebrate. Celebrate and advocate. Keep those amazing lessons close to your hearts, and never forget that now is the time to thrive. Thank you for your continued friendships and support. Thank you for picking me back up on those days where my own lessons are just out of reach. And please, spread your wisdom and your love to others who are not as far along in their own journeys. They need you just as much as I do. The world is a better place because every single one of you is still in it.
To the doctors who are saving our lives, gratitude does not even begin to cover it. It is only because of your commitment and dedication to finding improved treatment options that we are still here. It is you to whom we pray. They are your faces we see in our minds as we beg desperately to remain. It is your every word, every touch, every encouragement to which we cling. And it is you who are delivering us from evil. Keep going, never be satisfied; we are making great progress but there’s more work to be done. We need you. Our children need you. And we are thankful for you with overwhelming awe every single morning we open our eyes.
To my amazing friends and loved ones who fit none of the categories above, you’re the best. It is you who give me a constant reminder of what it means to be alive. It’s your laughter and light and fun and love and everyday conversations that kept me from traversing that fine line between hope and despair. It is you who brought me back from the breach to live again. Thank you for your strength, your shoulders, your guidance, your love, and your unwavering hope. It is you who are my greatest delights. And to my sweet Jeff and perfect baby Kai (who is now 5!), you are the reason for everything.
To everyone reading this, check yourselves and protect yourselves. Check for irregular moles and lesions – even let a dermatologist do it for you, at least twice per year. Always wear sunscreen, and especially protect those little ones. Just one blistering childhood burn doubles your chance of developing melanoma. Stay in the shade, and protect your skin. Stop tanning! It isn’t beautiful, it’s deadly. Learn more here: www.melanoma.org and here: www.curemelanoma.org and here: www.melanomainternational.org. Find information about clinical trials here: www.bethesdatrials.cancer.gov and here: www.clinicaltrials.gov. And if you or anyone you know needs help, reach out. I’m here for you as are hundreds of others, and we would be honored to know you.
It’s been 5 years since I was told I had 6 months to live, and it’s been 3 years since that first amazing scan showing no evidence of disease. But it is only recently that I have truly been brought back to life. It is only recently that I’ve remembered what it feels like to be really alive. The years of living with a self-preserving disconnect between body and mind are starting to dissipate, and I am becoming whole once again. And all the parts of me that went to sleep during the past 5 years are starting to wake up. All the time I spent hoping against hope just to survive, has been answered 1,000 times now that I also remember what it means to be alive. And for that I am thankful. Melanoma, nobody wants to meet you, but for those of us who do: for every single life lesson you've taught me, and for every beautiful being I am blessed to know more fully because of you, I am thankful.