Real patient experiences shared privately at www.TreatmentDiaries.com. Read more, share if you like or join in the conversation. Making sure you feel less alone navigating a diagnosis is important. Connecting you to those who can relate and provide support is what we do.
I’m new to Treatment Diaries and since this is my diary, I want to share some thoughts that are now near and dear to my personal experience with this dreadful condition. Let me start with what I’ve heard more times than I can count over the past decade and most often when sharing my Melanoma diagnosis with those who are uninformed. It goes something like this – “What kind of cancer did you have?” My response, “I was diagnosed with stage III Melanoma.” The exchange – “Oh I think I’ve heard of that, it’s just skin cancer…right?” In fact, I’ve had people tell me I was lucky to just have skin cancer. Quite possibly the one thing you should consider never saying to someone with Melanoma. Not only is it completely untrue it will do nothing to make the individual with the diagnosis feel any better about their situation. The truth is, Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer. It’s not just skin cancer.
So now that we are clear on it’s not just skin cancer, a few things I wish I would have known:
- Research suggests that approximately 90% of melanoma cases can be linked to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from natural or artificial sources, such as sunlight and indoor tanning beds.
- However, since melanoma can occur in all melanocytes throughout the body, even those that are never exposed to the sun, UV light cannot be solely responsible for a diagnosis, especially mucosal and ocular melanoma cases.
- Current research points to a combination of family history, genetics and environmental factors that are also to blame.
- You can read this Melanoma Fact Sheet for more information!
- Support for melanoma patients is incredibly important and connecting with those who relate brings much needed encouragement along with valuable insight.
Unlike other cancers, melanoma can often be seen on the skin, making it easier to detect in its early stages. Keeping track of the changes to your skin and seeing a dermatologist on an annual basis can be a lifesaving event. If left undetected, however, melanoma can spread to distant sites or distant organs. Once melanoma has spread to other parts of the body (known as stage IV), it is referred to as metastatic, and is very difficult to treat. In its later stages, melanoma most commonly spreads to the liver, lungs, bones and brain; at this point, the prognosis is very poor. Again…it’s not just skin cancer.
Skin cancer comes in many forms and for numerous reasons. Your job is to protect your skin. Our skin is the biggest most vital organ we have to care for. We can’t live without it nor can it be replaced. It’s ours for as long as we live so we need to take the vitality of it seriously. Stay out of the sun, look for changes and recurring issues to your skin even in areas that never see the sun, see a dermatologist on a regular basis and make sure to wear sunscreen all year around. It’s not just skin cancer especially when it can kill you. It’s a serious topic and I feel so very fortunate to be able to share my personal experience. I hope to be a help to others newly diagnosed and an inspiration to those on the journey. Let’s kick melanoma to the curb together…