Monday, April 1, 2013

When Life Hands You Scars

That was me, a year ago from last night. I was in New York City- my favorite place in the entire world. That was before my diagnosis and the after effects of realizing that death may be closer than I expected. Wow, I am always amazed at how big my nostrils are. 

I entered a raffle for Oprah’s Life Class and received two tickets to see Oprah and Tony Robbins live at Radio City Music Hall. Yes, the place where I should have spent my early 20’s dancing if I hadn’t been short-changed in the height category ,thus keeping me from forever becoming a Rockette. ( I am still wondering if I have a valid discrimination case. Anyone know a good lawyer? )  My husband and I both like Tony Robbins and, of course, who DOESN’T like Oprah?  I had to be very careful to keep Mr. LSM away from Ms. Winfrey, though. She is the one woman he would leave me for in a heartbeat, even more than Janet Jackson. His words.  He values money over looks. Guess he wasn’t very focused when he chose me. ;)

It was a very short, but very wonderful trip. I was given two free flights from a former student of mine and good family friend, who now works for Southwest. Also, one of my childhood best friends has a condo in the city. She happened to be out of town, so we got to stay there. This trip was the second thing I had done since having my son in 2008, that was totally and selfishly all about me.  The first was me taking my big pregnant self to a Maxwell concert. Otherwise, everything else I had done in the last 4 years was always about someone else or for someone or something else.

When I had my son I went from working long hours at a high school, constant interaction with students, parents, teachers to working from home, all alone with only a baby to talk to and a tired husband who came home to a very needy wife. I am sure there were days when he wished he could physically remove his ears. Becoming a mom was a huge change for me, especially when I had spent the last 10 years taking care of myself.  I am sure all moms can identify. Of course,  it is totally worth the sacrifice, but I found myself missing some of the spunkiness of the me “BK”- Before Kids. The real me. The me who loves adventure and new places and things. The me who would travel to NYC at least once a year just to sit in Central Park for hours watching the leaves fall or the snow fall. The me, who spent every waking moment dreaming of all the exciting things I still have left to do and accomplish in this life.   I found her that night, on the cab ride from the airport to my friend’s apartment and then walking around Fairway Market where I took that picture of me wearing the most amazing smile.

When I returned home 3 days later, I was grateful to see my little ones and immediately went right back to me in the role of mom and wife and everything was back to the “new normal.” Only that normal was soon to disappear as well. Two months later I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, and for about a month, I was a numb shell of my former self, so very far away from who I really am.

 I had my surgery and spent the next month being the most grateful person on this earth. I was so thankful and relieved and ready to change the world and change myself. I was going to give back and stop wasting time and do big, no HUGE things.  But there wasn’t enough time for that. I still had to take care of my kids (which I adore). There was no recent lottery win, so I still had to work a full time job.  So now, I wasn’t just a busy mom who had little time to take care of herself, I was a busy, amazingly lucky/blessed mom who was given a second shot of life but would be doing very little to pay back that amazing gift and live life to its fullest.

That’s when crazy set in. I began to question every choice I have ever made. I was certain that this was just a short lived chance at life and pretty much, I was near the end.  I wanted to be selfish. I wanted to be happy.  I wanted to live life and do what I wanted to do because after all, life is short. That’s what everyone always says, but you don’t believe it until someone tells you that you have an incurable disease. Suddenly life really is short, short as hell.  Everything and everyone in my life had gone back to normal, like nothing had ever happened, like nothing had changed. There I was living right beside them, in the same home, in the same town, but I was anything but normal. I would forever be changed and no one could see it. The scar on my neck was healing nicely and quickly, but everything inside of me was still raw and fresh and wounded.

Fortunately, the love I have for my husband and my children, kept crazy from lasting too long, but now I am just living in a funk. I am scared to do things I used to do. I can’t run outside. I can’t walk out among the trees to feel closer to God, because the sun is out there, just beyond the trees.  Every day that I get caught up in the craziness of life, I feel guilty for not taking care of myself- for not eating as good as I should, for not exercising, because Lord knows, if anyone should be exercising it’s someone who has the chance of cancer recurrence. I feel bad for not writing in my blog as much, because most days I am either too busy or too down. I feel like a failure for not reaching my goals- goals of getting in shape, starting my own business, spreading awareness to young people by doing presentations at local schools, spending quality time with my husband and kids, taking care of my mom. So many goals, and each day I can just muster the time and strength the get most of my work done, feed my family and my dog, like a few statuses and pictures on Facebook, envy others for feeling like they are still just a tad bit immortal, and think about what may happen if I don’t take care of myself.

It's been a very long time since I have felt normal. Not "normal" by society's standards, I have never EVER been, but normal for me. 

I know this funk won’t last forever. At least, I really hope it won’t. I definitely don't want this to turn into my "normal."  Melanoma warriors often talk about our scars. When we do, it's usually the ones we get from our surgeries and our biopsies. It’s really amazing how quickly those physical scars heal and begin to blend into the new you. But no one really talks about the other scars, the ones that tear us up inside and still feel fresh months and, I imagine, years after. We can’t urge one another to rub some vitamin E oil on those. 

Thank you for reading. Until next time, practice safe sun.


  1. Stop beating yourself up. Pretty please? You are such a wonderful, amazing woman. And don't feel bad for not blogging. We all go through funks. If you don't, you're not human. I have also been obscenely busy lately, but if you need anything please send me a note :) xoxo

    1. Thank you, Katie! I will. I promise. I have been pretty down and I think finally putting it into words has helped me a lot. I plan to be back to my spunky self soon. Love ya, my long lost sister!!!

  2. I absolutely love your blog, and your witty, clever, BIG personality shines through every post. I am surprised to hear you're down because you sound so UP...I lived through a melanoma scare and feel changed by the experience. Even though my trial has stopped with testing anxiety, I relate to so much of what you say here. That life is short, it's so important to make it count, kids make that hard (lol), and the psychology of melanoma fear/ awareness of mortality are really big crosses to lug around that can interfere with accomplishing the things in life you wish to accomplish (whether finding the cure for cancer or just taking delight in your kids). Cancer fear has turned me into someone I don't like very much, and I don't even have cancer!

    I will say, even though you aren't giving presentations at schools, you are inspiring people (like me) that stumble on your blog wishing to learn about melanoma. I have a feeling you are doing the same in real life.

    1. Thank you SO much, Penelope. I think that's what I am struggling with the most, that I have been able to stay up and come across that way for a while. But I have learned lately, that in my life I tend to be strong for as long as I possibly can, and at some point, I have to allow myself to be human and then move on. :) These last few months I have been fighting the need to just say to you all, "Yes. I am grateful and happy and strong, but guess what. Some days I just feel like crap!!" Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and let me know what you think. When you are putting yourself out there in this type of arena, you rarely get a feel of what people are thinking. I am so very glad I am helping and inspiring others. That is what I want to do most.

  3. Well, you are welcome for the information. I am glad to share it with you...And, I agree with your friend above. Don't feel bad about withdrawing sometimes. Do it as much as you need to. You are living through something enormously scary and emotionally taxing. It would be super-human to never feel down about it, know what I mean? I find, in my life, sometimes I need to fall down in order to get back up and face the day with a fresh perspective. You will still be inspirational, even if you aren't strong 24/7. I promise :-)

  4. Such a good post and I can totally agree! Over time, people look at the scar and say "it's healing so nice" or some such, and you can agree with know when you accidentally sunburn and it bothers you, or someone else is re diagnosed and you worry for your self, or you see a tanning salon and want to go picket out front! :) there are definitely long term, internal scars! I think, in a sense, it is the new "normal"

  5. First time I have ever read words that describe my thoughts & feelings after my dx so perfectly ... I actually wept as I read your words.. Thanks for sharing -so I might not feel as alone.