Tuesday, August 20, 2013

More than Melanoma

Again, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I knew the summer would be busy for me, because well, it’s the busiest time of the year for an online teacher, but I thought I would be able to post once in a while.  Melanoma is still VERY important to me, but as someone who has only been a warrior for a year, I had to realize that life is more than melanoma.

In June, I had CT scans of my head, neck, chest, etc.  and I waited for the results. I spent 2 hours in the waiting room at the office of my former surgeon. In that time, I looked around and starting feeling sorry for myself. Here I was, this youngish woman with two young kids, sitting there in a waiting room with people who are all over 70, discussing their experiences and treatments with cancer. Why me? Why now? The longer I waited, the more nervous I became about my results. Would I make it a year cancer free?  They finally called me back to the office after the receptionists had all left for the day. I sat once again in the big patient chair waiting for my results. Frustrated and sick to my stomach from fear, I checked my Facebook for the 100th time that afternoon and saw that a former student of mine, a young, kind hearted, intelligent, father of two very young children and former serviceman had taken his life the day before. I later found out he was suffering from PTSD.   I took a deep breath. Then my doctor walked in. My scans looked great. I exhaled in relief, sent a few celebratory texts, and then walked out thinking about my former student. I wanted to blog about my scan results, the fear that appeared out of nowhere in the waiting room, how proud I was that I had finally ran outside while the sun was out, like I used to, but I had other things on my mind. After all, life is more than melanoma.

In July, I planned to finally take a 12 day vacation from my job. I didn’t have any travel plans, I just wanted to be able to focus on my kids, post in my blog, and celebrate the anniversary of being one year cancer free. On my second day off, my sister-in-law passed away due to emphysema. Her funeral was held on July 13, exactly one year from the day they removed all evidence of melanoma from my body. I wanted to celebrate a year free of the beast. I wanted to write about the changes I’ve been through, about the things I’ve learned in the last year, about the friends I’ve made. I wanted to write, but instead I was putting together her obituary for the newspaper and the program for her funeral.   After all, life is more than melanoma.

At the beginning of August, I made a trip to Indianapolis to pick up my daughter from her internship. The change in scenery and weather raised my spirits after a rough few months of work. I could feel myself coming into the home stretch. Summer would be over. Work would settle back to normal. Soon there would be Pumpkin Lattes, Pumpkin Loaf, and Pumpkin Patches. I returned from my three-day trip, ready to give it my all for the rest of the month so I could “live” again and start a new and improved work schedule. On my first day back, I got the news that after 5 years of service they were letting me go due to budget cuts.  That same week, beautiful little Addison passed away. There I was, a teacher who needed a job a week before the school year started. Again, I wanted to talk to you about my struggles being out in the sun, my first visit to the beach since my diagnosis, how horrible I felt about the passing of such a strong, beautiful angel like Addison, but still,  life is more than melanoma.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Exactly a year ago at this time, I was truly appreciating the opportunity to grow a year older for the first time since turning 21.  I swore I would start living. I would start doing all the things I had been talking about doing for years. But I didn’t. Instead, I spent my days like I have spent most of my days for the last 5 years. I made sure my kids were fed. I made sure they were safe. I worked.  I wore sunscreen. Those were my priorities and about all I could write down at the end of most days.

I plan to still be a warrior, an educator, a fighter and cheerleader in this lifelong battle of ours. But I do need to remember that life is more than melanoma, a LOT more than melanoma. I haven’t stopped for many of the good things.  Oh, I will stop and reach out to the girlfriend and mother of my former student to offer my love and support after he was gone. But how often did I write him to ask him how he was doing?  I will stop to write an obituary and put together a beautiful program for my sister-in-law. But how many times did I bother to return her calls when she was alive? I will work and work to make sure I contribute to my family, but how often did I make time to play with my kids this year, or read them a book?

Life is more than melanoma. Life is more than (insert your word here). It’s so much more. Good and bad. I plan on venturing to the other side of life, the good side.  I plan to celebrate each day, even if for only a moment, being NED.  I plan to call my family and friends who I haven’t spoken to, and talk to them more. I plan to let people know, every chance I get, how much I love them. How much I enjoy having them in my life. Even if it just means a quick note on Facebook or a text to say, “Hi. I was just thinking about you.” I want to live, and I want to do so with as little regrets as possible. I want to stop for the good things, not just the bad.

I am a year, a month, and 7 days without evidence of melanoma in my body. Tomorrow, I start another year of this gift God has given me-my life.  Life is more than melanoma. Life is good.