A few months back, I became a contributor and moderator of an online skin cancer community. I consider myself a resident expert in stage IV melanoma, but turns out I had a lot to learn about other types of skin cancers. We had a call last month with all the website contributors and they started talking about their campaign plans for Skin Cancer Awareness Month (May). It also happens to be Melanoma Awareness Month at the same time. They mentioned their artwork for the campaign is just ‘skin cancer awareness’ since it all falls under the same umbrella. Well, that statement sort of seemed to trigger something for me. Does it actually fall under the same umbrella? For me, no. In moderating and contributing to a community of skin cancer survivors for about four months, I still have this general feeling that I don’t belong. I was so, so excited to find a community of people like me and to share my cancer experience. I’m trying to bring awareness to metastatic melanoma and I feel like lumping it under the ‘skin cancer’ umbrella term is doing it a disservice. I'm sure many metastatic cancer patients understand my perspective. A metastatic breast cancer patient will likely tell you it's not the same as breast cancer. I feel very strongly that labeling metastatic melanoma 'skin cancer' is misleading and frankly, inaccurate.
But then I sort of feel guilty for writing that. It feels like I'm comparing my cancer to others or labeling against some arbitrary scale and/or rule book. Everyone has their own cancer experience and no two are comparable. But in the spirit of Melanoma Awareness Month (and Skin Cancer Awareness Month) I do feel it's appropriate to separate them out and shed some light on metastatic melanoma, specifically.
In traditional metastatic melanoma survivor fashion, I kicked off May in and out of imaging machines because somehow, it was already that time again. Wednesday I had my dreaded two hour cardiac MRI followed by a PET scan and brain MRI on Thursday morning. To be honest, this set of scans sort of snuck up on me which was kind of wonderful. I wasn't super nervous until the day of. That's when the uneasiness kicked in and I couldn't stop pacing around the house.
I had been a little fearful my scans would get postponed because of COVID-19. There is so much chaos in the world, and I was afraid my surveillance scans would be less of a priority. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn't allowed to have a visitor with me for any of my scans. To be honest, Mayo was kind of eerie. Waiting rooms were empty and not surprising, but everyone was in masks. Not having my dad in the waiting room when I came out was also a little different. But don't worry, he's a champ and was waiting in the car in the parking lot for me!
Well, today, I had a video appointment with Dr. B. and heard the great news - I'm all clear! Still! Over 6 months ago I ended my last treatment and have had no evidence of metastatic cancer for 6 months, now! He remains very confident that my scans will continue to be clear. We'll stay the course though -- more scans in 3 months to ensure the cancer is still gone.
Take a second and celebrate with me -- wahoo!!
So, I'm kicking off Melanoma Awareness Month with a big smile on my face. And an ask from all of you -- join me a virtual Miles for Melanoma to support the Melanoma Research Foundation. Help us raise funds to find a cure for every metastatic melanoma patient.
Please join my "Have a Sense of Tumor" team -- walk with us, donate, or just tell your family/friends about it. It all matters!