February 14, 2015. Valentine's Day. Romance. Chocolate. Roses. Cancer? One of these doesn't belong and yet that was what my V-Day was like exactly one year ago.
Twelve months ago to this day, I was in Los Angeles on vacation. It was a Saturday morning and I was just drying off after a shower when I caught a peek at my back in the mirror. The photo above is what I noticed in that mirror and it's changed the way I'm now living my life.
If you've read this blog before today, you know I have Parkinson's Disease. I had been doing some research about the connection between PD and Melanoma so I was more than a little familiar with this type of mole. When I saw it in the mirror, I was about 90% sure that it was Melanoma. Hey, I may not be a doctor but I do play one on this blog.
You would think I'd be freaking out, wouldn't you? I really didn't. I still had two weeks left on my trip and I really didn't think about it until I came back to Chicago. Even then, I didn't rush off to my doctor. I had another issue I needed to see him about and while I was there it was like..."oh btw, what do you think about this?"
I'm pretty sure the reason I didn't immediately go nuts was because I didn't realize how dangerous Melanoma is. I thought it could be handled like a little skin cancer on your nose. You see the dermatologist, he does a quick chop and you go on your way. Man, did I learn different.
It wasn't so much my case of Melanoma that scared me. Mine was Stage 1 and after a minor two hour surgery, it was all gone. No chemo, no radiation..Cancer-free. I hooked up with a couple of my fellow ChicagoNow bloggers who had their own Melanoma stories. Donna Moncivaiz had Stage 4 Melanoma. Amy DeSario had a case of Melanoma about like mine. It was interesting and scary to compare the two cases. If you catch it early and get it taken care of, you end up like me and Amy. If not, it becomes like Donna's...and sadly like Amy's mother. She died of Melanoma. FUCKING CANCER!!
How has this changed my life in the last year? There are places I like to go that I don't anymore. I have a spot at Lake Michigan where I like to sit and read while catching some sun. I quit going there. When I go to Wrigley Field to see the future World Champion Chicago Cubs, I now sit under the upper deck, in the shade. The one time last year my seats were in the sun, I carried a bottle of sunscreen with me. Try explaining that to security when they check you walking into the park.
Hats, long sleeves, monthly body checks, dermatologists visits...I did all of that. It was more of an inconvenience than anything else.
Honestly, I didn't even feel like a survivor. I was comparing my Cancer to others and it made me feel like an impostor. I thought you had to go through all the shit stuff to be considered a survivor. That changed on October 23, 2015.
Donna Moncivaiz died. Melanoma!
fuck, Fuck, FUCK, FUCK CANCER!!!!
There's nothing that messes with your head as much as seeing someone die from a disease that you have. It scares the Hell out of you. It also was heartbreaking. I can't remember a time when I've been as sad about someone's death as I have been about this. I think about her every single day. I talk about her and how she helped me all the time. Just writing these last few sentences brings me close to tears.
So on this Cancerversary, what am I thinking?
I'm thinking that it's ironic that I was suppose to be spending this date in LA, again. Keyword is suppose because I cancelled the trip when I saw a couple of strange looking moles. They turned out to be nothing but it was better to make sure of that than to go on vacation. Better safe than sorry.
I'm very sure my friend Donna would have agreed. I'm very sure my friend Donna would have been proud of me for making that decision. I'll be spending a large part of the day thinking about her.... and thanking her.
Usually I use this space to plug a past column and show how you can subscribe to my blog...not today. This coming Tuesday is Donna Day at ChicagoNow. It's where we remember and honor the daughter of one of our fellow bloggers, while trying to raise some much needed money for childhood cancers. Come back on Tuesday to join us for Donna Day 2016. Until then here's a look at Donna Day 2015