Three years ago, my family began bracing for the battle of our lives. My dad had just been diagnosed with melanoma.
We knew very little about melanoma, so we began to read everything we could in order to know what we were facing. The numbers scared us. The survival rates paralyzed us. All of this was new and frightening. Then, we took a collective deep breath.
As we learned about this ugly disease, we could not stop thinking about two important, life-saving areas of education: melanoma risk factors and the importance of early detection. We realized that if more people knew what makes them more likely to develop melanoma, lives could be saved. We also realized that if more people recognized melanoma symptoms early, more lives could be saved.
Finding a voice after my dad's melanoma diagnosis
My family was in a unique position. Due to my dad's melanoma diagnosis, we were learning about a disease that previously we had known little about. We were talking with friends, family members and acquaintances who were asking how they could help. These conversations gave us an opportunity to raise awareness and educate others about melanoma. This was a beautiful gem hidden in the midst of our difficulties.
As a family, we got to share why it's important to be on the lookout for new moles and changes in existing moles. We were blessed with the chance to discuss the importance of shade and proper sunscreen use. We got to inform everyone around us about the dangers of tanning beds. We made information cards that I hand out to anyone willing to listen. We begged everyone to understand that skin cancer can be more than skin deep.
How raising awareness brought us peace
This process was cleansing. It gave us a sense of peace that we couldn't find anywhere else. When a family member is diagnosed with cancer, you struggle for control. You want to be able to do something. You look for an action you can take. This was our action. This allowed us to do something. We hope this something saves lives.
I don't know why our family ended up where we are today. Instead, I prefer to deal with the things that I do know: Our unique position gave us a voice, and we have found joy in seeing those around us learn how to better care for their skin.
I don't know what you and your family are facing. I do know it can be scary. My question to you is this: can you find joy and responsibility in education and awareness? For my family, that joy and responsibility has brought us power and comfort on the days we've needed it most.