It’s been a little while since I last posted, so thought I would say hi!
It is wild how much can change in a year – here are some updates for you.
From a melanoma perspective, all is stable. My MRI head, abdomen, pelvis, and chest xray have come back clear. My scar continues to fill in and is now totally a neutral color. I still have to wear 30-40mmHg thigh-high compression on my R leg, but that is truly my only daily reminder. I think about melanoma less and less as I have been NED for nearly 2.5 years now, and feel incredibly blessed.
From a life perspective – none of my new acquaintances know about my past. I have decided that I don’t want melanoma to be my story. For me this is what feels right. I don’t want people to judge me or take pity on me based on my past illness, I want to be known for the person who I am. I have no hesitation discussing it if people want to talk about it, but it is not what defines me.
There is no denying it has changed my world. On one hand I feel so relaxed and calm, projects and work will get done or sort themselves out, there are few true catastrophes in the world. On the other hand the brevity and urgency of living in the moment captures me sometimes, I am in a rush to live each day like it is my last, because I am so scared of a reoccurrence. A swollen lymph node or cough spirals me into a mini-crisis on occasion.
Professionally I am back to working full time and pursuing extra schooling. I have put limits on my working hours which was a massive step for me. Initially it was post-interferon fatigue, but I have decided to keep it that way for my own future well being. I have reflected that I like the opportunity to step back and keep the “big picture” of my work in mind and am using increased teaching time as a chance to maintain perspective.
Physically I am back to running and my times are improving – I am running a half marathon in the spring. I recently started rock climbing and enjoy it because of how strong it makes me feel. Every time I am out doing an activity I am constantly reminded of how lucky I am to have recovered and feel nothing but gratitude for what my body can do. The improvement in times and strength are surreal still. It is a pretty overwhelming experience some days combined with the endorphins.
I have been fortunate to spend the year travelling, catching up with good friends, hiking, dog walking and appreciating how full my life is. I try to include cooking and listening to good music as much as I can – these were the small things that I really enjoyed during my year on interferon. If I can incorporate these with a bit of yoga I feel like life is balanced.
Personally, I am in the middle of a divorce. I was unsure if I wanted to share this detail on my blog, because I work so hard to curate my life on other social media. But I feel sometimes it is important to be real and vulnerable. Interestingly, the statistics speak for my story. “A 2009 study published in the journal Cancer found that a married woman diagnosed with a serious disease is six times more likely to be divorced or separated than a man with a similar diagnosis. Among study participants, the divorce rate was 21 percent for seriously ill women and 3 percent for seriously ill men. A control group divorced at a rate of 12 percent, suggesting that if disease makes husbands more likely to split, it makes wives more likely to stay.” – When spouse gets sick — who leaves?, Meredith Bryan, cnn.com, July 2011
I feel it was a difference in perspective, what is important in life. I also feel that feminism, and not being afraid to stand up for who I am and what I believe in caused this radical shift. I am sad for the family and future that I have lost, but at peace with my decision and hopeful for the future. I was terrified to date after my separation – my scars and year on interferon are not an experience shared by my peers. But I can provide 100% reassurance, it is not as terrifying as I thought! Most people don’t even notice, and I get to choose when to disclose and when not to.
Officially the longest post yet, but wanted to share a genuine glimpse into stage 3 melanoma life.