In Round 3 of my battles with Melanoma, I have decided to no longer sit on my hands. Its just too much. I need to let it out of my "skin". Be an active participant in this cancer thing, instead of just hoping it will stand at the doorway and leave me alone. And so I will write.
The Blame Game. From the beginning, we have been blaming
others. When Adam got caught eating
fruit from that tree, his response to God was, “The woman you gave me, she gave
me fruit from the tree and so I ate” How
quickly he turned to blaming Eve. Even blaming
God himself, for giving him the woman! We
always seem to point a finger. To blame someone or something outside of
So who can I blame?
Who’s to blame for my getting melanoma? The Sun? The Ozone layer? Genetics and My Pale Skin? The
processed foods? Maybe a malevolent spirit
creature out to get me? I know, it was the Doctors! So many people and things
The sun is an easy target for blame. The Sun and Melanoma go
hand in hand, and rightfully so. When I think of the sun and my youth, there is
one picture in particular, that comes to mind.
It’s one where you see my sunkissed cheeks, ruddy from a full summer of
romping outside in the wide open skies of Alberta. As a kid, I wasn’t one to
burn. Both my hair and skin simply turned a beautiful shade of golden brown. Looking through the photo albums, every winter you would see pale Pam, and every summer, a shade of mocha Pam. But as
I got older, and learned of melanoma at age 12, I stopped going in the sun
quite so freely. I didn’t avoid it completely, but I didn’t seek it, or tan
in particular. Thankfully I was never one to be very vain. But now, after my
years of using the “no sunning” policy, I turn pink before I brown.I guess my “immunity “ to the sun’s rays is
gone. Or maybe its just all those CFC’s we put into the air! Was it the sun’s
fault, those years as a kid doing what kids do? Before mom’s had even heard the
word “sunscreen”? For many, the sun is to blame.But not for me.My melanoma’s have
shown up in places that didn’t see much sun. And one of those spots, has never felt the suns warmth! So I
can’t blame the sun. I respect the sun.
I am grateful that I wasn’t a sun worshiper. But, it isn’t to blame. Genetics
must be the culprit.
"Winter Pale Pam" Versus
the first day of school in "Summer Brown"
Genetics fascinated me from the very first time I learned
about them in Grade 10 Science class. That
was the year I fell in love with biology.
The way two people’s “gifts”, pieces of themselves, combine to become
the crapshoot of who you are. The shape of your nose, the color of your eyes
and whether your second toe is longer than the rest. I especially enjoyed the play of statistics
and the exceptions that invariably occurred.
The fact that so many red haired and blue eyed people exist is intriguing,
when the genetic odds are against them.
My Mom’s family was an example of this statistical anomaly. Her mom had
auburn hair, her Dad had dark. You
would think out of 6 kids, the chances of a red head would come out as the underdog,
but only one of those kids came out dark! Now we all know that red haired people have a
genetic predisposition to getting melanoma more easily. But genetics are
sneaky. Cuz it was the dark haired Dad,
and his dark haired son, that got melanoma first! Followed by only 2 out of the 5 red headed
siblings. One of which is my Mom. And my
hair is brown, even darker than my Dad’s. So that’s 3 for brown and 2 for
red. The red hair be darned, there are
no sure things in the world of melanoma. You can’t blame it on the hair.
Ok, So if its not the hair, it must be my pale skin. My Mom has pale skin and freckles. The kind
of freckles that are sprinkled lightly all over, giving the impression that she has a darker
skin tone than she actually does. My
skin is different from hers though. I don’t have any freckles at all! Instead I
am blessed with many moles. My Mom was
spared this blessing. Me, well, I have many strange and various colored mis-shaped
brown spots. The kind of which, on anyone else, would have the derm reaching
for his scalpel. But for me, they are “normal”.
So where did I get my mole issue? Maybe
from my Dad?? My Dad was pale too! Although I never saw him burn. He was one of those men that had a permanent ”farmers
tan” from working on cars, pumping gas and building things in the yard. One summer he put on shorts. The whiteness of
his legs was truly brilliant, the sun
reflecting off the pristine whiteness of skin that hadn’t seen the light of day
in over 10 years. But I don’t recall
seeing even one mole or blemish on his skin, other than the ruggedness of his
face and hands from years of hard work.
So it isn’t just the skin color, its deeper, it’s in the cells, the
basic structure of how well they grow, divide and rejuvenate. There is where the flaw is. It isn’t in a
gene you can see. It’s in a hidden gene.
One that I know my dear mom, wishes she hadn’t unknowingly shared. One
that I hope I didn’t share with my own boys.
But I need to do more than just “hope”. I am trying to hedge
their bets. I have heard that twins, who share exactly the same genetic makeup,
will not necessarily get the same cancer, even if they are genetically
predisposed to it. That is where the environmental factor comes into play. Less
sun, more sunscreen, less stress, more Vit D. Then there’s food. I have always felt we ate fairly healthy. Choosing whole grains, and 100% juices. But after your
world is shaken by something that threatens your very existence, you start to
look at things a little differently. Instead of a treat, a donut becomes a
sugar laced poisonous ring of cake. The
plastic popcorn maker, is now a machine that is leaching chemicals into each kernel.
You start reading labels, inspecting your shampoo for carcinogens. And the more
labels you read the more you see how terrible the choices really are. Stuck
between a rock and hard place. Suddenly the organic market doesn’t seem so
expensive. If you are what you eat, then I guess I too am broken down and
devoid of nutrition. In this fast paced world, where easy meals are almost a must, it makes it very hard to eat the whole foods the nutritionists say we should be
eating. It feels like the world is against me, trying to poison me slowly with
its faulty foods and chemical laden plastics. Maybe the whole cosmic system is
So what about the cosmic plan? The power beyond? Have you
ever felt like someone was just out to get you?
Someone you don’t know? Some call it Murphy’s Law, fate, or luck, or
even cursed. That your number is just “up”. But sometimes it just feels
personal. And it has felt personal
lately, so relentless. Maybe that is where part of the blame lies? I have a name for “It”. “It”s name is Satan. Now
regardless of whether you believe Satan is real or not, for all people, that
name symbolizes the incomprehensible bad that we see on this earth, the pain,
the injustice, the ugliness. The Pandora’s Box of pestilence in the world. And in the past 3 and half years, I have felt
like I am in Satan’s crosshairs. That I must be doing something to draw his attention
my way. Beating me down at every turn. But
I won’t let him win. This world will not break me or my spirit. My health and
my own problems, won’t ever stop me from helping others. Only death will stop
me. Having an enemy to battle, an enemy with a name, gives me somewhere to
focus the bad that has come my way. And it doesn’t matter whether he is truly to
blame or not, because it gives me a place to put the anger, and the negative
feelings. A place to put some blame. I can put them there in my “Satan box”. Then, Unburdened,
I have the emotional freedom to go on living
my life, without anger or resentment, to be the healer, the helper, and now the
advocate. No matter what! I will not give in to my enemy. A vastly lesser god.
And what about those other “god”s? You know the ones, the ones
with white coats and stethoscopes. Yes,
Doctor’s! They should certainly take
some blame. There’s an easy scapegoat.
The ones with all the supposed knowledge. With education sprouting out
of their heads like giant headdresses. How did my Doctor not see it in all his
great wisdom and experience? I remember during
the waiting period, waiting to see if it had spread to my lymphs, I said to
some of my friends, “If it is in my lymph glands, I’m going to be angry. Because
if it was up to me, instead of the Doctor, I would have had that mole removed a
long time ago!“ Now there are a few
flaws in this statement. First of all, this is before I had done such exhaustive
research on melanoma. When I thought that a clear lymph test was a sure ticket
to being “OK”. Before I realized that lymph or no lymph, it could still rear
its ugly head at any time and take hold, growing from a tumor the size of golf ball to a baseball within
weeks. So either way I am angry it got
to stage 2! Second of all, Why on earth did I allow another human being, even a
Doctor, control what I did with my own body?! Yes he should have been more
cautious, and aware. Yes I could have been given more information. I shouldn’t have to get information from the
internet instead of my Doctors. But I
learned the hard way, that when it comes to health, there is no room for
politeness, for being shy or giving way to fear, worrying that you will hurt his
feelings if you question his opinion. This is Your Life! I should have just done it when I was worried, 6 months earlier. That is why I write my story. So some of you
won’t make the same mistakes I made. I want you to be educated, I want you to
know what to look for, and to have the courage and knowledge to advocate for
your own body. I want you to have that “thingy” removed, no matter who’s pride
it may harm! Know your body, own your body, take charge of your own health, so
you have nothing and no one to blame.