Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Chapter 6 - Who's to Blame for this!?

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 ourselves. 

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 to blame!

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 to blame!

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. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Melanoma - BEYOND the ABCD's

On Melanoma Monday, Me and my Mom did a presentation on Sun Safety to Outdoor Park Workers in Langford. I have posted two pictures from my presentation on my Melanoma Facts Page.

Here they are!