The day before I walked the stage to graduate university, I was diagnosed with cancer.
I was supposed to be meeting my professors and colleagues for lunch; instead I was sitting in the doctor's office being told I had stage one, malignant melanoma. I remember thinking, "this is all wrong. This isn't supposed to happen to a 23 year old."
I was supposed to graduate with a job, not a diagnosis.
I first noticed something might be wrong when last summer a freckle I had on my leg turned into a mole, which began to grow. I kept a close eye on it, hoping it would just go away. Around Christmas it developed a pink ring around it. I went to my doctor and she sent me straight to a dermatologist to get a second opinion.
They did a biopsy and cored me like an apple. I thought I was really tough watching them do it until my vision blurred, I had to lay down, and my nurse pretended not to notice. Thank you for that, Amy. You are the real MVP.
I waited two weeks. After two weeks, no news is supposed to be good news. On day 17 I was called into the office, and let me tell you: if a doctor pulls their chair up close to yours, takes a deep breath, and begins their sentence with "so," the news will not be good.
I think they expected me to break down right there, because a nurse was in the room holding a tissue box and looking at me with sad eyes. The truth was I had already accepted this. I had already sobbed in my husbands arms. I had already begun to re-plan the next year. I had already decided that I was going to pretend to brave until I was.
Thankfully I married the most amazing man. Jon works night shifts, but he still came to every single appointment with me, no matter what time of the day it was. He held my hand in the waiting room, showed me pictures of puppies to distract me from worrying, cradled me in his arms during panic attacks and talked me through moments of "I can't deal with this anymore."
When he promised "through sickness and through health" less than a year ago, he meant it.
I also have two wonderful parents. My dad was armed with scripture, prayer and Salt & Vinegar chips the moment I called to say I was being sent to a dermatologist. My mom came to appointments, banged down doors when people were leaving me in the dark and brought Kaci whenever I needed puppy therapy. There was no shortage of hugs and love in my life.
I decided I wanted to tell as few people as possible about this at first. It was all I could handle, and we wouldn't have answers for people's questions and they wouldn't have answers for ours. Now that we have more information, we decided it was time to share what has been going on.
Where does that leave me? I had surprise surgery at my last appointment where they removed the tumor. It was a great way to spend a beautiful summer day. It is being tested to make sure the borders are clear and that they don't have to remove anymore.
Now I have a hole in my leg, which is only painful when I have to be on my feet for a long time at work. Jon helps change my Band-Aids (which are Lion King ones, because I am an adult), because there is something surreal and gag-reflex-inducing about looking down and seeing a hole in your leg.
This summer I will have a lot of follow-up appointments, and for the next five years I will have to go in regularly to get tested and checked for a comeback. This process may not be over, but the tumor is gone.
So that’s today’s blog post. Not exactly on feminism, but I do like to think I’ve fought this like the empowered woman I am. I know great things are on the horizon, and I will not let this throw me off. Cancer is stubborn, but so am I.