Coping with the Uncertainty of a Melanoma Diagnosis
I wrote recently about finding a little spot on my arm, going to my dermatologist, and being diagnosed with Melanoma.
People with Parkinson’s have a higher risk of developing melanoma and should make a regular habit of checking their skin for unusual new growths and seeing a dermatologist at least every six months. In my case, I checked all the boxes but still hit a diagnosis of the bad kind.
There is no quick fix
One expects quick action when a cancer diagnosis is made. I knew my initial expectations were somewhat irrational (Melanoma? Cut it out this afternoon) but I hadn’t anticipated the process taking this long.
It’s been a waiting game. My personal experiences: Three weeks to get the initial biopsy results back. A week and a half to consult with an oncologist surgeon. Two weeks to a scheduled surgery to remove tissue back to safe margins and perform a sentinel lymph node biopsy.
All in all, a lot of thinking-time to have. I am now in that period between consultation and surgery. To be fair, the surgeon expects my growth to be contained to the 1 by 2.5 inch chunk he’s about to remove. Still, it’s easy to go negative.
Coping during the uncertainty
As an elderly person, I can certify that time seemingly usually flies by. My diagnosis and the uncertainty of not knowing how severe my actual case will be has put time passage in slow motion.
The 6 weeks are an eternity. Lots of time for negative or unhealthy thinking. My negative thoughts can be overwhelming.
Concerned that it's getting worse
"I can feel my cancer growing!"
Fact: Scientifically not possible. Cancer cells are fast multiplying but you can’t feel microscopic activity.
How I cope: I Recognize negative thoughts and convert them into neutral or positive thoughts. A little research explained this thought was not true.
"By the time we do something, my cancer will have metastasized!"
Fact: At any given time, the melanoma will either be in a single point or will have metastasized. Research shows the odds of the melanoma spreading in the period of time between discovery and excision are infinitesimal.
How I cope: Accept research and medical knowledge as the real facts.
Looking up information
"This article I found on the internet says ... "
Fact: The internet is full of truths and falsities. If you look long enough, you probably can find support for any position. That does not make it true.
How I cope: I limit my medical research to the National Institute of Health, the Center for Disease Control, and premier melanoma research and care centers such as MD Anderson, the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, and Johns Hopkins.
"This is it! Melanoma is deadly!"
Fact: Survival rates for melanoma have changed drastically over the last 5 to 10 years. Ten years ago, survival rates were as low as 10-20 percent surviving 5 years. The latest survival rates show 80-98 percent 5 year survival rates. New treatments such as immunotherapy show positive outcomes will increase.
Not giving up
I occasionally have a feeling of just letting go. Melanoma, Parkinson’s, Peripheral Neuropathy, CKD. That it would be easy to give up.
I tip the scales back to positivity by thinking about all the good things in my life ... past, present, and future. I remind myself I am a fighter.
There’s an old saying."The Devil is in the details." I am getting through this seemingly endless interval by recognizing negative or irrational thinking, researching melanoma to find facts to refute my negative thoughts, trusting my expert medical team, keeping on with my schedule, and focusing on future activities.
Has it been difficult for you or a loved one to maintain hobbies?