HOW I SURVIVED CANCER – AND SO DID MY GRANDDAUGHTER
I am a fortunate and grateful cancer survivor. So is my young granddaughter, Skylar.
I had two of the deadliest types of cancer. Because I was and am proactive about my health I am alive 14 years later, cancer-free. And, so is Skylar.
I am a melanoma survivor.
A melanoma skin cancer is the worst of the worst. I lived in Honolulu for over ten years, walked four miles in the early morning sun every day, and wore no sunblock. It was in the 80s and sunblock was not the norm.
IMPORTANT ADVICE FROM A MELANOMA SURVIVOR
Today I never leave my condo in the sky without wearing sunblock. I wear sunblock with a high percentage of zinc oxide. I wear Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50. I also wear Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen. I purchase them on Amazon. There are other brands with Zinc oxide. Remember, the percentage of Zinc in the block is very important. I believe Neutrogena has the highest amount of Zinc oxide.
I continue to make yearly appointments with a board-certified dermatologist for body checks. That is why I am alive today. I was and am proactive about my health and you must be too. My melanoma was on my leg. It was stage one and required surgery but no radiation or chemotherapy.
My surgeon taught me to notice any skin growth that is new or changing. Here are the ABCDE’s to keep your eye on for a melanoma.
- Asymmetry: If a mole or growth has two halves that do not match.
- Border: A jagged border
- Color: Multiple colors are a warning sign.
- Diameter: a mole or growth that is larger than a pea.
- Evolving: All new and changing Moles.
I know that cancer does not care who it strikes with its poisonous venom. Therefore, it is up to each of you to take charge of our bodies. And to notice any changes you see or symptoms you experience. In other words, be proactive about your health. Awareness will give you the opportunity to survive cancer.
Heartbreakingly, there are some deadly cancers that no amount of proactive measures or awareness can help.
Two years ago my phone rang around 2:00 pm. Fortunately, I was home.
It was my granddaughter, Skylar, calling me from her home in Arizona. She wasted no time asking me if I had had thyroid cancer. My heart sunk; nevertheless, I understood the importance of remaining calm.
I immediately asked her why. She told me her story. She was at a surgeon’s office with her mother. She was about to have a double hernia operation. A softball pitcher and an incredible athlete in college, she had strained herself while pitching. Before she left the office, the doctor noticed the large lump in her neck close to her thyroid. Neither Skylar nor her mother had noticed the lump. She was told to visit her doctor. Thus began Skylar’s journey…
Skylar knew I had my thyroid removed because of non-malignant tumors that were the type that would eventually return. We were comrades in arms.
HOW CANCER COMPOUNDS GRATITUDE AND RESISTANCE
I immediately told her how lucky she was that she chose a surgeon who had a keen eye to notice the lump in her neck. I also soothed her fears, and told her we would be partners during her journey back to good health. I was so sad that she would hear, “You have cancer.” On the other hand, learning you have cancer builds a person’s resilience and gratitude, and even empathy for others.
On the other hand, only people who have had or have cancer can fully understand the emotional trauma associated with that phrase. It is terrifying to say the very least.
When I learned I had melanoma skin cancer, the deadliest form I got other news from my doctor. The chest x-ray required for my surgery showed a foreign spot on my lung! That chest x-ray, my surgeons, my proactive personality and luck saved my life. Yes, I had lung cancer, stage 1.
I was walking around with two deadly cancers and had no idea I was sick! I never felt better.
My experiences with cancer surgeries were extremely traumatic experiences. Both surgeries, melanoma and lung, within two weeks of one another. I will tell my story about how I survived cancer emotionally and thrived.
SUPPORTING MY GRANDDAUGHTER AND DAUGHTER
I flew to Arizona to be by my granddaughter and daughter’s side.
She asked me to be with her before and after her surgery. Two years ago on an early Sunday morning, I kissed my Ultimate Concierge and pooch, America, goodbye. And flew off to Arizona to be with Skylar and my daughter Jenny’s family. It was the first time I left my husband in over 25 years of marriage. Nothing was going to stop me from being a supportive mother and grandmother.
Before I left I was able to educate Skylar on what it felt like to have a thyroid biopsy. I explained to her that there was no pain. Discussing how I felt after the surgery, I explained the healing process. I recounted stories of people she knew who had thyroid cancer. And were cancer survivors. Her uncle, for one. And they were thriving, leading extraordinary lives in their 60s and 70s.
Skylar’s surgery was successful. The tumor was the lowest grade and incapsulated. Fortunately, she will live a long life because of the surgeon who spotted the lump in her neck. We nicknamed her doctor, Skylar’s Fairy Angel. We were both lucky to have a lucky angel guard and protect us.
When I left a week later to fly back, I reflected on our last moments together. I know our bond is stronger because we’ve experienced similar emotions. I am a safety net Skylar can now lean on who understands how it feels to be a Cancer survivor. Unfortunately, we share a life experience.
When I kissed her goodbye at the airport, I left her with these words:
“I know you take very good care of your car. You change the oil, rotate the tires, keep it clean and check the battery so it will run smoothly. That is what you must do with your body. If your surgeon tells you to come back in three months, make your next appointment before you leave his office. Never miss an appointment. Never cancel an appointment for a later date. Be proactive about your health.”
I ended my little sermon with this statement.
“Skylar, I am a cancer survivor because in fourteen years I have never missed one doctor’s appointment. By committing to my health I saved my life from cancer more than once. We hugged again. We told each other how much we loved one another. I neither wanted to leave my family nor their home.
As I sat on the runway on my way back to my beautiful Chicago, my text messages kept chirping.
The last texts I read from my grands and my daughter were, “Honey, text us when you get through security. Text us when you get on the plane. Text us when you land.”
I received a loving phone call from my daughter as I sat in the Admiral’s Club. My son-in-law, who I have known since he was 18 years old who I named Mrs. Doubtfire, could not have been more loving.
AWARENESS IS WHY I AM A CANCER SURVIVOR
My darlings, my advice is to pick up your phones and make your necessary appointments. This week it should be to your dermatologist for a body check,
Please call your young adult children and educate them about cancer awareness. Pass this message on to your friends because cancer knows no age, no nationality, no class. It rears its ugly head unexpectedly.
With today’s progressive medical technology and the great scientists around the world, you owe it to yourself to do your part. Be proactive about your health. If you take care of yourself, you are giving yourself the opportunity to beat Cancer. Instead of it beating you.
I know many of you are afraid to see your doctor. That includes me, too. My advice as a cancer survivor is to feel your fear and do it anyway!
Please share my musings with friends and family who may benefit from this story about awareness. Most importantly, join me on Facebook or comment below to share your stories if you are a cancer survivor! Above all else, Honey Good is about women like us connecting and supporting one another.
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