Tuesday, May 14, 2013

To Live or To Hide, That Is The Question

The other day I was asked by a follower about my thoughts on taking a trip to southern Italy this summer.  "Is it risky to go to a place that is basically just beach, sun, etc?"  "Do I let this disease stop me?"  I love this question, and have had others ask me about similar  situations, ranging from "I'm afraid to go out in my own backyard," to, "I'm not sure about visiting an island in the bay of Napoli."  I say I love these questions because I have had all of these same thoughts, questions,and concerns.  And I know that many others have too, but may not feel comfortable asking.

So, here's my experience, strength, and hope on what this disease can do to the psyche and what I did to break out of the handcuffs of fear.

Right after my first melanoma surgery, the one on my foot, we moved into a new house.  I had picked out shades for my bedroom (prior to my diagnosis) that had some special kind of "blackout" thing on the backs of each shade, so as not to let any light in unless the shades were pulled.  When I picked these, I did it for "sleeping late" purposes, but when we moved in following my surgery, I came to see that these blackout shades had another purpose.

I spent some time in my new room, on my bed, recovering physically from the surgery.  This recovery process was fully explained in detail, with printed out sheets of instructions, etc.  But no one talked about recovering emotionally!  These blackout shades became my new "savior"!!!  Yes, I could hang out in my room, rest, heal physically and hide from the light of day with my new shades.  

Day and night, I wanted these shades closed.  I did not want to have ANY sunlight find me...anywhere.  At first I found comfort in this dark environment, but that changed quickly, as I started to feel small...small in the world, in my world, in my house, in everything!  The best way to describe it, is something similar to Alice when that room shrunk, and she felt trapped, claustrophobic, and helpless.

As Paulo Coelho says, "Don't give into your fears.  If you do, you won't be able to talk to your heart."  And that is what happened.  I was cut off, cut off from everything.  My heart longs for life, living it, seeing, doing, being, experiencing, traveling, taking pictures, being on sand, near water, in places I don't speak the language, etc.  If I let my fear keep me behind blackout shades, my heart would eventually die, and my life would be wasted.

"He who has overcome his fears will truly be free." 

At a certain point, I decided to tell fear to fuck off, and to go forth with the life I wanted...
Was I rid of anxiety?  Hell no!  But, I was not going to let fear paralyze me.  This is sort of where I started thinking about bucket lists and stuff like that.  One of the many things on that list, is to see the world with my family.

And so, we GO! I go out of my house, whether it's to the backyard or to Costa Rica or wherever...I GO!  And I've learned how to do this with sun safety as top priority, so that I can enjoy wherever I am, knowing I am protecting myself as best I can.

As the summer is fast approaching, I am now in planning mode for a 7 week trip to Europe (to include MANY beaches)!  Here is how I do this with melanoma on my mind...I gather up loads of sunscreens, hats, UPF clothing, parasols, etc...and GO.  You can check out my packing list on Respect the Rays!  

Wherever you go, you can do it with sun safety in mind!  Whether it's the pool, the park, the beach, an island, whatever, always practice safe sun!
This blog post is dedicated to 2 special followers; you know who you are!  I LOVE YOU!


  1. Thanks for sharing that. I grew up going to "The Lake" for most weekends of the summer with my family, water skiing, fishing, canoeing, swimming, etc. Unfortunately, we did not practice sun safety and I got burnt almost every weekend spent at the lake. Now, I feel there is little joy to be found in those weekends at the lake. The family still goes, but I find that I spend most of my time under the pontoon boat or wrapped up in my beach towel with a big hat worrying that the kids need to be slathered with sunscreen again. I think the lake will always be a part of our summers, but as for me personally, I don't think I will ever enjoy it as I did before melanoma.

    1. Thank you for sharing. I agree....the diagnosis changes your life forever! :(

  2. My favorite thing to do is to sit in my floatie in the pool with a good book. We bought a house with a pool for just this purpose. I mentioned to my oncologist that this was going to be the hardest thing for me to give up. You know what he said...? Don't stay out of the sun, just go in protected. I can slather on the sunscreen, wear a hat, sunglasses and rash guard, etc. I'm not going to let melanoma take the joy from my life. A lot of us got this ugly disease from burning when we were young - I know I certainly did. I am curious to know the correlation between past burns and a little sun now. The doctors tell everyone to stay out of the sun and wear sunscreen (and I fully agree), but if we've had melanoma, will future sun make it worse, or are we dealing with residual from past exposure? Again, I'm not advocating baking on the beach, but I am interested in the statistics. It's a question that I will put to my oncologist the next time I see him.

    1. Thank you for reading and sharing! Life life, but do it with sun safety at top priority! :)

  3. This is on my mind all the time, and I've thought about posting about it too. I have stick-on shades for the car windows on my trips to Pittsburgh for checkups. But I'm getting a little less freaked out about the sun these days. I know that you can only do what's in your control, and the rest you can't spend your life worrying about.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Kevin! You should post about it too, as so many people feel this way, but just don't say it out loud.