Today I have the honor of sharing the story of a very strong and beautiful young woman, Chelsea. She is the author of Adventures With My Enemy Melanoma and has been generous enough to give us a glimpse into where her Melanoma diagnosis has brought her. A special thank you to Chelsea! Please read and share because through the exchange of our life stories with others is how we become complete.
I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity —Gilda Radner
This is Chelsea’s story…
Was tanning or sunbathing a significant factor in your development of melanoma?
I grew up in a beach town. Sunscreen was used, but not often encouraged by my friends. We wanted to be tan & beautiful! I have no family history of skin cancer, I am not your stereotypical melanoma patient meaning I have dark hair, dark eyes, and I never had any blistering sunburns. According to my doctors, tanning was definitely a significant factor in the development of melanoma.
How did your diagnosis change your life?
I was only 23 years old when the dermatologist informed me that they mole he removed as a precaution came back as melanoma. They had already scheduled my initial appointment with an oncologist and a surgeon before I was even informed of the scary news. For the next year my life was a rollercoaster ride of surgeries, CT scans, and FEAR. I was only 23, but I was being forced to admit that this cancer, something I thought was just skin cancer, could kill me. Now, for the rest of my life, I have to be extremely careful in every aspect. A swollen lymph node could mean cancer. Every little thing that I used to roll my eyes over is now a reason for concern. Melanoma is not curable.
When did you start using tanning beds and for what reasons?
I am a fair-skinned girl who had been invited to prom by a very cute boy when I was 14. Because I wanted to look as pretty as possible, I began visiting the tanning salon. Everywhere around me, people would say, “You are so pale! You need a tan, girl.” So, instead of embracing my natural skin color, I began tanning.
How long have you been blogging? Why did you start?
I started blogging about a month after I was diagnosed with stage III Melanoma in January 2011. I had a hard time talking about the seriousness of my diagnosis, so one evening as my mom and I were crying on the couch, she suggested I do want has always come to me easily: Write.
Tell me why you chose your blog name?
Adventures With My Enemy Melanoma seemed like a natural fit for my blog. Melanoma is my enemy, but it sure has been one heck of an adventure.
Is there an inspirational quote or song that keeps you moving forward and gives your strength?
“But understand this: my commitment to living in the now means I’ll never ever say that I’ve beaten cancer. To do so would be living in the “tomorrow,” if you will, and melanoma is far too erratic an opponent to go around making predictions. But I can tell you for sure that I’ll never give in to it. Life is too precious to give it up without giving everything you’ve got — now.” Dr. Jack Ramsay.
What is the best advice you can give to someone who thinks that skin cancer can’t happen to them?
I was that girl too. I thought it couldn’t happen to me. Now, something I thought was just skin cancer, may be the very thing that kills me. Protect your skin, it’s your largest organ.