Divorce…then Cancer

By on August 24, 2017

There is a saying to write from your scars not your open wounds – so here it goes. Taking a look back at 2016 and the beginning of 2017 was NOT my year! I was catching up with a friend the other night on the phone when he asked me to sum up the past year for him.  I said well, it was rough…separation, divorce, moving…cancer.” We hadn’t talked in a couple of years and apparently he knew nothing about my cancer diagnosis.  This made me realize, that I really haven’t shared that much of the story.  I did one Facebook post about it, but that was it.  At that time I was living with a hole in my head and a lot of anxiety.  I wasn’t ready to unpack my story, because I hadn’t had time to really put the pieces together in my life.  I had gone from one life ‘crisis’ to the next without getting any down time in between.  I decided that I wanted to share my story, not for sympathy but for awareness and recognition that we all have ‘stuff’.  We all get double and triple whammied sometimes in life.  There are also people who have way more serious cancer stories and who are fighting for their lives.  I have nothing but the utmost respect for everyone and their individual journeys.  I can’t share their story, but I can share mine.  I have a sign in my closet that my best friend made for me that says, “F#&k Cancer.”  That might sum it up, but it’s not the whole story.

I love the sun. As a kid I spent the summers at my grandparent’s lake house in Northern Indiana.  My days were swimming, skiing, fishing and oiling up with baby oil or Hawaiian Tropic SPF 2 and laying on the back of the boat listening to Van Halen.  The darker I tanned, the better.  You put that on top of competitive swimming for 9 summers and my life was spent in the sun and water.  About three years ago I noticed a sunspot on my forehead that just wouldn’t go away.  I went to a dermatologist and he agreed with me, (I think I’m a doctor thanks to Google) that I had a sunspot.  He said to keep an eye on it, but that I wasn’t in the typical zone (age & shape of spot) for it to be melanoma and it didn’t look worrisome.  Great – I’m in the clear!  Back to my open sunroof and summer sun, plus I was able to tell my family not to worry that a real doctor (besides me) said I was fine.

Now fast forward to me complaining about said spot to my girlfriend Tracy. ‘Spot’ was really bothering me and every time I had my picture taken, there it was!  Me, Blake Shelton and spot.  Garth & Trisha, me and spot.  Not okay.  Tracy and my friend Kathy had been raving about their aesthetician Angel for a while and I finally decided that it was time to get spot removed.  I meet with Angel and we decide to do a laser & peel combo that would lift most of my ‘brown spots.’  I did it and had great results except for the stubborn sunspot on my forehead.  We ended up hitting it with the laser a couple of more times and it just wasn’t lifting (meaning it flakes up and leaves the skin).  In fact it was kind of sore afterwards and giving me headaches.  Grr.  Damn stubborn spot.  Now it’s last December, right before Christmas and I’m going in for a dermaplane (the best!) and more laser on my stupid spot.  I walk into her salon, sit on the big fluffy blanket and Angel looks at me seriously and tells me she has been giving ‘spot’ a lot of thought and is concerned.  She said it should have lifted and that she’s talked with a doctor and they agree I need to get in and see a dermatologist ASAP.  Angel then throws in the whammy – I won’t see you again until you go in and get it checked out.  Crap, so much for procrastinating.  So, I have my dermaplane done – walk out to Angel’s lobby and call Dr. Francis – Francis Skin Care. They know about me from Angel and we are able to match schedules and get me in to see Dr. Francis the beginning of January.   My first meeting with Dr. Francis was relatively easy – numb, scrape, send off biopsy to the U Pathology department and wait.  It’s supposed to take 2-3 weeks for results and Dr. Francis says she’ll call me when the results are in.  I’m not worried, but I also know as a single parent – I have to be safe and take care of this thing just to be certain.  I don’t stress except for the fact that I have a band-aid on my forehead and everyone wants to know what happened?!

Then on Monday February 12 at 9:07am I get a call from Dr. Francis. I’ve just walked into the KYGO studio, plugged in my headphones and was ready for the day.  Usually, I would never answer my phone but seeing the doctor’s name I thought this will be quick and simple.  I’m not sure how the call went but I remember her telling me she was sorry, but that I had cancer – Melanoma and we needed to get it out ASAP.  What? Skin cancer?  No, apparently melanoma is a typical cancer cell like breast cancer cells and can spread throughout the body(my Oncologist told me this).  It may start in the skin, but it’s not skin cancer.  F&#k.  This isn’t a good start to a Monday.  She tells me that we caught it early, survival rates are high and that she believes I’m going to be just fine.  I’m now in shock and  getting more upset.  I’m a single mom…how am I going to do this without freaking out my daughter.  Do I tell anyone or just try and hide it until I know more? At this point Tracy walks into the studio and true to form in our relationship; she hears the big news first.  First I swore (totally me)and then started crying.  I’m not feeling why me – but crap I just got through a divorce…why now?!

I ended up having 4 surgeries to get rid of the melanoma. During that time I had a lovely, big open hole in my forehead which was covered by elephant sized band-aids.  Surgery, ship off to Pathology, wait for results, more surgery, ship again to Pathology, cut more, ship again, etc.  The ‘hole’ (formerly known as spot) had to be left open under the giant band-aid until I got the all clear.  To this day my Costco, Driver’s License and Passport pictures all sport this awesome band-aid! Hot. What I realized about my self during this whole cancer thing is that I have a really hard time asking for help.  I scheduled all 4 of my surgeries for after my shows on Fridays and drove myself there and home.  It was just local drugs, so I thought I was okay.  Note to anyone who thinks like me, don’t be an idiot and ask for help.  Between the drugs, my natural adrenaline and anxiety= I was a big hot mess.  My family and friends offered to help, but I turned them down saying I was fine.  I didn’t feel like my type of cancer warranted asking for help and I felt weak for asking.  Thank goodness my sister didn’t listen to me and she and a friend helped me post surgeries (of course I still drove myself home).  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was extremely stressed and anxious about having cancer as a single parent.  I didn’t tell my daughter until it was all over and downplayed my fear because of all she had been through the past year.  Her biggest fear right after the divorce and move was that something would happen to me.  Every time I left the house she reminded me to wear my seatbelt and be careful.  I felt awful that she was so scared of losing me and I felt there was no way I could tell her.

Fast forward 7 months and I’m done with the surgeries and the ‘hole’ in my head has healed. Cue the happy music, but I feel incredible today! I have an oncologist and a dermatologist and see one of them every 3 months. Today, I’m happier then I have been in a long time.  I also have a refreshed outlook on my life.  Cancer may suck, but something in that was beautiful and helped turn my life around.  Instead of living in fear, I walk towards what I am afraid of and go through it.  Today I mean what I say and say what I mean.  I meet people and when I know they’re supposed to be in my life- I tell them.  I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve and have been sensitive – today I try to embrace that part of me.  F$#k Cancer – but LIVE and love today.  Don’t wait until life is perfectly neat to start living and loving – there’s always life whammies.

xoxo Melissa


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