It is no secret that a black dog named depression follows me around persistently wherever I go. But there is another thing in my life that is symbolized by the colour black: melanoma.
In the summer of 2000, I just had turned 29, it was discovered that one of my birthmarks had developed melanoma. Before I fully realized what was going on, I was admitted to a hospital and had surgery. First, a wide excision was performed on my lower leg where the birthmark was located, and second, a sentinel lymph node biopsy was done in the groin area to determine how far the cancer had progressed.
I was lucky, the cancer hadn’t spread. But I developed lymphedema in my leg from the knee down because lymph ducts had been destroyed during the surgery. So I had to use bandages for the first weeks, and wear compression stockings for six months after the surgery, day and night. Once again I was lucky, the swelling was temporary.
Permanent are the scars on my body and my soul. Sunshine ist no longer a sign of a carefree time outside, it’s a risk I have to take. I worry about the right amount of sun protection. Every check up at the dermatologist has me worried sick. Today was no exception, but at least everything looks good. Phew. During the next days, my anxiety will go down to it’s usual post-melanoma level. But I never will be so happy-go-lucky as I was before my encounter with cancer. It is not something that is happening to other people, it’s part of my life, too.
I talk openly about what happened to me. Nevetheless I have to remind my husband to use sun protection lotion, my mother-in-law still goes to the tanning salon and friends return from their holidays sunburnt. My impression is that the danger caused by melanoma is not fully realized yet here in Germany. Yes, the prognosis is very good if it is caught early, but the truth is, people CAN die of it. There are many stories, one is those of Emma Betts from Dear Melanoma. This story has no happy ending, but it is also a story of courage and love. Everyone who still doubts the cruelty of suffering from advanced stage melanoma should read it.
4 thoughts on “More black”