Even today, all these years later, I still remember how it hit me when my Dad called to tell me that my mother had been diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and was being rushed into surgery. Thankfully, those were the days when WestJet had “compassionate” flights and I caught the next plane out and joined my brother and sister. Dad said Mum had less than a 5% chance of living more than a couple of years. It was the first time I had faced my mother’s mortality, mostly because she was so healthy. She walked five miles every morning and she was the picture of health. She was always a sun worshiper though and I remember her and my sister sitting in shallow water on their lawn chairs, soaking up the sun. Both of them always had deep tans in the summer. Mum also traveled to Yuma in the winter months, so she got even more tan than normal.
After her surgery she had 135 stitches in her leg where the cancer was. Thankfully it had not reached her lymph nodes which would have spread the cancer rapidly throughout her body. I still remember the emotion of the call my Dad got when the doctor told him they had caught it in time. I had never seen my father cry, but he broke down and cried like a baby. We were all awkwardly hugging him and balling our eyes out too. My mother beat the incredible odds and lived until 2007, when the cancer had spread and she had 7th stage Alzheimer’s.
I had my own scare in 2007 when the doctor discovered a birth mark on my forehead tested positive for fifth stage melanoma. Given my mother’s history it scared the crap out of me. When I went to see if it was positive the doctor came running into the room, all excited, pointed an accusing finger at me and said, “that’s fifth stage melanoma you know. That’s the one that kills!” Nice bedside manner. Now I was really scared.
My surgery was booked within days. There’s nothing funny about cancer, but when it was obvious that the surgeon was having some trouble I asked what the problem was. He said normally people my age had such baggy skin that he could remove the tumor and pull the surrounding skin together. He said my skin was so tight and baby like that he couldn’t figure out how to pull it together. I guess that was a compliment. He actually did any amazing job and it’s hardly noticeable other than when I tan. It’s a little lighter.
Fast forward to today. I noticed a birthmark on my abdomen had the same kind of dark bumps that I had noticed on my forehead in 2007. I went to see my doctor on my day off and I could tell by the look on his face that it didn’t look good. At this point he’s trying to get me in for a biopsy asap, but I know it’s going to be positive. Life has been very stressful lately because of my job and I don’t need any added stress. These things remind us of our own mortality and to live every day as though it’s your last. My biggest regret is to be stuck in this Godforsaken city, away from the many supportive friends I had out West. I can’t believe I’ve been here for almost three years and don’t have a single friend to call on for support.