The following post is by Rob colligan, who shares his personal journey with melanoma.
18 years ago (September 1996), I was diagnosed with melanoma. It was Clarke Level IV, 1.7mm deep and had spread..
For those who do not know, that is pretty bad. Lymph nodes had to be removed and the feeling was one of “Omigawd, is this it”?
I was 30 years of age. I had a new business and two beautiful daughters aged 3, and 6 months.
Around the same time, my younger cousin Raymond was also diagnosed with this insidious disease. From memory, his father, my uncle Mal, had passed from cancer and our grandfather, Herbert Augustus had also previously succumbed to melanoma.
17 years ago today (6/11/97), as I was in the middle of my battle with melanoma, Ray lost his battle with this bastard of a disease.
He was in his 20’s.
I recall my mother, Nancye, asking me if I was coming to Melbourne for Ray’s funeral and I think she was a little upset that I flatly refused to go, and indeed, I even refused to entertain any discussion about Ray’s death.
I had retreated inside myself, as I faced the possibility of facing the same truth. I probably was not even aware that I was doing this, but each person faces such battles in their own way. What was right for me, may not have been right for Ray, Uncle Mal, or Grandad Henderson. All of these dearly departed men would have faced cancer in their own way and it would have been right for them. Sometimes it is not right for those around us and it can change your relationship with them forever.
This can have the unintended consequence of alienating some friends and family. They do not understand the battle that you face inside yourself, as you wake each day, (if you even slept the night before) to keep going despite the fear, worry and concern. Let’s not even discuss the pain and discomfort of treatment. In your 20’s and 30’s, you have no real concept of your own mortality… being diagnosed with something like melanoma soon fixes that. If you are lucky enough to beat melanoma, you then get to enjoy the weight of wondering if it will return.
There are certain dates on the calendar that you mark off and wait to see if you will remain clear until that time. As those dates approach, even if you do not acknowledge it, your stress levels begin to rise. Your behaviour changes and depending on the reaction of those closest to you, you can get better or worse.
I chose to get my behaviour better, and it means that I don’t forget Ray, Uncle Mal and Grandad.