In case you’re new here or you aren’t familiar with my story you need to know that death came knocking when I was just 6 years old in the form of cancer. That’s one reason I’m so devoted to living as fully and intentionally as possible. And why I’m passionate about working through our grief and loss so we can live as joyfully as we can with the time we have on this earth.

And that early cancer diagnosis puts me at a much higher risk for secondary cancers, which means I get more annual check-ups and scans than the average bear.

Being of Irish descent, I’m a freckly gal. I think I’ve been getting “mole checks” by my dermatologist for about 15 years now and I’d recently graduated to every 2 years. These checks had always ended with the same “all clear” results – until they didn’t.

Sometime in those 2 years, I developed what I considered a small, cute, heart-shaped mole on my left shoulder. However, my dermatologist was like ‘umm no, it’s not cute’ and immediately scraped it and sent it away for testing.

I got “the call” while I was teaching a life coaching class. A regular day until someone tells you that you have melanoma. That initial phone call didn’t really derail me. I thought, “Okay, let’s get the surgery and move on with life.” I debated even telling my family about it. At first, I just kept thinking, “melanoma” as if it was extremely dry skin and I just needed some treatment. Which, I know sounds silly, but I think sometimes our minds create these little analogies or stories so we can cope.

It was a nudge from GUS*

 *God/Universe/Source/Soul/Spirit…whatever you wanna call it

Seeing as I had just moved to the beach I figured this was a nudge from GUS to remember to wear sunscreen on my daily walks.

So, off I went to see a plastic surgeon with THE BEST name, Dr. Stephanie Power. I envisioned her in a superhero stance with a matching cape and boots. Now, I’ve had enough medical procedures done on this body over the years and I’ve always found it fascinating, but this time the doctor urged me to, “look away” and with good reason as it felt like she took a melon baller to my arm to scoop out the foreign invaders.

I was left with a not-so-sexy divot and stitches that looked like I had a wonky black caterpillar stuck to my shoulder. Still, it didn’t really slow me down. I left with a big ol’ bandage on my shoulder and took myself for some retail therapy in Yorkville.

Then I got the second call.

Dr. Power said I needed to come back in because there were still some cancer cells in the surrounding tissue and it was important to get clean, clear margins.

This time I felt it

I got the call when I was alone and ohhhh did I feel that aloneness. All I could do was cry. I wasn’t sure WHY it was hitting me so hard (after all, if I were forced to pick a second cancer I’d pick this one with an extremely high success rate) but somehow everything got very real, really fast, with that second call. The fears and vulnerabilities of being human can take us by surprise and logic has very little to do with it.

I had cancer.  Again.  After almost 40 years my worst fears had come true. It also confirmed that I’m getting older and these sorts of calls are going to be more commonplace whether it’s my health or the health of friends and family.

Thankfully I’m learning that those myths and mantras of “be strong”, “go it alone”, “don’t be a burden”, and “independent woman” that I’ve relied heavily on over the past 40 years don’t really work anymore. Instead, they often prevent us from experiencing the magic of connection and community that makes the scary, vulnerable times bearable and even beautiful.

So I tearfully called a couple of friends + my brother and immediately felt less alone and more supported. One of my good friends reminded me that friends are there “in sickness and in health” and offered to go with me to my next appointment. I got choked up at her kind offer and being true to me, I definitely hesitated at first (“Awww thanks, but I got this”). Her offer made me realize I still have work to do around receiving love and help but ultimately, I said yes.

The second surgery

My friend came with me to the doctor’s appointment. We made a plan to meet at the pub after my procedure so once they called me back for the surgery, she left to secure us a patio table.

When I arrived at the pub freshly stitched up, I was absolutely shocked to see 4 more of my friends waiting. All of them had traveled great distances and I felt such a surge of love and support that it nearly knocked me over. I’m not gonna lie, I was a blubbering mess…in the best way.

That moment at the pub became a major turning point for me – a neon flashing sign from the GUS that I MUST allow my loved ones to love me back. I can’t keep blocking it for fear of being a burden or too much or that it’s only okay if I give and not receive – it needs to be a balance. We hugged and laughed and ate and drank and reconnected…it felt so damn good. As my friend said, it was “the hugs we all needed.”

So why am I telling you all of this?! Well, two big reasons:

1 – Regardless of how you’ve done things in the past, I want to challenge you to let people love you even more. Allow them to be there for you, to support you, and even nurture you back to health. Of course, to do that, you must let them in. You have to accept the help that’s offered. Because we’re all in this life together and thank GUS for that.

2 – AND IF YOU DO ONE THING FOR ME/YOU THIS SUMMER (and always)  PLEASE WEAR SUNSCREEN. (also, slow clap to the City of Toronto for having free sunscreen stations along the boardwalk in the beaches now! #preventativemedicine). Melanoma is nothing to mess around with. Turns out my grandfather had melanoma and he left it UNchecked which meant it grew and metastasized and spread to his brain which ultimately lead to his death. So please, get your skin checked by your doctor(s) and wear sunscreen.

As Baz Luhrman said in 1999, “If I could offer you only one tip for the future – sunscreen would be it.” (you can listen to the rest of his timeless advice set to a funky beat, here.)

Like this?
Share the love!

Leave a comment

FYI, this website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience. Cool?