I’m not sure who is going to read this but to whoever does, hi, and thank you. I hope this post finds you well. This post has taken a long time to write because it’s hard to articulate through words what this cancer journey has been like so far.
Here is my story: A little more than a year ago, I discovered a mole on my arm that I was not very concerned about, in fact, the only thing that did concern me was that it was ugly. As the mole grew, I’ll admit that I was self conscious of it, but I wasn’t very concerned because I figured there was nothing I could do about it, and to me, it didn’t look like it could be suspicious. I was aware of what suspicious moles looked like and I was aware of the ABCDE’s of suspicious moles. I’m a redhead and I have fair skin that burns easily and I am covered in freckles and moles and for this reason, I have had my skin checked and have had moles removed in the past. I do not want to overly get into the medical details here or the medical history so I’ll be brief. March of this year, I was growing continually more self conscious of the mole so I asked my doctor to remove it. The mole was removed and ten days later I went back to have my stitches taken out. It was at this appointment that my life changed and my heart was broken. My doctor said to me: “We got the results. It was melanoma.”
“What do you mean, melanoma? As in skin cancer?”
“Yes, as in skin cancer.”
My heart honestly felt like it shattered. It felt like it was all over the floor like broken glass but I couldn’t move to clean it up and put it back together. I couldn’t believe I heard the “c” word. What was going to happen to me? Would I be okay? Were my parents going to be okay? Has it spread anywhere else? Do I need treatment? What about school? What about modelling? What about my future? When first diagnosed, all I knew about melanoma was that people died from having it and that it was a very serious cancer. Melanoma is a scary word. Cancer is also a scary word. Being told in that moment that I had these things completely broke my heart and sent me into shock. Before this moment, I did not think that my mole was anything. I definitely did not think it was skin cancer, let alone melanoma, the worst kind of skin cancer. I never thought that I would ever be told that I had cancer. Cancer always seems like something so distant. We probably all know someone who has had cancer, but we never think it will happen to us, right? That’s what I always thought.
I was familiar with cancer. I have prayed for people with cancer. I sat, watching my aunt lose her battle with cancer, unaware that I had the same disease in my body and on my skin. How could I have cancer? I am young and healthy. I wasn’t able to understand how a young 20 year old girl, who is healthy and the most careful girl in the sun, who has never stepped foot near a tanning bed, got melanoma. It is so unreal how your life can be turned upside down in one second and finding out that I had melanoma was probably the worst moment of my entire life. Honestly, I’m lucky that I went into shock at that appointment because my brain has started to repress that awful memory, and I think that’s for the best.
Within 72 hours after my diagnosis, I was sent to a surgeon and five days after that had surgery. I have been very blessed with short wait times to see medical professionals which I am thankful for and blessed to have had an amazing surgeon. Again, I don’t want to get into many details medically here because it is something that I still have trouble processing on a day-to-day basis, but I will say this: my melanoma was a severe case. One of the more severe cases for someone my age. To give those who don’t know about melanoma a little more information, I’ll share a little bit of what I have learned:
- Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer
- Melanoma is a young persons cancer, with many cases affecting teenagers and young adults
- Melanoma doesn’t care who you are, it can affect anyone – even the most careful people in the sun
- If you have had at least one serious sun burn before the time you turn 18, your chances of developing melanoma are doubled
- The first place that melanoma spreads to is your nearby lymph nodes and can spread not only to other places on your skin, but to your internal organs such as your liver, your brain, and your lungs
- If you don’t catch melanoma early, you have less than a 10% chance of surviving more than 5 years
When diagnosed, my questions for God were: “Why me, God? Why have You forsaken me? Why have You let this happen to me?” Which were silly questions for Him anyway, but I think it was a normal reaction based on the diagnosis I had received. I understand that because I am a redhead, I was more at risk than the normal person for developing melanoma but what I didn’t understand was that this was one of God’s plans for me. I didn’t understand it (and to be honest, I still don’t understand now) but God has this plan for me and I am certain that He is going to use this experience of mine in some way. Perhaps it’s reaching out to people through this blog and allowing for them to understand how dangerous melanoma is and how important protecting and checking your skin is. God has been with me throughout this whole process, holding my hand, and putting my mind and heart at ease. I will forever be thankful to have such a loving saviour and having a God who not only listens, but answers my prayers.
I still don’t understand how or why I got cancer. It doesn’t make any sense to me. But I do trust God and His plans. I know there is a blessing in the storm. Jeremiah 29:11 has always been one of my favourite verses, but through this journey it has been given a new meaning. I know He has plans to prosper me, and not to harm me. I know that He wants the best for me. I know that I have many people up in Heaven watching over me. I prayed every day that my Guardian Angel would talk to God for me to tell Him to watch out for me and to keep me safe. To ask Him to rescue me.
Being diagnosed with melanoma has been one of the absolute worst seasons of my life so far, and although I know God has a plan for me, it hasn’t lessened the pain that I feel. My heart is broken. I am having a hard time. I have had to process everything at such a rapid pace and I have gone through every stage of grief and loss so quickly that sometimes, I am not able to fully wrap my head around what has occurred in the past month. It hurts to have people close to me expect me to be my normal self again. I’m not that girl right now, but I’m working on getting back to being her. As much as you miss her, I miss her more. I know this may sound silly, but it’s true, this is me being open and honest. To anyone reading this, I could always use prayers. Prayers that I am cancer free and that I never have to deal with cancer again. Prayers to have Christ heal my broken heart and to be better and healthy (mentally and physically).
This was hard to write about. Hard to be so open and honest about. I am still undergoing many appointments, tests and am still trying to process everything. I begin treatment soon and that is also very hard to process. If you follow me on Instagram (@mikaylastroeder), you will know that I was lucky to receive some good news by God’s grace and as I have said previously, the more I become comfortable with sharing through this blog, the more I will write about my cancer.
This is my fear in blogging: anyone can read this post and have different opinions on it. Some may read this and say: “Why is she blogging about skin cancer? It’s just skin cancer. Why is she so concerned and writing as if having skin cancer changed her life?” Firstly, I wish you would have never read this far and secondly, I want to pray for your ignorant and uneducated mind. Cancer is cancer and melanoma can be fatal. Until you have been diagnosed with a lethal cancer, you can’t speak on the topic. Until you have been diagnosed with cancer at all, you can’t really speak on the topic and pretend that you know what it’s like. Finding out that I had melanoma changed my entire life and my perspectives. What I have learned is to not let anyone minimize my issue. Everything is relative.
To my incredible support system of my parents, my cousin Carla, friends, and family friends who have stuck by my side since the beginning, thank you. Thank you for being a light in the darkness. Without the love, support, and prayers I have received, I honestly do not know where I would be. The title of my blog is a pretty disaster and the reasoning behind the name is that although I have gone through an absolute disaster with my melanoma diagnosis so far, it has been pretty because I have learned so much, I have had my friends really show me they care for me, and have became closer to my God than I could have ever imagined, and that’s really pretty. I know this has been a long post, so thank you for reading and if it’s not too much to ask, I could use a prayer. I am praying for each and every one of you that have taken the time to read this and praying that you understand the importance of protecting and checking your skin.
I look forward to posting more on this blog and hopefully continually sharing good news throughout my treatment and long after that!
Thank you for reading,