Sharing stories and our most intimate experiences has been in existence since the beginning of time. It is only through this honest exchange of information that we are able to make a difference and make a change. A fan of ours has chosen to open her story up to us and we hope that through her story someone will be saved from this preventable disease.
This is Karen’s story.
What type or stage of cancer do you have?
I had Stage II Melanoma of my lower leg. Luckily it did not enter my lymph nodes as I acted on the spot right away when I noticed the change in size and color.
What was the primary cancer treatment facility involved in your care and what was your experience there?
My primary treatment facility was Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, PA. My experience was wonderful from my very first consult right through my surgeries and follow up visits, They helped me to understand the cancer and answered all my questions of why, how and what if’s. They were very up front and honest from the beginning. Telling me what to expect and the worse case scenario.
What organizations were the most helpful to you?
I can’t say there was one particular organization that helped me. I did a lot of online research after being diagnosed. Reading tons of articles on melanoma and cancer survivors.
What would you say is the most impactful experience of your treatment?
The most impactful experience from my treatment was beating the disease and being made more aware of skin cancer and how to protect myself from the sun.
What would you most like people to know about yourself?
I never thought skin cancer would happen to me. Cancer was not something I was expecting to happen in my lifetime. Getting that phone call that you have cancer was devastating. The first thing I thought about was death. It’s better to fight then have fear of the disease.
What is your greatest source of strength and/or inspiration?
My husband, family and friends were my greatest source of strength and prayer. They kept my spirits up and going when I kept thinking the worse. I would have to say it also renewed my faith with GOD and made me realize I didn’t have to carry this burden of the diagnosis alone. It not only became my fight it also became their fight.
Was tanning or sunbathing a significant factor in your developing melanoma?
I would have to say yes to this. I was a big tanning bed freak and sun bathing worshiper all my life despite being red haired and fair skinned.
How did your diagnosis change your life?
My diagnosis has changed me emotionally in now I worry about every little spot I find or mole change. I worry is this going to come back again. I have learned now not to sweat the small stuff anymore in life and to live everyday as if it was my last. I have come to accept that Lily White is going to be my new color instead of the sun kissed look because I don’t want to have to go through this again. I think it has also made me a more compassionate person.
Is there an inspirational quote or song that keeps you moving forward and gives you strength in your life?
Live in the moment. Cause in the blink of an eye your life can change forever.
What is the best advice you can give to someone who thinks that skin cancer can’t happen to them?
Cancer does not discriminate regardless of if it’s in your family or not. See your doctor regularly for follow-ups and point out things that look abnormal. It’s very important for people of all ages to be proactive about skin cancer.