As you will read, everyone’s story is true and unique. Please take the time to learn more about Rich who battles Melanoma and Authors his personal blog, Hotel Melanoma. Thank you Rich for sharing!
Here is his story:
Was tanning or sunbathing a significant factor in the development of your melanoma?
I never set foot in a tanning bed, but outdoor sun exposure was probably a very significant factor. I was a lifeguard as a teenager and tried to attain the blond surfer dude look, which was a really dumb idea for a freckled pale skinned kid of Celtic descent. My primary tumor was on my lower side towards my back and that area got a whole lot of unprotected sun in those days. As an adult, I continued to sit out around the pool and jogged without a shirt during the summer time.
How did you diagnosis change your life?
In so many ways for the better. I was diagnosed in 2003 a couple of days after my 50th birthday, and I guess I needed a midlife slap up the side of my head to realize I’m not immortal and time is and always was of the essence. Melanoma became the catalyst for me to change some things in my life that weren’t working and needed changing. The two primary ones were my career and my faith. I had become quite miserable in law practice, and the diagnosis led me to bail out– I just wasn’t going to spend what could be the last days of my life chained to a desk, dealing with lots of unpleasant people and performing tedious tasks. On the faith front, melanoma led me to stop procrastinating and decide what I did and didn’t believe. I ended up converting to the Roman Catholic Church after twenty years of thinking about joining up but never getting around to it.
Tell me why you chose your blog name? How long have you been blogging and why did you start?
I think the line from the Eagles’ “Hotel California”– you can check out any time you like but you can never leave– is a perfect metaphor for living with the later stages of melanoma. Once you become a patient, you’ll always be a patient (unless you croak) and you’ll never be declared “cured”. I struggle with that, like every other patient. So, checking into and living at the Hotel Melanoma became a unifying theme of the blog. I started the blog in March 2010, with a long post that was a journal I’d written over the course of the previous 2-3 years. I’d shared the journal with a handful of fellow cancer survivors and received a lot of encouragement to publish it. The idea of publishing my journal as a blog, and continuing to write, came from the encouragement of a development officer at the University of Colorado Foundation. It was a really big leap for me to expose my soul to the world, but folks told me I had written a great story that ought to be shared. And I finally worked up the courage to shed my privacy and share it.
Is there an inspirational quote or song that keeps you moving forward and gives you strength?
There’s no one quote or song that I could point to. But as you can tell from the blog, I love classic rock music and lots of songs inspire me to adapt them for life at the Hotel Melanoma. I suppose if I had to choose one rock anthem for living with melanoma, it’d be Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”.
What is the best advice you can give to someone who thinks that skin cancer can’t happen to them?
Melanoma, and every other brand of cancer for that matter, can indeed happen to you and if you’re lucky enough to get old cancer probably will enter your life sooner or later. So don’t court disaster by taking excessive lifestyle risks, like tanning yourself into a leather saddle. But you can’t live in fear either. Don’t hide inside, just wear some clothes and a decent sunscreen so you don’t fry yourself like I did as a kid and younger adult. Something IS going to kill you somehow, someday, but meanwhile your life is a precious gift from God that’s worth taking some reasonable measures to protect and prolong as best you can. So I’m doing my best to be livin’ it up at the Hotel Melanoma!