The perils of being pale

I am a skin cancer survivor.

Several keywords in the sentence above. First of all the ugly “C” word. The word which shatters each life it touches. But then the ray of hope. I’m a survivor. In medical terms I have been declared “cured”. Wonderful, isn’t it!

So how do you cope ?

I am blessed to have been born with a very strong viking gene. Blonde hair, blue eyes and a very pale skin type. My children are too. All three of them. That exact same dominant viking gene. Despite other genetic interplays.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I kept having this very uneasy gut feeling. It really was no more than that, pure intuition. My inner voice kept whispering to me. There was this tiny little spot at the back of my calf which my intuition had pointed out to me. Surely that little tiny spot hadn’t been there before? Surely it was growing? No matter how much I looked at this spot, I just knew deep inside of me that something grave was wrong.

And I was right

I waited till my second child was born before I went to the doctor. I didn’t want any stress to have an impact on the child I was carrying and nurturing inside of me. Once she was part of our world, I decided it was time to take care of me.

My doctor took one look at the spot and dismissed it immediately. It was too small. Too smooth. Too round. Too light. In short, it had not one characteristic of what a malicious melanoma is supposed to look like. Yet I knew it was extremely dangerous. I felt like a walking time bomb. I remember sitting in my doctor’s office that day in spring of 2009. I looked him straight in the eye. When I spoke to him next, my words came from deep within me, as if it were my higher power talking through me.

Whatever the hoo-doo, I insisted he take it away. Pronto. My declaration must have shook him because he agreed to make the incision and to rid me of that tiny spot, reassuring me that I was surely overreacting.

The shock

Having had the spot removed, I departed on vacation serenely with my husband of the time and my two wonderful children. You can imagine my shock when I received a voice message from my doctor urging me to call him immediately. The results were in and they weren’t good.

I remember calling him back and explaining that I was on vacation and about to start a new job. That I couldn’t possibly go to hospital. But I had to. My doctor had already made my appointments and booked me in. He was not having any excuses of starting a new job. It would have to wait. My health was a priority.

The pieces fell where they may

My entire world crumbled. I had two small children. Babies who needed me. Would I soon be leaving them alone in the world, motherless? Was this it, the end of everything, there and then with one stupid phone call?

I was a mess. Now what I always allow myself to do in any bad situation is to fall apart. Just for one day. I am allowed to fall apart and to wail and pity myself and the works. Just the one day. After that I make myself put my big girl panties on and face the world heroically again.

Which is precisely what I did. I am almost ashamed to report that that fateful day I ran away from my responsibilities, got lost, got drunk and was just a pitiful mess. From there, I picked myself up again and decided to do what the doctor ordered me.

Step back into the light

The months and years following the surgical removal of the impacted skin, I feared every ray of sun. I shied away during summer, resorting to clothes that would cover me up completely. I looked like a ninny.

I have now learned to live with the risk of having blonde hair. From the moment that spring comes to town, I slop on the sun cream. I take vitamins to strengthen me from the inside. I take care of my skin each evening, with jojoba oil. I really take care of every inch of skin I have. It is so precious. And in turn, I teach my children healthy habits. How they should behave best with sun light. We need the sun. It helps us flourish. Yet we avoid the afternoon sun when the harmful rays are the strongest. That is siesta time.

Whatever you are suffering from right now, make sure you take care of you. And don’t forget to live. The world needs your light to shine bright. Because your contribution is important. Your light makes this world a better place. Let it shine.

— Keerbergen, Belgium (June 2017)





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