Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Nasty “C” Word

May Is Skin Cancer Awareness Month!

By: Sheena Denscombe

Life couldn’t be any better. I had a dream and followed it. I always loved the outdoors throughout my childhood and was always active throughout my lifetime. I had so much to celebrate. I was obese and conquered it. I was inactive in my 30’s, and conquered that. I had finally found my passion of fitness and sharing my knowledge with other middle aged women about all the awesome-ness and all that it had to offer. On Valentine’s Day in 2009, my decision was made, with my husband’s support, to quit my “big girl” job. That was it! I always said I never wanted to leave this earth saying “I wish I had” and my biological clock was ticking.

On March 23rd, 2009, I handed my letter into my manager and explained that I never wanted to live in regret. I was on top of the world! The next day, while in the middle of a impromptu meeting, I received the phone call that changed my life!

It was the doctor’s office. Instantly, my thought was, “they never call”. I excused myself from the chatter of the meeting that was around my desk and picked up the phone. That is where I heard the nasty “C” word. (Insert hard blow to the stomach here!) The voice on the other end of the phone said, "Sheena the results came back that you have Stage 1 Melanoma Skin Cancer and we have scheduled you for surgery with the best surgeon in Calgary, Dr. Arlette and your surgery was on April 1st." I instantly was sick, hung my head and asked for clarification. “Excuse, did you just say I have cancer?” The voice said, “yes”. Wow cancer! I didn’t cry; I didn’t react; I didn’t do anything except stop. All I kept thinking about was how non-shallont that she just told me that I had cancer. No emotion and no empathy for me. How could she? Now thinking back, can you imagine her job of delivering the blow of the news of skin cancer to patients daily?

In December, 2008 when I was training for the California Marathon I had noticed a little freckle that I didn’t remember seeing before. The funny thing, I would kick it when I ran and the area would get sore. I watched it grow in a short time and felt it was suspicious. Everyone I had showed, thought it was nothing to worry about. It was just a freckle. I had decided to get it cut off, just to be safe.

I hung up the phone and instantly my co-workers were aware that something was wrong. I delivered my news to them that the little mole that everyone thought I was over reacting about, was indeed melanoma. Silence quickly fell over the cubicle. Finally one co-worker spoke up and asked, “what are you going to do?” I sat there and said, “I have no idea. I can’t believe I have cancer. This wasn’t part of my life plan.”

That’s exactly it. You cannot plan for cancer or interruptions in life. The interruptions just happen. You have to move on as life does not stop for anyone. My manager called me into the office and asked if I wanted to retract my resignation so I could deal with my “situation”. I appreciated that so much as it put my mind at ease. This was one thing less to worry about. Now to think. Think about what, I’m not sure but I knew I had to think.

A day or so went by where I would say that I had cancer but didn’t believe it. There was no emotions, just confusion. I kept positive and read so many things about skin cancer and remained extremely confident. I finally decided that more than ever, I had to follow my dream of being a full time personal trainer. I did not want to have any regrets in my life. I gave the news to my manager and to my husband that I MUST follow my dream. Still the reality of having cancer had not really hit home. Then there was a phone call from my home insurance agent who told me that my current program on my home could not cover my home business activities and they would have to cancel my insurance on my home and provide me with another type of insurance. That was it!!! The tears started and the emotions were out of the gate. I started crying so hard and the thoughts came flooding into my head. How can I take care of Kevin if I will not be here to take care of him? How can I prevent this from being more work for Kevin if I do die? I don’t want Kevin to go through anything bad? I never once thought of myself but rather the people that I would leave behind. That is it. It is not about us, but rather the people that directly affect our lives. The poor insurance agent, she had no idea what was going on through my head, except that she had an extremely upset client and she needed to calm her down. Thankfully everything with that aspect did workout without any problems. Now for me to deal with my emotions.

I did my research and had my surgery. I’m happy to report that the biopsy of the area directly affected by the melanoma was given the all clear. Now I to change my lifestyle. I would go for a run and put sunscreen faithfully on my neck, arms and face but never my legs. My legs never burned so why did they need sunscreen. Now I pack my bag for boot camp, and I will instantly pack the sunscreen before the water. Weird. I normally wouldn’t do that. It’s been a total adjustment to my lifestyle. Instead of shorts, I will wear long pants. On a nice sunny day, you couldn’t get me inside because I would want to bask in the sun, and now I ration my time in the sun.

My story is one that I only want to tell on a yearly basis only to remind everyone and myself of how delicate life is and it can change on a dime! To my friends and family, please avoid tanning beds and always wear sunscreen!

Play safe outside everyone!

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