It is possible to regain self-confidence and take charge of your life following the diagnosis of melanoma.
You can improve your situation by having a frank discussion with your health care specialists, learning about your genetic characteristics and establishing a support network.
Melanoma is the most dangerous skin cancer there is, and the number of cases is on the rise, especially in young people. In fact, it’s one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in people between the ages of 15 and 49.
Being diagnosed with advanced melanoma can be overwhelming, but if you take a proactive role in your care – by being informed, asking questions and surrounding yourself with a strong support team – you will gain the confidence to make it through. face.
Go from feeling helpless to taking charge
Brianna and Geneviève – both recently diagnosed with melanoma – can attest to that.
In May 2021 Brianna, 28, was married and completing her third year of medical school when she noticed a mole on her lower back had changed in appearance. As she has fair skin and red hair, she knew she was at risk of developing skin cancer. So she immediately went to a doctor to have her mole checked, and she had it removed. Two weeks later, she learned that the mole on her back, as well as the one on her calf, which had been removed a few months earlier, were melanoma. Her marriage ended, she interrupted her medical studies and had to undergo surgery and treatment.
At 45, Geneviève led a busy life with her husband and their two teenagers. She worked full time as a speech therapist. She noticed a small, oozing sore on her scalp two days before a dermatologist appointment for her son and asked her doctor to examine it during the appointment. He immediately sent her for further tests and the results confirmed a diagnosis of melanoma.
Like Brianna, Genevieve felt her world crumble, but as both women saw, knowledge is power. In order to maintain a positive attitude and to feel confident and in control of their health, they worked closely with medical specialists: they asked questions at the time of diagnosis and after their surgery in order to develop a action plan.
Know what questions to ask
Following a diagnosis of melanoma, you will have a lot of questions. In particular, you will want to know what stage your melanoma is at, what treatments are available to you and their side effects, and how often follow-up and examinations are carried out once the treatment is finished. “Not everyone is comfortable knowing all these details,” says Brianna, “but I believe the more knowledge I have, the more tools I have to make an informed decision.”
For her, it was crucial to know the repercussions that her treatment would have on her fertility. “It was a very important element for me, because I intend to have children. So I decided to freeze my eggs before starting treatment.”
The genetic characteristics of your cancer are also something to consider. The most common genetic mutation is the BRAF mutation. About half of melanoma patients have this mutation. Following their surgeries, Brianna and Geneviève learned that they had the BRAF mutation. The discussions they had with their respective doctors at that time gave them a better understanding of the steps to come. “Having known earlier that this test existed, I would have asked for it when I received my diagnosis. Your genetic characteristics can guide the discussions you have about your care and shape what happens next,” says Brianna.
Establish your support team
“Many people feel lonely after receiving their diagnosis or undergoing surgery. That’s why we created the Save Your Skin Foundation, so that melanoma patients have somewhere to turn. Putting together a strong support team and being as informed as possible will help reinforce the feeling that you are in control,” says Kathy Barnard, founder of the Foundation.
Your family members, your friends, as well as your medical team are all examples of people who can form your network. Brianna, for example, relies on her mother and close friends to help her take notes during her medical appointments, while Genevieve’s team is made up of her husband, her doctor, her nurse and even a psychologist at his clinic. “I have a good support team around me and I got all the relevant information,” she says. Everything I need to defeat my melanoma is in my toolbox.”
For help and information about melanoma, visit tapsave.ca. You can watch the latest educational video hosted by Kathy Barnard.
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