The Burning Scar

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 A few years ago, I had a malignant melanoma and am extremely fortunate it was cut out and removed. That happened on April 19, 2001, and my doctor, Dr. Kenny Barraza, did a wonderful job with the wound.

It has healed magnificently.

Yes, I have a scar on my back — it’s a pretty sizable one, too, but it isn’t that noticeable. Nor are the scars from the nearly 75 moles I’ve had removed as well. Dr. Barraza does wonderful work. The external scars have faded. The internal ones? Well, they have taken longer to heal. Having cancer kicked off a round of anxiety in me that affected me for years. It, too, has faded but I still battle fear from time to time — for that and other reasons. Yet I am not a victim. Far from it. I am lucky and blessed.

But I’ll be honest — it took a while for me to develop that attitude.

Today? I am grateful. Very grateful. For instance, I am grateful that treating it was as simple as removing a chunk of my back. I am grateful that it had not spread, and I did not require further treatment. I am grateful that Amy was able to keep things together while I fell apart. I am grateful that it provided opportunities to help others become aware of the disease and get screened and treated. I am grateful to still be alive. Melanoma is like the crack on your windshield — catch it early and you’re good. If it is allowed to spread, you lose more than your windshield.

Eighteen years ago, I said if I could live 10 years, there’d be a cure. I was wrong. There’s no cure — but there are several treatments that show promise. Advances in immunotherapy will be the magic bullet (in my non-doctor opinion) but for right now, the best thing you can do is get screened and, if one is caught, get it cut out early. If you have a funny looking mole that is black, two-toned, irregular in shape, large, bleeding or itching — get it checked.

Early detection is the key.

There are long chunks of days when I don’t even think about the scar on my back and what it means. There are days when I am not grateful and I don’t see a sunrise. But most days I do realize how lucky I am. We all die of something. I am just glad that I have been given 18 more years of life. I have watched my boys grow up and I now know they’d remember me if my cancer came back and killed me. I also have been able to get life insurance to protect them and Amy.

My scar burned this morning. It hasn’t in a while so it surprised me. I guess the good Lord was just reminding me that everyday is a blessing.

It’s something we all should remember.