Our first suggestion is that you and your support system educate yourselves thoroughly on melanoma and its treatments. You are facing a very vulnerable time in your life and the more knowledge you have, the more empowered you will be and that will help you find peace of mind.
It is perfectly normal to feel scared. Giving yourself permission to be upset will actually help regulate your emotional reactions. Cry and laugh often. It will be especially beneficial if you can confront the issues that upset and frighten you and then process them emotionally. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from either a professional therapist or those close to you and ask for anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication for short-term coping. Mindful meditation and other relaxation exercises are highly recommended.
Many cancer patients are ultimately thankful to be brought face to face with their own mortality, because for the first time in their lives they get their priorities straight. The other challenges encountered in life may seem trivial by comparison. And despite the initial quaking you feel, you will emerge from this ordeal on a stronger foundation than you ever imagined.
Here are 8 practical tips to help you as you start this journey:
- Get a copy of your pathology report. We can help you understand the report and be sure to refer to our section on pathology terms. Ask your doctor: what is my depth, is there mitotic activity?
- What stage are you? If you’d like to figure out your stage, go to: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/melanoma/Patient/page2
- Get a good support person/s to help you on this journey!
- Be sure you are being treated by someone who is expert and experienced in the treatment of melanoma. Check our list here, call our hotline, email us, or ask on the forum.
- Try to arm yourself with good information from scientific sources such as the National Cancer Institute, or PubMed. Beware of internet sites that aren’t scientifically based or do not have the HonCode status.
- Write down questions and answers, or take a tape recorder with you to the doctor’s office. Ask the nurses to help you if the doctor doesn’t spend much time with you.
- Treatments are still experimental for melanoma and if you decide on a clinical trial, there are many more questions to ask, and we can help you.
- Second opinions can be quite helpful for both treatments and pathology, be sure to consider that option.
Source: Poole, Catherine, Guerry, DuPont, M.D., Melanoma Prevention Detection and Treatment, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.
UPDATED: June 6, 2014