A re-post from March 2016
I`m a secret ginger. When I was a little girl playing soccer with my transparent legs, I can remember applying foundation (pre self-tanner days) to anything that was exposed. Along with being a very expensive way to be something I wasn`t, it also didn`t work.
To this day I have tried to tan my pale skin in sun beds (argh) and have tried every self-tanner under the sun. I have even gone as far as having my own spray tan station set up in my garage (picture things built with duct tape).
Throughout my life this has been a constant hinderance of mine….up until today — today I have learned to embrace my skin and it`s amazing, amazing properties. Skin is a miracle, our bodies are a miracle. We are sitting inside this miraculous packaging that defies science every single day.
What brought about my awareness of how amazing my being is and how my disregard for it has been a supreme injustice was my diagnosis of melanoma.
How ironic, Melanie has Melanoma.
How could this be? I’m young, I have young children. This can’t be. But it is…. All the years I spent trying to make my skin into something that I felt was aesthetically pleasing to the world came crashing in on me. As I’ve grown older I have learned to appreciate the beauty in other amazing bodies but still had struggled to fully embrace my own.
Hearing over the phone that it was not good news, that I have melanoma is a blur. I didn’t know the questions to ask, I actually sounded like a bumbling idiot. All I can clearly remember is talking myself into keeping my voice steady and to sound strong. I was not going to let them hear me cry, I am brave and strong, after all. How ridiculous, how unrealistic. The real thing to do would have been to cry, to say not me, are you sure, but I have pride and that did not happen….yet.
After I put the phone down, I cried, I crumbled. In my head I hear — you’re overreacting, it will be ok. But my being knows that this is a wake up call. This is my body saying that it is tired of being hated, it is tired of being the proverbial “red-headed step-child”, another irony.
Insert hilarious red head pic here**
Following this, the sudden shame set in. The shame of not being strong enough, making bad choices, not being healthy enough, not being enough in any way. Why am I ashamed, I am going through what so many other people before me have, so many that I have never judged, never held them to blame for their bodies coup d’ etat. I also loathe being treated differently than others, another reason I dim my own light. I am working through this through writing, this writing right here, this is the turning point for me. I am going to be accountable to myself here, where I know there are sound minds weighing in. Where my own personal shaming isn’t acceptable.
Then came the next call, the Cancer Center, it was all happening so fast and yet so slow. This is where my voice in my head lost its authority. The lady on the other end had such a loving, kind voice, I fell into her phone lap. I let her cuddle me with her soft words. I let a stranger tell me through her voice that her heart was breaking for me. The wall came crumbling when she asked who she could contact if I wasn’t able to be reached, my only reply, after a pause, was — that’s interesting (trying to talk so slow so that my shaky voice would go unnoticed). I used to know who I could put down, I used to put my husband, but my husband hasn’t been my husband for 5 years. It was time to let go, to put someone else down, I fell apart. Who are my people now? My mom. Please put her down but don’t contact her, because I don’t want her to know. My mom, my rock, is dealing with so much already. She has had her life turned upside down and sideways with her spouses battle with cancer. It has been too much.
Fast forward to my mom calling me on her way home from work. I made sure to check in with her to see if she was in a good place before I decided to drop my diagnosis on her. She seemed good and strong but it crushed her. I wanted to take it back from the air when she cried out. I regretted it instantly, how could I do this? After we both cried, we became strong again. I’m young, I have children. That is what I will live for. That is what I am meant to live for, not my shame of transparent skin or strawberry hair. I see this lesson and I am meeting it head on. I am still struggling with the oddest shame of being diagnosed with the “c” word. I will work through that and journal where I go with it. I never once looked at someone with cancer and thought they should feel shame for what has happened inside their bodies, never once.
Why is that where I went?