A health class I took just to meet a college credit requirement might have ended up saving my life. Everyone in class was assigned a different virus or disease to research and give a presentation on: mine was skin cancer.
Because of this, when I found a mole on my right shoulder three years later, I knew I needed to get it checked out. It had asymmetrical, uneven borders, was larger than the end of a pencil and had a black dot in the center.
Less than a week after a dermatologist removed the mole, the results came back positive for cancer. I was diagnosed with Stage 1b melanoma. Since then, I've had over 20 biopsies and 8 surgeries and my melanoma has come back twice.
Although I'm currently "cancer free", I feel like a cancer patient more days than not. I struggle with survivor's guilt, anxiety and depression. For a long time, I felt lost and alone. Is this really what the rest of my life was going to be like?
Cancer takes a lot of things from us and the most significant losses I experienced were a sense of feeling safe in my own body, feeling a sense of control over my life, and a sense of my identity. There was nobody in my immediate circle who could relate to my experience so I began to build a community through instagram, connecting with others living with and after cancer.
These connections gave me a voice again. I began to share my experiences and educate others on skin cancer and how to be sun safe. There was so much I didn't know and I wish I could take back all the mistakes I unknowingly made. Through the the Melanoma Research Foundation, I become became a melanoma educator to spread skin cancer awareness, teach cancer prevention and advocate for mental health resources in healthcare and trauma recovery.
I also started a podcast called Company You Keep to share inspiring stories of those who have overcome adversity to live their passion and purpose and I created a #mindovermelanoma collection with Humble Beast Lifestyle to highlight the importance of prioritizing mental health in the cancer journey.
As an Impact Melanoma Champion, I'm dedicated to helping support their mission of Improving Melanoma Prevention through Awareness, Care and Teaching. I'm grateful for their partnership and support in helping me reach my own goal of installing sunscreen stations in my local public parks. No tan is healthy and no tan is worth it but we can make it safe to spend time outside.
Through my trauma, I truly believe I've found my purpose. I would be honored if you helped me make an IMPACT.