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Josephine’s Story – Touched By Melanoma Stage 4

When Melanoma Patients Australia (MPA) invited me to participate in the ‘Touched by Melanoma’ initiative to share my story as a Stage IV Melanoma patient, I pondered these questions…

What is my story? What do I want to portray? What do I identify with? What is the essence of my melanoma experience?

In considering these questions, I noticed my first temptation was to describe the roller-coaster process, the wounds that I had encountered, and surviving the trauma of Melanoma. The trauma of hearing “It’s Stage IV Melanoma” for the first time and that sudden realization I could no longer take ‘living’ for granted.

To also share of the numerous difficult discussions around options and treatment off and on for months, enduring many adverse effects and my bodies resistance to drugs, the remaining scars from surgery, being cleared and facing recurrence twice, and being progressed on to targeted drugs and thinking is this my one last hope.

Whilst there is no doubt what I have shared above is very much part of my personal Melanoma story, the questions encouraged me to think deeply about other very powerful parts of my story.

Then I realised how much I have learned in the past three years and now know about myself, having survived Stage IV Melanoma. Who I was. Who I have become. Who I am becoming.

For me, whilst the medical aspect of Stage IV Melanoma is a critical and important part of the process, it may be surprising to hear, that it is a small part of my experience and only a partial view of my story.

The majority of my experience is a process of self-discovery and actualization, which for me, has been in a quiet and introverted way.

Things such as, coming to terms with the loss of my identity as I knew it to be and regaining an identity that feels so much more me…

Surrounding myself with the trusted and enduring relationships of my family and friends who I had supported in understanding how not to define me by my cancer, which understandably happens as they are also dealing with a myriad of feelings…

Realising what is most important in life, what I hold most dear, that things are just that – things…

Unleashing my resilience and my uncompromising will, strengths that I thought I may have had but had never been tested in this way…

Being present and able to still laugh and enjoy life in the face of adversity…

Turning up my voice, asking questions although It was a challenge sometimes to not be fearful about asking them with potentially a tough answer to hear…

Being clear and honest firstly with myself, and then with this hard-earned clarity, with my support network about what I needed and who I needed to get it from…

Meditating daily, creating a synergy between my heart and my mind and opportunities to pause, slow down and disconnect from the outer world…

And finding the courage to let go of outcomes understanding that the one thing certain about melanoma is the uncertainty.

I am a private and somewhat reserved person and for most of these three years, my experience has been something that, until now, I have not wanted to speak of openly for many reasons. As I become my new self, my truer self, I admit that I’m more okay with sharing my experience than I thought I may be.

I have overcome some seemingly insurmountable odds and hurdles both physically and psychologically and achieved the outcome that every patient hopes to hear but sadly not everyone does. (I had a much-loved Aunt who was not able to experience my outcome and she has become a big part of my inner strength.) For me, it came at a time when I didn’t even think that may be possible.

My desire in sharing my experience is to honour myself and others who have been challenged by Melanoma and as such send a message of hope in being understood.

You, like me, are not alone in dealing with Melanoma. I have come to know the MPA is an organisation at its core, which cares deeply about people. All of us in the melanoma community are at the heart of what they do every single day. I would like to thank MPA for the invitation to contribute my story and for providing a platform and support network for myself and other people facing the same challenge, who may also choose to share their voice, in their own way, and in doing so, be heard, give hope, strengthen and support.

 

 

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