National Health Blog Post Month Day 28: Interview a community member
|Anjannette, Tara, and Chelsea on a recent trip to North Carolina.|
I recently met (virtually) and immediately bonded with a wonderful woman named Anjannette from Light Skinned Mother. Anjannette was diagnosed with melanoma over the summer and has recently joined the melanoma blogging community. She was unable to participate in National Health Blog Post Month, so I invited her to collaborate with me on this post. Here's a recap of the conversation we had yesterday.
K: Tell me about your experience with melanoma.
A: I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma on June 15, 2012. I developed a small mole on my neck after giving birth to my daughter. I had it removed because it itched, and the lab work came back fine. Then it grew back. Over a year and a half's time, it grew bigger and itched more. Because it was just a pink "bubble-looking" thing on my neck, I was sure it wasn't anything awful. After all, every picture I vaguely remembered seeing of melanoma were all dark, flat black/brown spots. After the itching got much worse, and after much procrastination and rescheduling of appointments, I finally got back into the dermatologist almost two years later to get it removed. I was called back to have a neck excision due to "abnormal cells" and was called back in again, urgently, two week later. The pathology report from that excision came back as malignant melanoma. It was 2mm deep. I had to have a second and much larger excision on July 13, 2012. Fortunately, the path results came back with clear margins and no evidence of disease.
K: You just started blogging back in October. What made you decide to start writing about melanoma?
A: Several reasons led me to blogging about melanoma. 1) I have always had the need to be "heard", so blogging is something I've thought about doing for a long time. 2) I have always wanted to help and educate others about various topics. 3) I was angry that I knew so little about this awful disease- the one that I ended up being diagnosed with- when I knew so much about other diseases I expected to have one day. I didn't want anyone else to be totally shocked by it. 4) It's definitely been a great form of therapy- an affordable form.
K: The name for your blog, Light Skinned Mother, is so clever! How did you come up with that name?
A: My husband, who is African- American, has a vanity plate on the front of his SUV that reads, Light Skinned Brother. Since having two children, I have been the one doing most of the driving in that car, since it was the only one big enough to tote two toddlers around. I was always drawing strange looks from people walking by, reading the plate, then looking up at me. One day, after packing up my two kids and their stroller into the car, I started to pull off and my sisters commented, “Your tag should say Light Skinned MOTHER, not brother.” And so it began as a joke between my family, friends, and I. I even started using it as my email signature. Light skinned mother took on a new meaning the week of my diagnosis. I had just purchased a much needed car, since mine was 16 years old. I contemplated getting a vanity plate for myself, but wasn’t sure I really wanted it. Four days later, on Friday, June 15, I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. The following Monday, my husband drove us to the mall and had the vanity plate made for my car. A few weeks later, I put the Melanoma Awareness frame around it. I truly have to be a “light skinned mother” now. So, I now wear the name even prouder.
|The vanity plate that inspired the name for her blog.|
K: You recently drove from Florida to North Carolina to participate in the AIM at Melanoma Walk. What was that experience like?
A: It was a VERY quick trip. I left Orlando at 11 a.m., arrived in Charlotte at 8:30 p.m. and got back on the road to return at 12 p.m. the next day. It was SO worth it, though! Friday night I met with a few people from the melanoma community that I have only been taking to online. These people have become such quick friends--no family--to me. They are the only people who really know what is going on in my head on a daily basis. They truly understand how real my fears are and how relevant my celebrations are- for clear scans, benign moles, scars, etc. They understand my guilt for not appreciating the skin I was born in. They understand a part of me that my family and other friends just can’t, no matter how hard they want to, no matter how hard they try. I was comfortable with them. Saturday morning at the walk, I was quickly warmed, despite very cold temperatures, by the people who turned out to honor friends and family members who have suffered and passed away due to melanoma. Families made shirts to announce who they were walking for. There was an entire extended family there with shirts honoring their matriarch that had passed from melanoma. The walk opened with several people sharing stories about the people they lost from melanoma. Their strength and perseverance to still be there and fight was truly inspiring to me. It was an experience I will never forget.
K: Aw... I'm jealous. OK. Last question. On your blog, you write about self esteem for young women, which is something I can definitely relate to. If you could go back and time and have a conversation with your 16-year-old self, what would you tell her?
A: Yes, self-esteem is a HUGE deal for me. I certainly had very little of it, and as a teen and in my early 20’s it was just awful. This blog for melanoma, it is my push, my second chance, at helping others, not only to educate them, but to encourage them to love themselves. You got me with this question. If you were Oprah and we were on the show, this is the part where I would start crying and you would start crying and EVERYONE would start crying. LOL!
K: My goal for this blog is the same. You are my long lost twin separated at birth!
A: Yes! Here is what I would say to the 16-year-old Anjannette: Stop trying to be who you think everybody wants to you to be. You are intelligent. You are talented. You are creative. You have the heart to move forward and make a HUGE impact in this world. Regardless of what you think others expect of you, focus on what you expect of yourself. If you aren’t aware of your own expectations, you will spend your entire life trying to meet the expectations of others. Stop trying to look like who you think everybody wants you to look like. Once you stop and appreciate yourself for who you are and what you have- your light complexion, the dark hair, your ample hips, your endowed chest, those thick eyebrows, the curly hair that people PAY to have- you will see that you ARE beautiful. When you are comparing apples to oranges, one is always going to come up short. Be you. Don’t try to look like someone else. When you finally stop to appreciate the person you are, everything that is beautiful about you will become even more beautiful. You’ve spent so long convincing yourself that you are not pretty and undeserving. When you don’t see yourself as beautiful, you will do anything and everything to stop others from seeing your beauty when they do, which will only confirm your false beliefs of unworthiness. Stop being afraid of reaching for spectacular and ending up at average. You know average. You’ve felt average your whole life. You got this. How could reaching for more and ending up where you are be worse than settling for never trying? At least you will be able to look yourself in the eye and know, you did your best. Trust me, you are destined for greatness, maybe not in the way you imagine, but greatness nevertheless. Your biggest obstacle will always be you. Get out of your own way.
Feeling inspired yet? I sure am! Go check out Light Skinned Mother, or follow Anjannette's adventures on Facebook.
This post was inspired by the Day 28 prompt for National Health Blog Post Month.
View posts by other participants.