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I was diagnosed with Melanoma in 2008. I was unaware that the mole on my big toe had the capability to kill me. I got my skin checked because a client had called to tell me she had melanoma. She had just been thru a lumpectomy dealing with breast cancer. The last thing she wanted was to talk about cancer again. She called me, in part, because she knew I would support her with humor instead of pity. She simply needed a witness. I got off the phone and a voice said, "get your skin checked. This is a sign".
I recalled getting a facial as a gift the year prior. The woman had checked my skin and said to keep an eye on it...meaning this mole on my big toe. I dismissed her warning and left. Later that night, I scribbled her warning on a card. After my friend had called, I asked my husband to give me the number to his dermatologist. A week later I had my appointment.
The dermatologist said, "you really dodged a bullet"; "wow! you are so lucky you came in when you did" and," I Iost a 32 year old to this last year". These dramatic words made me want to literally punch him in the throat. I had never been spoken to in that way and it terrified me.
I had a dream that my test results were positive. My husband reassured me that it was just my nerves. The office called and said I needed to come in to speak to the doctor. This is always a bad sign. Everyone knows that if it's "negative" they will tell you over the phone. I braced for the worse. Luckily, we caught it in the first stage. I asked the doctor to tell me in plain language how long I would have had if I had not come in when I had. "18 months" he replied. "18 months".
The stories of neglecting my skin floated thru my mind -- going to a tanning bed for sessions to prepare my skin for prom at 16 (being tan meant feeling pretty) -- the smell of my skin burning -- listening to 80's music wearing little eye goggles and a thong -- lying on a silver sheet in my backyard covered in mineral oil -- bubbles on my chest -- putting an aloe plant on my skin and getting burnt in Jamaica at 19.
Reflecting on the history of my skin and now raising daughters and thinking about my wishes for theirs', inspired me to write this poetry. I wrote it while laying in bed for a month recovering from melanoma surgery. I wondered about the inner monologues of how we all relate to our skin, how we share it with others, when we betray it and how we honor it. Thru writing about my wish for my daughters' skin, I felt a sense of loss that I would not be able to protect them, and that they would have their own experiences and stories beyond a mother's love.