If you remember from my last post, on January 2nd I was sent home from MOHS surgery missing the entire tip of my nose. On January 3rd, I went in for surgery to reconstruct my nose using a forehead flap. It was radical! I looked so strange...like a monster.
I hid in my room for the first three days. More so because I didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but then something happened. Something told me to post a picture on my Instagram account. The response was amazing. Day by day I became more confident and realized this skin cancer thing needed to be talked about. I needed to be completely transparent and share this journey. If I could get just one person to listen to me, it would be worth it.
For three weeks, I lived with this awful nasal flap, but I kept sharing pictures and all of the ups and downs. Because the nerves had not been severed yet, if I had an itch on my scalp or forehead, I had to scratch the tip of my nose and skin flap to relieve it. It actually was fascinating. I had my rough moments though. I had days when I cried, but my husband always picked me up. I cried the day of the Miami Marathon, because I wanted to be there so badly, and couldn’t see when I would be able to start running again. Being in the sun made me nervous.
On January 24th, I had my second surgery to remove the flap and close the open incisions. I remember becoming overwhelmed with emotion as I sat in pre-op, thinking about the entire journey and realizing I was actually getting through it and was stronger for it.
Two weeks later I began to run again, and haven’t really looked back. I ran my first short distance sprint several weeks ago, placing first in my age group, and registered for the Space Coast Half Marathon in November. My big one though will be in Miami, at the Miami Marathon in 2019. I will celebrate one year of being cancer free (with a new nose, I might add) when I cross that finish line! I owe it to everyone who has lifted me up through this journey. I don’t think I would have had that courage without the support from my husband and family, my close friends, and incredibly, my new Instagram friends.
Most of us think of skin cancer as something that can be just burned or sliced off our skin. That is just not always the case. It can disfigure you or even worse, kill you. Since sharing my story, I have learned of many people whom I know who have lost a loved one to skin cancer. It’s rather shocking. I have also had countless people send me private messages on IG and FB about their stories of skin cancer, their recent diagnoses, and their fears.
It is just so important to understand that nobody is immune to this disease. Prevention and self-awareness are key. We are our biggest advocates when it comes to our health. Yearly visits to the dermatologist and frequent self-checks of your skin could save your life.
For us runners, triathletes, and other outdoor athletes, we are so good about taking care of our health. But so often neglect it by not considering the damage we are doing by not protecting ourselves from sun exposure. That is why I’m so happy I found Tri Sirena apparel! Finally, something I can wear that I can be confident will help to protect my skin on those long training sessions in the sun.
Day by day I feel better and more confident. Things are healing beautifully and I’m back to doing all of the things I love. Life is a blessing! We only have one of them, so be bold, be confident, embrace your inner beauty, and always remember to take care of your health!
Written by Karen Monda
Follow Karen's journey on Instagram! @karen_monda