Shifting Perspective After a Melanoma Diagnosis
Sharing our weaknesses and joys can be so rewarding; however, vulnerability can be terrifying. I used to believe that strength came in the form of convincing others I had it all together. Sure, I’ll share my joys and successes, no problem! I’ll go the extra mile, smile at all times, and be the best in the class, share the races I win and be the most put together and organized.
It’s amazing really, the comfort and control you can feel when wearing a mask. My mask was designed to cover my insecurities in myself and my abilities. It was many years before I realized that the very mask that I designed to make me feel secure was the thing that made me feel the most alone. It’s also incredible how alone you can feel in a room filled with people who don’t really know the true you. It wasn’t until God taught me that he didn’t create me to be perfect, that my weaknesses are also beautiful and part of who I am, that I really began to allow others to connect with me and help me on this journey called life. The perfection I tried to portray made me unreachable to others. I began to learn that I…we, have to stop judging our mistakes and insecurities to allow others to help support us.
I was diagnosed with Melanoma skin cancer at the age of 26. By the grace of God, I happened to ask my primary care doctor during a routine visit about a small dark spot on my leg. They immediately scheduled an appointment to remove it and test it. It was many weeks later when I received a phone call. I thought I was in the clear, but no, the nurse practitioner told me she had bad news, I had the most aggressive form of skin cancer. I was shocked and overwhelmed. I had to have two more surgeries. One on my upper thigh to take out a lymph node to test if the cancer had spread. Apparently, melanoma is the one type of skin cancer that can spread down into the skin and into the organs. Thanks be to God that came out clear. Next, I had a larger incision on the spot on my leg to make sure they had a wide enough border to take out all suspect cancer-ridden cells.
I thought I was finally done; however, after this, the surgeons starting removing many more suspect spots all over my body the surgeons starting making excisions all over my body and each time they would say “you know this is going to leave a huge scar.”
In fact, I just had three more suspect spots removed last week. I started to cry one evening thinking, I’m going to be blemished everywhere, my body will be ugly! God, however, responded with the wisdom, what if you stopped calling them scars and started viewing them as survival marks...they went from “gross to Grace”...perspective changes everything!
With Melanoma being the number 1 cancer of women 25-29 it is absolutely crucial to pay attention to protecting our bodies; I wish I had! It is also equally as important to find a community to trust with your emotional scars. Being able to shift my thinking in this one area the metaphor of scars being a sign of strength, endurance and grace, led me to think about other areas of life I was trying to hide behind a façade of perfection. I began focusing my time and attention to being more genuine and open. This lead to finding deeper and richer support in my racing community, church, work and other areas of my life.
In the end, it’s not about how hard you train but what kind of mindset you have that leads to success. There are times I just want to cry or quit but it’s in those moments I remember that it’s only through the power of faith that any large task can be accomplished. After living many years in fear and anxiety that I somehow didn’t measure up, racing has taught me to change my mindset to use the positivity stemming from my faith in God as a force of power to drive me forward instead of using fear for fuel. In this way, I put one foot in front of the other and surpass more obstacles in each race, but more importantly in life as a whole.
I’m so blessed to have found this wonderful company Tri Sirena, that makes it possible to safely continue to enjoy training and racing with people I love.
Written by Lauren Allen, Siren Luminary
Follow Lauren on Instagram @redheadrunner1
Learn more about how you can help raise skin cancer awareness and provide FREE skin checks for outdoor athletes through the Tri Sirena Skin Cancer Association.