The “Ugly” Side of Melanoma

We often don’t talk about the “ugly” side of melanoma especially in its earlier stages.

You may think I am talking about the stitches and the scarring being “ugly” but honestly it is much more then that. Yes, the surgeries can be somewhat disfiguring and for someone who doesn’t have the best track record for scarring I do have my fair share of battle scars. I am starting to look like a road map and I am doing my best to give purpose to each new scar.

The “ugly” side I am referring to isn’t always obvious to outsiders. The “ugly” side I am referring to is the emotional aspect. Having to comfort and hold your crying 12 year old the night before surgery and hear him say to you “Mom, I just don’t want this to keep happening to you. I don’t want you to have surgery again. Please let me come with you so I can know that you are OK”. Having to hug your very brave nine year old who is telling you (while convincing himself) that “you’ve got this Mom. It won’t be so bad”. Holding it all together while you yourself are scared and nervous all while trying to be brave for your family. No matter how many times you reassure your family and tell them that they have “caught it early” once again, they still worry–a lot.

No matter how strong I try to be or think I am, no matter how much I try to use humor and reassure my boys that I am stronger then a super hero, I am still their Mom. Nothing about this is normal. Sitting in front of your kids at dinner with thirty stitches on your face staring back at them and trying to act “normal” is not easy. Going out in public with them and seeing them observe people staring at your bandages, at your scars, being asked questions by strangers “wow, that’s quite a gash, what happened?”.  That is the ugly side of melanoma even in its earlier stages.

With each biopsy, with each set of stitches comes a new worry. Will this be another melanoma? Will I need surgery again? How many more times is this going to happen?

With this latest melanoma I am trying to embrace my new scar as being “badass”. I continue to use humor and to respond to strangers questions with “I got into a fight with my dermatologist” or “if you think this is bad, you should see the other guy”. I am strong. I am brave but every time I walk past a mirror I am reminded that melanoma is and always will be a part of my life.

For every person that has ever told me “at least it’s just skin cancer”, I promise you they have not been handed a mirror by their surgeon to see a hole the size of a ping pong ball in their cheek (no picture of that I promise!).  To see your husband looking at that hole and trying to smile and tell you that you are beautiful and no amount of scarring will change that. Nothing about that feels good.

I want people to understand how important their skin is and to never take it for granted. It is after all, the biggest organ in our bodies. It may not seem important to apply sunscreen every single day. It may not seem like something you need to worry about. It may not seem like something that will ever happen to you. It may be incredibly challenging to apply sunscreen to your moving, wiggling, fighting kids BUT I am here to tell you that those few extra minutes each day spent protecting your skin or your kids skin can make a HUGE difference later in life. That healthy glow I felt after our trips to the beach or after my sessions in the tanning bed. NONE of that was worth this ugly side of melanoma. NONE of it.

I know the scars will fade and as the old saying goes “time heals all wounds” but right now things are fresh and a bit “ugly”. If I can make a difference in peoples lives by sharing my journey and get them thinking about their skin and how they can prevent and detect skin cancer early, then these scars will be given purpose and make this “ugly” side much prettier.


11 Responses

  1. katja

    very moving and poignant. Hope people listen. It takes time to fade the emotional scars, much longer than the physical. Keep strong

  2. Shannon M

    T, you are beautiful and you are a badass. Melanoma won’t ever take that from you no matter how much it may try. Ugly is not even on the spectrum of possibilities for you, and you are making a difference. Every. Single. Day.

  3. Hoda M

    I love your humor Tracy and I know you are so incredibly brave. I am sorry your boys have to go through this but honestly they’ve got one heck of a mama and I know they know it. I love that you share these stories however painful and personal they may be. It certainly has made me much more aware and I know there are many more like me out there that you have impacted and will continue to impact. Lots of hugs friend.

  4. Lacie Abell

    Great job, and though I am a bit “further down the road ” with seven diagnoses and eight surgeries, (and a couple decades) I can encourage you to keep making a difference in the lives of, not only your precious children, but in the world around you.
    I honestly thought I would not live to see my children get through eighth grade, but here I am, a happy, fulfilled Grandma, artist, wife and rancher. Live YOUR life…ever single day.

  5. Libby Kistler

    You ARE making a huge difference, Tracy! Thank you for everything you are doing to raise awareness of melanoma & the hope for a cure. Those photos & your words tell a powerful story of commitment, bravery & inspiration.

  6. Mom

    My darling daughter, I just read your blog and it really touched a nerve. You are my youngest child and the thought of you having to go through this terrible journey breaks my heart & wish I could take all away from you and I would gladly change places with you. I know this is impossible however, know that your Dad & I will always be here for you. We are so proud of your strength and helping others and raising awareness for this important cause. We love sweet Tracy ?❤️

  7. Crystal Pilant Wilson

    It’s a struggle every day just to get out of bed. I have stage 4 melanoma so many surgeries so many scars so much damage to our hearts our bodies and our souls. I had a softball sized brain tumor removed from my right frontal lobe that was malignant melanoma. After that everything else they’ve done to me has been how do I put it? Anti climactic. I feel your pain. Xo

  8. Hi Tracy! I just read your blog and I too try everyday to educate people about our journey with as one or many have said to us at least it’s just skin cancer blows my mind to still hear it! Because for whatever reason people actually don’t realize there’s no such thing as at least when it comes to cancer! Once melanoma metastasizes into the body! I had “melanoma in my breast so many times they had to eventually do a mastectomy! It’s also in my lungs and my abdomen! I’m stage 4 melanoma! So now it’s not just skin cancer! I have my share of ugly scars on the outside as well! My battle scars have a significance because like you I choose to use them when I’m looked at strangely to educate! Especially children because they have a reason to be ignorant and sadly I can’t say that for adults! But I figure if God chose me then there’s a reason and that reason is to do as you do and educate! You’ve inspired me to start my own blog to use it as my forum to tell as many who want to learn about it! So thank you for that! I wish you the best my sister by disease! I will pray for your strength for your positivity because I believe that is the best single thing we can do to fight this disease! Stay positive! I pray your young kids will use what you as a family are going through to educate their friends as well! God bless and thank you for taking this negative and turning it into a positive by saving lives each time someone who doesn’t know reads your blog!

  9. Margaret Hayward

    Thank you so much for your blog. I have had my fourth removed on January 2 and plastic surgery on the 11, looking very similar 2 yours on the cheek .

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