Editors note: This is Kat's story and is the eighth in the "Cancer - Your Story" series. Kat is a Military Mom from the USA, currently living in the UK. I think this story is very fitting for this time of year when a lot of families are jetting off to sunnier climes, searching for that confidence building tan. It is also something that is covered extensively in the media.
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The Youngest Child
When I say my mother's uncle died of cancer last year most people think, “well if it was your mother's uncle he must have been old and had a long life” and all those other cliche'd things that we say to one another to make each other feel better. Only, my mother's uncle was only forty-nine old. He was only six months older than my mother.
My uncle, Adam, was the youngest of nine children. The baby brother of my Granny; who is the oldest of the bunch. Most families would call the situation strange to have a brother who is the same age as your child, but with our family, it was just run of the mill. It comes with having a large family. My grandmother became more of a mother figure to her brother than a sister. My mom and her uncle were more like cousins. I never once referred to my Uncle Adam as my great uncle because to me that would imply that he was old.
The years of working in the sun (knowing him, most likely without sunscreen) for the electric company eventually caught up to him and Adam was diagnosed with Melanoma, a form of skin cancer. The cancer was quickly removed and his life went back to normal, with scans every so often to assure that he remained cancer free. Then one of the scans came back and it was not normal. The Melanoma had returned and invaded his lungs and other internal organs. The doctors told him with treatment he could live up to four more years. There was a problem with this solution, however. Due to a previously suffered heart attack, the doctors didn't know if the treatment would kill him or help him. He wanted to live as long as possible so decided to risk the treatment. In the end, it killed him. Shortly after the drugs were adminstered Adam started throwing blood clots into his lungs and a couple of days later died.
This happened a little over a year ago and the pain in still raw. The family dynamic has been forever changed. My uncle's wife struggles with family events now. There are just too many reminders of Adam. His daughter and I speak occasionally. She is angry. She doesn't want to speak about it. She is tired of speaking about it. She just wants to be left alone and has lashed out at other family members. I understand her reasons but can't help but disagree with her methods.
Cancer doesn't just affect the person who is sick, it affects the entire family. So think before you go and sun worship, 'Do I want to die to be tan? It is worth it?' Melanoma can be prevented by lessening exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. I am not saying stay indoors all the time, but be responsible. Use sunscreens/sun creams that block both UVA and UVB rays, don't go to tanning booths, and check your moles and freckle for any changes or irregularities. Tan skin has lost its appeal to me. It just looks like a ticking timebomb now.