I can’t tell you how many times I have read someone’s CaringBridge site and thought, What a great testimony! Reading about the suffering of other people can be very inspiring. It puts life into perspective. I have been fortunate so far in life; my suffering has been minimal. The sad thing is, when I faced the possibility of suffering, I failed miserably. When I was diagnosed with stage 2 melanoma, this is what a post on my CaringBridge site might have looked like.


Good morning, this is Trent here, writing for Brenda. She isn’t doing well. It’s been a long week for her, and there are just five more days until her surgery. Our family is on vacation together, but she is not having fun. I catch her staring off into the distance, instead of engaging with all of us. She has hardly eaten anything this week. She is paranoid about the sugar content in everything, convinced it will feed the cancer growing in her leg. She won’t step outside the cabin into the sunshine, except in the evening. She cried herself to sleep last night, and I am quite certain she only got about two hours. I don’t know how to help her. She says she is trusting God, but there is no evidence of that. I believe she knows in her mind that God is in control, and I know that she longs for heaven, but for some reason, this diagnosis has put her in a tailspin. It’s easy to see that she doesn’t like us to talk about it. Today we are heading back to the cities to meet with the surgeon. He will be explaining to her what he saw in the report and what he will be doing for her next week. We will continue praying that the cancer has not spread to her lymph nodes. 

Well, that is just lovely and inspiring, isn’t it? I don’t know if that is what my family saw in me that week or not, but it is what I felt. I could not get my mind to imagine anything but the worst. I was refusing to live in the moment, and all I could think about was a future that might be riddled with sadness. I have wasted a lot of time in my life, but that is one week I wish I could have back.

My Story

About 15 years ago, I was sitting on the beach with my sister, and she noticed a small mole on my toe. It was small and perfectly round, but she commented to me that I should really check it out. She had already had some ‘bad’ moles removed, so I went to the dermatologist. The doctor removed it and informed me that it was in situ melanoma. Some doctors call it stage zero melanoma, and some call it pre-cancerous. He recommended that I start having skin checks once a year. No biggie, so I complied.

Maybe five years after that, I went in a few weeks early for my yearly check-up to have another mole removed. This one was just like the other one, on my toe and perfectly round. I had noticed that it was getting darker.

They removed it and discovered it was a stage 1a melanoma.

They went in and cut as much as they could around the area where the mole had been. Since it had been on my toe, there wasn’t a lot to work with, but they needed to make sure that the borders were clear where the cancer had been. I cannot tell you how excruciating it was to have skin pulled from other toes to stitch up the hole. It is the only time in my life I have ever taken painkillers.

I was put on a six-month skin check schedule, and I will admit that I was a little freaked out. Shortly after that appointment, my dermatologist moved to Missouri. Finding a new one would not be easy. I bounced around a little trying to find one I liked, but I couldn’t find one that was as good as my previous one.

In the spring of 2017, I noticed a weird little mark on my right leg. It almost looked like a tiny birthmark. I have a bazillion moles and age marks, so I wasn’t certain this was new, but I felt uneasy about it. I called and made an appointment. It was about a six-week wait, but I wasn’t super worried, so I booked the appointment.

In late June, I went in and saw yet another new doctor.  She was annoyed with me for some reason. She barely looked me over, and when I pointed out the spot I was concerned about, she said to me,

“We don’t need to be paranoid about every little summer freckle.” 

I was so humiliated. I quickly got dressed and prayed she was right. Sometimes I have a hard time making a doctor’s appointment because I don’t want to feel like an idiot. Well, I felt like an idiot, but I shouldn’t have. She should quit practicing medicine because that mark was the beginning of another melanoma.

Two weeks later, at my son’s wedding, someone pointed to my leg and said, “Ouch, is that a bad bug bite?” Sure enough, the little mark had turned into what looked like a bite that had scabbed over. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it. Over the next few days, I convinced myself that I had just bumped it, or maybe it had been a bug bite all along. I certainly didn’t want to make a fool of myself again by making an unnecessary appointment.

When I woke up one morning and saw that it was waxy, I knew I had a problem.

Naturally, I went straight to Google and say that it looked just like basal cell carcinoma. That was strangely reassuring because that isn’t quite as scary as melanoma.

I call for an appointment and agreed to go to any clinic and see any doctor They squeezed me in the next week. When the doctor came in, he took one look at it and said, “Yeah, that’s coming off.” He agreed it looked like basal cell, but also said it could be several other things. I left there not feeling very concerned. That week, waiting for the results, went by quickly.

In the past 15 years, I have had many moles removed, so I know the drill. It gets removed, and then a week or two later the nurse calls and says everything is fine. When I got the call a week later, it was a doctor. Not the doctor who removed the mark, but a young female doctor. I immediately assumed it had been indeed basal cell. I was wrong.

It was melanoma. Stage 2 melanoma.

 I heard her say something about surgery and lymph nodes. Lymph nodes? That is NOT good. I was not paying attention to anything she was saying. Honestly, all I heard her say was that someone would be calling to schedule surgery.

I called my husband, but I don’t remember the conversation. That same night, we went to my son and his new little bride’s darling apartment for dinner. They surprised us with the news that we were going to become grandparents.

I didn’t sleep that night.

I couldn’t believe that I might lose my life over the insecurity of making an appointment sooner. I left a message for the doctor the next morning and, unselfishly, she called me back from her home that day. She went over everything again and tried to help me not to worry. (She quickly became my new and fabulous dermatologist). I felt a little better and tried to focus on the vacation we were heading out for with our family. But by the next day, there was nothing positive left in my head. I wasted that vacation. My thoughts went straight to the negative what-ifs.  Would I ever get to meet and enjoy that sweet little grandbaby?

To wrap this up, the surgery showed that there wasn’t any cancer in the lymph nodes. I behaved no better while waiting the two days for that phone call either.

It’s so pathetic and embarrassing, but maybe it has prepared me. It sure gave me some insight into the strength of my claws and what they cling to. It’s one thing to know and believe something, and quite another to live it out. My words don’t always match my actions.

Nine months later my dad lost his battle with cancer. He fought the disease, but he never fought having the disease. The last days of his life emulated perfectly everything he ever claimed about his faith in Jesus Christ. I want a story like that.