Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Before I Knew...

Do you ever feel like a certain memory is retrieved all too often?  Like it's been seared on your hippocampus and will never fade away?  I have that.  I have that with a specific memory that was encoded in my brain right after my first melanoma diagnosis.

I know why it's been brought back to the surfaces of late.  It happens when the big sunscreen kiosks are assembled in the markets and drug stores.  It happens when spring is coming, when summer is here, when the wide variety of sun screens are laid out in public.

Right after getting the phone call about my first melanoma, there was a period of not knowing all things melanoma.  I knew this was serious, but I was still in shock and had not researched this disease to the end of the internet..........yet.  I knew I was terrified. I knew life was different than before this phone call.  I knew I was going in for surgery.  But, there was a lot I did not know.

The month was May.  It was hot;the humidity was upon us.  I was getting ready to go to Field Day with my daughter's kindergarten class.  I took a fresh canister of spray sunscreen out to the front steps, sat down on the top stair, and started spraying my feet.

I pushed that button down, watched the mist fall onto my feet, some drifting into the air.  I watched my feet become shiny and wet from the amount of sunscreen being applied.  And I couldn't stop.  I wouldn't stop.  I held my finger there and refused to release.  The thought going through my head while engaging in this strikingly out of the ordinary behavior was, "If I just keep spraying this sunscreen on my feet, this will all go away and I will be ok."  

I'm sure I knew intellectually that that was nonsensical thinking, but in that moment, with spray filling the air and tears streaming down my face, I felt the depths of desperation and needed to DO something.  

And so I sat there, spraying until there was no more spray to force out, knowing that this would not change the outcome, yet needing to feel I could take some form of action, that something could be done, that somehow this would make things better.

This was before I knew...
...that aerosol sunscreen sprays could be flammable.

...that there is a risk of inhaling this substance.

...that when given a melanoma diagnosis,  it is a lifelong deal.

...that this disease is such a beast.

...that my whole world would be permanently altered.

...that almost 6 years later, I would still have this memory retrieved every time I see sunscreen kiosks.

...that I would be able to turn something so scary into a positive thing!!!

So yes, each time this memory resurfaces, I catch myself saying, "What the fuck was I thinking."  But I know exactly what I was thinking....that I just wanted to be ok.  And today...I am ok.

What the Fuck Was I Thinking
By Jenny Owen Youngs

Do you have a surreal experience to speak of? Please share...


  1. As I await the results of my digital 3D mammogram, I transport myself to another time and place. Clutching an oversized, open front greenish gown in a 2 by 4 changing room, my mind takes me to a nursery and I am holding one of my babies,rocking and singing on a glider which has long since been sold with the rest of the baby furniture. And here comes Dr. Hanson. She thanks me for making the trip from Florida to Virginia to see only her and she says, "Everything is fine." I sigh, offer thanks to God and go about my business....until the next year when I will do it again.

    1. Beautiful, Meryl! And I'm so glad you got to hear the words, "Everything is fine."!!!!!!!!!!!