by Michel Van Devender

It’s the three words I wasn’t expecting to hear (naively, ever) – You have cancer. Well, it is not exactly how my dermatologist delivered the news, but I immediately knew that’s what she was saying. What she said was, “You have malignant melanoma.” 

I vividly remember the day, like it’s seared into my brain. It was Tuesday, November 16, when I received the call. Exactly one month before my 51st birthday. It was in the afternoon not long after I had arrived back home after having lunch with a friend. Much changed that afternoon on many levels, and I’m sure I’ll be processing the cancer diagnosis for a while. 

But in the beginning, really all I could think was WTF! If you know me, you know I’m pretty focused on health and wellness and have been for years. I’ve lived a pretty healthy lifestyle, again, for years. I’ve always been a healthy eater and have exercised since my teens. I’m certainly not perfect, and there’s always room for improvement, but overall, I’m pretty darn healthy. I did tan during my teen years, but haven’t had any tan other than the one out of a bottle since my mid-20s. I only write this to say, you just never really know AND anyone can get a cancer diagnosis, regardless of what you are or are not doing. Oh, and by the way, you also don’t get to choose your genes!

The good news is my melanoma was at the very early stage, Stage 1A. It was caught early and found during my routine, annual body check I’ve been doing with a dermatologist since I was in my mid-twenties. I’m thrilled to report I’ve already had the melanoma surgery, and I am cancer free! The joy and gratitude I feel is truly from the depths of my soul.

I know this post is a departure from my normal blog posts about our home build, design, style, fashion and travel. That’s probably what most of you come here for after all. However, since receiving the diagnosis, I had no doubt I’d be sharing this at some point with my followers. If in doing so, there is one person out there who, as a result of reading this, makes an appointment (or pushes a loved one to) for a body check, a routine check, an annual Pap Smear or mammogram, etc., then I’ve accomplished my goal of raising awareness and helping someone else. Perhaps you’ve been putting off an appointment, you’re overdue. We all get busy and put our health on the back burner. I know I’ve been guilty of this before. Or, maybe there’s something you know you need to get checked, but you just haven’t made that appointment. PLEASE MAKE THE APPOINTMENT! We’re getting ready to begin a new year, set aside the time and make a commitment to yourself. At the end of the day, your health and staying on top of it is super important. 

Also, it’s important to be aware of your body and any changes you may notice. Do your monthly breast examines! Do a body check! For me, I’ll be doing monthly skin checks at home, and eventually, seeing my dermatologist every six months for checks. For the next year, I have to go every three months. You better believe I won’t be missing any of these appointments! If you have any of the risk factors for skin cancer, as I do, awareness and routine checks are key. If you’re not sure or don’t know what to look for, check out the Skin Cancer Foundation for details and specifics. I have an excellent prognosis because my melanoma was caught early. 

I plan to write more about melanoma at a later time, but for now, PLEASE stay on top of your body, your health and your preventative healthcare appointments. Again, be aware of your body and any changes. Do all the things you need to do to take good care of yourself. It could make all the difference! For now, love, well wishes and healthy vibes to each and every one of you!!! Happy last week of 2021!!!



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