If you didn’t know Dawn, you probably thought she was, at best, overly optimistic about her condition, and at worst, completely oblivious to it. The fact is, however, that she was more aware of her fate than any of us and she knew it was just how it was going to be for her.
The Melanoma Research Foundation will give you all the statistics you need about this disease. The following is all statistically speaking.
How many people do you follow on Twitter? I follow just over 1500. MRF tells me that of these 1500 people, 30 of them will develop melanoma. They won’t be alone, because eight minutes later, someone else will be diagnosed, and every eight minutes after that. Every hour, someone dies of melanoma. Another 270 of the people I follow will develop some other form of skin cancer in their lifetime.
Going back to those 30 who develop melanoma, pretty much all of them will survive at least five years if the melanoma is discovered and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes. An annual visit with a dermatologist is the most effective way to stay on top of this. If the melanoma spreads to the lymph nodes, 10 of those 30 won’t survive five years. If it spreads beyond the lymph nodes, 25 of those 30 won’t survive five years.
This is the reality we lived with for almost four years. Dawn watched a mole and the second she noticed a change, she was in the dermatologist’s office. Was she too late? Fact is, probably. Could she have done anything sooner about that one mole? Fact is, probably not.
Fast-forward to her last hospital visit. The tumor in her abdomen was bleeding, and it was attached to the bowel, and we knew in the back of our minds that this might be it. Our oncologist delivered the news that confirmed our worst fears. From that point forward, the hospital didn’t focus on Dawn eating, or really anything else that would keep her from going home. It was obvious they knew, too.
She was home about two weeks when she passed, and she did so with no worries about dignity or accommodation. She had her boys around her and she ended her life how she wanted to within the confines of her physical ability.
She wasn’t oblivious to her diagnosis. She wasn’t ignorant of her fate. She wasn’t happy her life was ending. But she wasn’t going to let that beat her. I said she didn’t worry about dignity. She didn’t have to. It just came naturally for her.