Coronavirus’ Silver Lining

Patient Perspective by Bev Barbour, MNC Ambassador

The Coronavirus brought many changes to our world; for me it has led me to The Melanoma Network of Canada (MNC) and for that, I am very grateful.

My journey with melanoma started in May 2019 when I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Thankfully, it was stage 1 so I had a fighting chance. The initial diagnosis was met with my response, “oh well, it’s only a small mole and we caught it early”; I had no clue what melanoma involved. However, I could see the seriousness in my doctor’s face as he said, “Bev, you have melanoma, I suggest you go home and wait for me to contact you with your appointment to see the plastic surgeon; please don’t go on the internet googling, we will take care of you”.

With fear comes anxiety and it had set in; I went home and I googled melanoma. I saw the death rate so I quickly shut it down. Over the next 6 months I went through the whole process of plastic surgeons, surgery, scans, physiotherapy, massage therapy, all while “blindly” following directions from my doctors, who thankfully, did take excellent care of me.

In early January 2020, I saw a dermatologist for the first time where he removed five precancerous spots and I was to return to him in March. I found four more spots in late January so was anxiously awaiting my March appointment. Unfortuantely I was not seen due to the start of COVID-19 restrictions.

I felt overwhelmed, as research on the internet was something I had steered away from and all doctors’ offices were closed so I emailed the Melanoma Network of Canada to share my concern and desperately seeking any advice they could offer.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do but wait it out; however, I did get a sense of peace knowing that I had found a much-needed support system in MNC.

I was invited to join their first virtual melanoma support group during COVID; it was a blessing and an eye opener all in one. When I learned that the province of Newfoundland (where I live) wouldn’t have been participating in their Canada wide Strides Walk due to lack of support, I was saddened and determined to make some kind of difference. We need to raise awareness! I felt people needed to know that prevention and early detection was imperative with melanoma. My question was “how can we raise awareness?” MNC encouraged me to share my story on social media.

Timing for this was definitely on my side as it was May, Melanoma Awareness Month. My first post regarding my journey with melanoma on Facebook brought surprise to some, but prompted questions, which opened the door for me to share the knowledge and  information I had obtained from the Melanoma Network of Canada. I shared daily posts and videos from the Network as well as UV Index’s for the days forecast. A local newspaper shared my story and I did a radio interview on CBC. I was making some headway in getting my message across.

In May of this year, I found another mole that was of concern. My family doctor agreed that we should remove it. At my doctor’s visit, I was greeted with the question of the days UV Index and I smiled knowing he had either read my article in the paper or heard my radio interview. When he informed me that he had removed three moles in the past week, I knew that my message was out there and for that I am extremely grateful! My biopsy came back negative and I pray the others that were removed that week had the same outcome.

My initial call to MNC during COVID gave me the determination and inspiration to help make a difference in the lives of people in my province. It inspired me to share my story with hopes of spreading awareness that early detection and prevention is crucial with melanoma. Working with MNC and volunteers in Newfoundland, we will be Joining teams, and volunteers across Canada on September 20th, taking “Steps to Stop Skin Cancer” by participating in Strides for Melanoma

Knowing I am not alone in this journey, having a network of people on my side who understand the impact of melanoma is a positive in my life and for that I am extremely thankful.

Together we truly can make a difference!

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