Tuesday, November 17, 2009

the encounter...

is so vivid in my memory, it could have been yesterday. It was a hot day. The sun, which shone directly overhead was bright, and it's rays were intense. It was - by my definition - the perfect day for a suntan. Lying out in the back yard was precisely what I was doing when I heard a solemn "hi sweetheart". Startled by the interrupted silence, I bolted upright and did my best - notwithstanding the blaring sun - to focus on my father's face. He wore a sad look, and in his eyes - I sensed disappointment. I don't remember his exact words, but I will never forget his plea "You know," he commenced, “as a child, I remember literally begging my parents to quit smoking. I knew that if they didn't stop, it would lead to their death. Now, as I watch you bake yourself in the sun, I feel like that same helpless child, but this time it's not my parents, but my own daughter whom I beseech. I can't bear the thought of losing you to something that could have been prevented".
I could only imagine his pain, having lost his father at the age of 25, his mother when he was 35 (both due to a lifetime of smoking), and then just 5 years later, losing the love of his life, his soul mate...to cancer. I can only imagine his heartache, the utter letdown he must have experienced, as he walked back inside - defeated and unaccompanied - while I, in an attempt to even out my tan, rolled over to my stomach.

It started with a mole on my left hand. I don't remember always having the mole, and if I did, I had never noticed it before...something was definitely different about it now. It wasn't very big, but it did have varying colors, and an irregular border...two definite warning signs. For probably a year, I have been meaning to get in to get it checked out. However, for one reason or another, the days, weeks and months passed by without a doctor's visit...and not even so much as an appointment in the foreseeable future. It was one of those things that always nagged at me, much like hearing my father's words of warning; but also, like my father's words, the nagging never led to action...until recently. It was about two months ago. I was in the shower, and completely out of the blue, I received a prompting so strong it scared me. I felt impressed to put everything else in my life on hold (trying to get pregnant, etc), and focus on the one thing that was starting me in the face. My mole. I felt strongly that if I didn't act quickly, it would be too late. Without hesitation, I made an appointment to see the dermatologist. I was afraid of what might happen if I didn't. I had to wait 6 weeks for my appointment, but felt at peace knowing that I had finally - rather than ignore the issue - taken some action. I felt like the ball was out of my court, and all I could do now, was wait. The day finally arrived, and after taking one glance at my mole, the doctor informed me that it would indeed need to be sent in for a biopsy. The mole was removed, and I was on my way...feeling relived, but at the same time slightly uneasy. I had secretly hoped that after looking it over, he would have said something to the effect of, "Well, I'm glad you came in, you never can be too careful...but this mole is perfectly normal. We'll see you again in a year and a half." He did tell me that he was very glad that I came in, but the way it was conveyed, the seriousness in his tone, left me walking away feeling nervous and uneasy. It took over a week and a half to get the results back from the lab. It was hard to concentrate on much else during the 11 days of waiting, but the day finally came. When I saw the doctor's name and number on my caller id, my heart skipped a beat. My shaky hand reluctantly yet anxiously, reached for the receiver, and in a quiver I said "hello?”
"Hello, is this Nicole"?
"Yes, it is".
“Nicole, this is _________ from Dr.__________'s office. I'm just calling to let you know that we did receive the pathology report from your biopsy, and it is in fact, malignant melanoma."
I really didn't hear much after the word melanoma wait isn't that the deadliest form of skin cancer? From the bits and pieces I did catch, I was able to formulate that the melanoma was detected in one of it's earliest stages, and to expect a high cure rate. The nurse gave me the number to a Mohs' surgeon, and told me to wait two days to call for an appointment.
Although I pretty much expected that result, I guess I wasn't really prepared to actually hear that I have cancer - the very culprit (in a different form) that took my own mother away from me. To know that such a vicious disease had invaded my body, or even just a part of my body, was a horribly unpleasant feeling.
Amidst the letdown, a feeling of peace ambushed me. I hung up the phone and burst into tears...but these were not tears of fear, or defeat, they were not tears of hopelessness or despair...they were tears of gratitude, tears of love and appreciation for my Heavenly Father. A Father who despite my weaknesses, despite my disobedience and lack of cognizance to his pleas and warnings, sent me something so powerful, that I for one could not ignore. I fell to my knees and thanked Him for His love. I thanked Him for his warning. I thanked Him for not giving up on me. I don't feel like it's my time to go. I feel like He still has work for me to accomplish on this earth. I like to think that, at least for the time being, He needs me here, not there. Maybe I have lives to touch; perhaps there are people who will touch me. My children need me, my husband needs me, and even more importantly, I need them. I'm grateful that I finally listened, that I stopped ignoring, that I took action, and that because the cancer is in it's earliest stages, it's very hopeful that I will be cured...completely.
My thoughts drift back to that hot summer day, in the back yard with my father. Although I don't remember the exact words he spoke, I can still hear the supplication in his voice...the desperation in his eyes.
I often wonder why I didn't listen to him that day. Oh I heard what he said. His words reached my heart, they moved me alright...so much in fact, that I've never forgotten that encounter. But why wasn’t I moved to action? I can't count the number of times I've laid out in the sun since that day...always my father's desperate words ringing in my ears. I wonder why we sometimes have to be so stubborn. Do we really think we know what's best for us? When those who are older, and wiser, and who have much more experience, are trying to warn us of danger up ahead...why do we choose to disregard their warning pleas? Do we somtimes think we are the exception? Do we think it can't or won't ever happen to us? Do we think that we're stronger than that? Or that we will continue to be protected and watched over, when we continue to make unwise choices? When we hear of other's sad stories...the tragedies that could have so easily been prevented...why isn't that enough? Why do we insist on finding out for ourselves...the hard way? Why are we so often wrapped up in the now, that we fail to contemplate the lasting effects...how might this - my choice, my action now - affect my family, myself, and my future?

This whole experience has truly humbled me to the dust. It's sad that it took a giant scare for me to finally change my attitude about the sun. You will no longer find me spending hours lying out by the pool, or in the back yard. No more telling my husband that I have sunscreen on, when really it's suntan oil with a sun protection factor of 6. This experience has caused me to take a step back, to reevaluate my life and my priorities. Having a tan is not more important than being a mom, and a wife, and a daughter, and a sister. It is not more important than being able to live and to breathe. Nothing is worth sacrificing the precious gift of life that I've been given...the opportunities to grow, and learn, and laugh, and love.
My hope now, is that I still have time to make a change…that the Lord will give me the second chance that I’ve been hoping and wishing for...that my story might bless someone else, and maybe even inspire another life or two.
If perhaps this is the case, it would make it all worthwhile.


Kelly and Jill Burk said...

This is so profound Nicole. You will be in my thoughts and prayers. Thanks for sharing your "encounter" with all of us. And know this Nicole, you have touched more lives than you will ever know. And isn't it something how wonderful the sun can be, can also be so dangerous. It took me a long while to figure it out as well, that sunscreen is good and that we need to cover up.

Sonja said...

Nicole, you have made a difference in many lives and have been a source of inspiration to many. I love you!

My prayers will also be with you. Thank you so much for sharing this experience. I'm so glad they caught it early! I'm so glad you listened to that prompting.

After reading this I scheduled an appointment with my dermatologist. I'm covered with moles and have had a my suspicions about a few weird ones, but have been too busy to get them checked out.

Angela said...

Wow Nicole. We will pray for you and your family...you are so right, those babies and John still need you! So glad that you were able to catch this early...
Please let us know if you need anything!

disillusioned said...

Praying for you!

Mary p.

Shelby said...

Hi There,
I'm a LDS Mommy of three young boys from Canada and I stumbled upon your blog a few months ago and have been quietly checking in with you from time to time. Your life stories have touched my heart. You and your family seem as sweet as can be! Such cute babies you have! You are so strong and I'm amazed at the things you've gone through and you have such an inspiring, positive attitude. I wanted to share a personal story with you, my sister in law (age 36) has recently gone through a simular situation as you explain in your most recent post. She had a small lesion develop on her upper lip and put off going to the Dr. for some time and when she did finally go, she found out it was cancer. It was a very trying time for her. She had the Mohs surgery in June of this year to remove the lesion. She came through with flying colours, healed up lovely. A month later she was expecting a baby after five years of trying without any success. I wonder if Heavenly Father gives us these trials so that we can truly appreciate the many blessings in our lives. I know you will be blessed. You are in my thoughts Nicole. My husband has been putting off a health concern for some time. I have ignored the promptings/warnings of the Spirit to get him to the Dr.(?) Because of your post, I will make sure he gets there! Thank-you and Stay strong!

Shelby said...

Oh yes, I failed to mention that I work at a Cancer Center in Canada, in a melanoma clinic in fact. I see many (tons!) healthy, young patients return year after year for check ups with a melanoma diagnosois. So glad you caught it early!

diana said...


i love shelby's comments above.

you know you're in my prayers. i cried later after i talked to you about the results, but didn't want to worry you. He is watching over you and i'm sure that is the most comforting thought. love you nicole, you have much work to do here!

natalie eve said...

nicole! that is so nuts!

i'm not sure how worried to be... i'm going to focus on the 'they should be able to fully cure it.'

i'm glad you listened to the prompting. Heavenly Father sure is patient with us. i've been reading the conference talks and read the one about love, today. this is something i am trying to work on to be a better mother and wife. to be more patient and unconditional. reading your experience just further proves how much our Heavenly Father loves us and how patient he is with us... unconditionally.

you will be in my prayers.

Amy Eagleston said...

I can't wait to see you next week! I have some awesome self-tanner tips for you! I have always been paranoid of getting wrinkles and have try to avoid the sun for that vain reason :) It was so good to talk to you the other day and I am so glad that you listen to the prompting you received and are now in good hands.

Cormac said...

nic we love you and miss you and know you'll be just fine. you're in our thoughts and prayers thanks for sharing your encounter.

The Heaps said...

Wow Nicole! You will definitely be in our prayers. Your sweet family needs you and I am sure that the Lord will bless with a quick recovery from this!

Ethel Carola Aredes Tapia said...

hola amiga se sin ninguna duda que el señor te tiene guardando grandes cosas es por ello las pruebas tras pruebas que pasas se que es para pulirnos y que de las pruebas hay mucho que aprender
amiga como cosmiatra te digo que la prevencion es fundamental que desde niños nuestros hijos aprendan que el sol es muy bueno para nuestro estado de animo y tambien para la sintexis de vitaminas en nuestro organismo y que tenemos que ser prudente con el el exeso es malo el color bronceado no es mas que una defensa de nuestra piel para proteger el ADN de nuesta celulas
amiga ahora es el tiempo de darle esta enseñanzas a tus hijos y que ellos desde ahora puedan comenzar a tomar conciencia del cuidado y la proteccion del sol de no salir sin pantalla de proteccion sea verano o invierno siempre llevarlo puesto de salir con sombrero para cuidarnos y lentes
amiga te quiero mucho y se que saldras triunfante de esta prueba cuando el cancer lo dectetan temprano se cura lo se por propia experiencia la de mi madre hoy en dia se realiza dos veces al año los estudio y no volvio el mas lo mismo pasara contigo
y como dijiste en la vida tenemos cosas mas importante que un bronceado en la piel
estaras en mis oraciones para vos y tu familia

shannon said...

I just read your post and was so shocked to read about your diagnosis! Thank heavens for the gift of the Holy Ghost. His whisperings have saved many lives. I will keep you in my prayers that all will be well. I would also love to be of any help you might be in need of.

kels&murr said...

Nicole! I am so glad they caught it early. You are so inspiring, I just admire you so much. I work for a surgeon who does MOHS surgery- we see great results from it ALL the time! If you have any questions let me know.

kels&murr said...

Nicole! I am so glad they caught it early. You are so inspiring, I just admire you so much. I work for a surgeon who does MOHS surgery- we see great results from it ALL the time! If you have any questions let me know.

Cormac said...

nic did you give up blogin'?

Dommy Swinyer said...


My sister is Hailey Hood Jones and she sent me your blog. I am a advocate and volunteer for education about the dangers of tanning salons and over sun exposure. When I read your story I was moved I really wish you would go to the Utah Cancer Action Network website and share. Utah.gov will get you to the site. We also are always looking for volunteers to help spread the word if you are interested please email me. MSwinyer@msn.com Melanoma is the most preventable yet deadliest form of cancer and with many voices we will make a difference in the lives of our community. 1 in 5 people will have some kind of skin cancer in their lives, and tanning and over exposure to the sun are major factors. Thanks for your courage and I wish you the best.
Dommy Swinyer