The billboards in Grand Rapids, Michigan went up today. The beautiful people on the billboards this time are those who have melanoma or have died from melanoma due to tanning bed use. One person in the US dies from melanoma each hour. Each hour! The pain and destruction this disease causes long after that person is no longer here is almost impossible to fathom. So many grieving families shattered by a disease that may have been prevented by staying away from a stupid tanning bed. I would give anything if I had known.
But I didn’t know, so now all that’s left is to try and share my experience with others, by tapping into that deep well of emotion, digging deeper and deeper, hoping that somehow I can explain this place I’m at. Exposing the things I try and shove down. To help someone who is really struggling with their situation. Whatever that may be. To know you aren’t alone in this.
There are things that may be helpful to keep in mind when someone you know has lost a child. Below is just a glimpse into the window of a grieving heart.
When you ask me how I’m doing, and I reply that I’m fine. I’m not. I lie to you. I’m not sure you can handle the real me. The real “me” died with a melanoma cancer diagnosis. I’m grieving the loss of innocence for the life I had planned. (I’m a planner so this is especially difficult). So I protect you, and I protect me.
Before Jillian died, I blogged about The Face of Melanoma, and how a person with Stage IV melanoma can look as if they are healthy. It is much the same with a person in mourning. They wake up, they go to work, participate in life. You probably wouldn’t know that they are bleeding inside. You can’t see it, unless we feel safe enough to tell you about it. But even then, we are very cautious with whom we share our “pearls”.
When we celebrate a holiday or a special event, there is always that empty spot at the table. Mother’s Day is coming up. A toughie, and the white elephant is lurking about. We will always grieve that empty spot, and wonder what this occasion be like if you were with us.
I think we need to slow down. Slow down and feel. Appreciate the ones that enter into our lives and get to know that person. They may be hurting in some way we can’t even imagine. Our life is a story. Who’s going to tell our stories once we are gone? How will the world know we were even here? Each of us has gifts that have been given to us. I believe we can all use those unique gifts to make a difference in this world. How can we help to make this one wild and beautiful life a better place? Only you know what that is for you. Oh, God. We have to make this count. Because we only get one chance at it.
As May, Melanoma Month approaches, many of my melanoma friends will be involved in projects sharing melanoma awareness. I’m excited to see what they have planned this year. We CAN make a difference. And because of you, and all of your generous donations toward the billboard, we are doing just that.
In 2015, it is estimated that there will be 73,870 new cases of melanoma in the United States and 9,940 deaths from the disease.
Could this really happen to me? Yes. It most certainly can.
~Peace and love
Billboards will be displayed in Grand Rapids, Michigan:
April 27-May 31, 2015
I-196 .3 mi E/O Chicago Drive SS Facing East
US-131 .5 mi S/O West River Drive WS Facing North