Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Staging Debate: An Analogy

Note: This post is not intended to reflect my views on gun control or gun owner rights…it is to merely serve as an analogy to make my point.

A gun was pointed right at you.  The eyes of the gunman were wild and stared into your soul.  You glanced at the gun and saw his trigger finger curl.  Then there was the deafening sound.  There was no way you could completely dodge the bullet. 

There are a few scenarios that could have played out from this scene.  Let’s count them down from worst to best.

4. The bullet inflicted a severe wound and you had an 85% chance of dying.  The internal damage was extensive and you likely suffered a painful death.

3. The bullet inflicted significant damage to a major organ and you were in intensive care and watched closely.  You still had a 60% chance of dying.  If you didn’t die, the recovery process was slow, painful and expensive. 

2. The bullet hit no vital organs but you were still hurt quite significantly.  You may have gone through rehabilitation and suffered permanent scarring.  Chances are that you lived, but you may have limitations later in life…not only physical, but mental and emotional.  The image of your experience will never go away.

1. The bullet hit your arm or leg, but didn’t cause major damage.  You required some minor surgery and ended up with scarring, but there was no danger at loss of life.  You will, however remain emotionally scarred.

0. The bullet barely grazed you.  You had no physical evidence of being hurt except for maybe a scratch, but you may wake up from your sleep with nightmares of your experience.

Of these five results, would you claim that any is not a victim of an armed assault?  My guess is no.  Whether you died or you were barely touched by the bullet, the morning headline would still most likely read, “One Person Shot.”  You would indeed be a victim.

So why is it that someone with Stage IV melanoma (who has only a 15% chance of surviving) is deemed as a melanoma warrior or survivor, but those diagnosed Stage 0 or Stage I are told they can’t be considered the same?

Sure, the higher stage diagnosis involves a LOT more heartache, pain, treatment and money spent.  No one would ever dispute that a Stage 4 warrior suffers far more than a Stage I patient.  But anyone…ANYONE…who is told “you have cancer” has seen that gun barrel pointed right at their chest.  They’ve seen the wild eyes of a killer face-to-face.  They’ve realized that they have a very real chance of something going very bad.  Perhaps hearing those words…”you have cancer”…is what defines a warrior.  It’s what defines a survivor.

There is one difference between the analogy comparing an armed assault victim to a melanoma patient.  The gun victim may never have to experience such an encounter again.  The melanoma warrior has a 1 in 3 chance of the melanoma coming back.  And in the case of my low-stage diagnosed brother, it came back to kill him 6 years later.


  1. Thank you for this. I was diagnosed with Stage 1 in May 2013. I still have difficulty considering myself a survivor, much less a warrior. But, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about melanoma or my chance of getting it again. Often, when I tell people I had melanoma, I don't think they even get it, which in effect perpetuates my thoughts about being less of a survivor or warrior.

  2. Great post!! I was also thinking of something to add. The "witness" - being a family member/loved one. In all reality, not one person gets out unscathed.

    Great post, might need to share that one :)

  3. Thanks for this. I sometimes feel awkward inserting my lowly stage 3a diagnosis into conversations about survival. Not to mention, I do some media work here and there, and have been turned down for campaigns because I wasn't cancery enough. It seems obvious that most people don't understand the nature of the disease, or how it affects someone who has it.

  4. Thank you for this post. I was diagnosed with Stage 2a and have trouble considering myself a survivor. What people fail to realize is that we have that gun pointed at us every day. Everyday before I leave my house I have to put on my armor. I then have to put more on several other time that day. The clothing I buy is bullet resistant. I check myself for bullet holes often and have someone else check every three to six months. I have to worry about my children being shot at. I tell people that I have melanoma and they say "Thank God that it was only skin cancer". People only have an understanding if they or someone close have been shot. You may have the bullet removed but you have a 33% chance of getting shot again.