By Patricia McAdams, Staff Writer, Nevus Outreach
Megan Fields, Director of Development at Nevus Outreach Inc.
Megan pays a visit to Nevus Outreach in Oklahoma.
Megan Fields, 33, splits her work week between teaching public speaking at the University of Tennessee and serving as Director of Development for Nevus Outreach, Inc. But her most important role, perhaps, is serving essentially as a role model for the young people in the Nevus Family and showing them that they absolutely can have a full and happy life and they can thrive.
Fields’s connection with Nevus Outreach dates back some 11 years to when she happened to go to a Memphis mall to grab lunch before trying on some bridesmaid dresses with her girlfriends.
“When I went to order, the girl looking back at me had the same spots that I did,” says Fields. “Her name was Erin. We just kind of locked eyes and immediately knew we had the same thing. Erin told me about Nevus Outreach and I couldn’t wait to connect. And, as cheesy as this sounds, it has changed my life emotionally since I have found this organization.”
At first, Fields says it was all about being fulfilled herself and understanding and bonding with others. But those feelings have evolved to the point where she just loves being able to give back. “I believe in God and I believe I have a role here, taking what was given to me and now giving back.”
And giving back she does, joyously. With her bubbly personality, ready smile and hugs, she is like a mother hen gathering the little ones onto her warm and welcoming lap whenever they get together.
“I found this organization when I was 22, but I don’t want anyone to have to wait that long to know that they are not alone. Facebook, in particular, has changed the way our organization is thriving, because it is connecting people across the country and even around the world. When someone new registers on Facebook, I get that notice and say, ‘Hello. I’m Megan. I’m an adult with a nevus I would love to answer any questions or be a support for you...”
Growing up with nevi
Fields’s early years are probably predictable and similar to that of other children born with a congenital melanocytic nevus. Her giant nevus was on her back and she had at least eight surgeries between the time she was six months old and 10 years of age to remove it. Interestingly, she does not remember the pain from these surgeries.
Instead, she remembers a few positive happenings surrounding these events. One time, for example, her dad had hand surgery and she had back surgery at the same time. The nurses put them together in the recovery room, so they could support one another. Another time, her mom arranged to have Fields’s ears pierced during surgery. “When I woke up, my mom bought a mirror in front of my face and she said, ‘Look, honey.’ I looked and I was so excited!”
In 1978, though, when Fields was born, her parents were told that all her satellite nevi had to be removed, so they removed about 10 larger satellites from her legs, a large one on her head, and then, of course her back. "It's different today," she says. "So I was butchered a little bit. And then all these new nevi came up, anyhow.”
But living with spots is wearying and Fields is tired of being stared at when she goes to those outdoor music festivals in Knoxville, or when she goes to WalMart wearing shorts in the summer. On the other hand, she’s tired of covering up, too.
“It’s draining to be hot when you wear jeans in the summer,” she says. “I never try to cover up and my parents didn’t either. If you don’t like me for who I am, even though it might hurt a little bit, I need to move on.”
Dating has been an adventure, she says, but she’s on Match.com and having so much fun. And while there are some men she has met, whom she suspects were not okay with her spots, no one she has ever dated has rejected her because of her skin.
Some healing strategies and coping
While Fields’s giant nevus is gone from her back, the procedure was done with grafting. The result is a back “mangled,” she says, with persistently itchy scar tissue. When she was 15, however, she discovered a wonderful massager/vibrator that she gets from Brookstone, which she depends upon for about 15 minutes four to six times a day to provide some relief.
“So the itching sucks,” says Fields. “It sucks. But I manage it with humor, the vibrator, and some anti-depression drugs. I also sought outside help to manage the emotional strain that comes from not only being different, but managing a chronic condition like this. I’ve never even slept through the night, because of the itching. But you just deal with it. You gotta move forward.”
Fields can’t say enough about seeking the help of a therapist to help manage the emotional pain that comes with having a nevus. The real intense therapy came at age 29 and 30 and took a full year of weekly talking to access the emotions she had buried so deeply inside. This repressed anger derived essentially from hiding how she was feeling and always putting on a smile, no matter how she felt.
“When it all came out it was scary as hell, because these were things I never allowed myself to feel before and I didn’t even know it was in me. But once I accessed this anger, and then released it, that’s when I started being what I would consider genuinely happy. I want everyone to be in therapy, because it’s so growth oriented.
“Now I just go to my therapist to manage my meds, but I don’t need talk therapy any more. From this experience, though, I learned that we really need to confront anger,” she says. “We cannot deny that this is the reality of what is going on in some of our hearts.”
While Fields is now managing the emotional pain that comes from having a chronic medical condition, she has some lingering physical issues to cope with. Because of the layers of itchy scar tissue on her back, from multiple grafting surgeries as a child, she scratches so hard with her vibrator — and also by grinding her back up and down against her bathroom sink — that she has injured her spine. According to an MRI she had recently, she is at increased risk for a slipped disc and other conditions associated with aging, which is worrisome. She goes to physical therapy every other week to treat her back. In the meantime, she deals with backaches after a long day on her feet teaching, or when she works shingling new roofs for Habitats for Humanity, an activity she is involved with through her Church.
“I will say, though, that itching makes for nice arms,” says Fields, forever looking on the bright side of things. “I have been complemented before on my arms and I think, hmmm. Would I rather have nice arms and itch — or flabbier arms and not itch?”
As difficult as its been to live with nevi and her itch, Fields questions what she would do if and when the new laser to zap off moles and such is perfected and all her nevi could be removed. “I don’t think I would choose to have that laser remove my spots, even if it means that I would have a lesser risk for cancer. I would lose a very integral part of my identity. I wouldn’t know who I am. I definitely would end up back in therapy,” she says laughing, only half in jest. “Still, I always wondered if more guys would approach me, if I didn’t have these spots.”
Fields is grateful to so many people and continually praises her wonderful parents not just for loving her in so many ways and at all hours of the day and night, but for putting her on the swim team and not letting her hide behind her dad’s legs. By pushing her, as much as it hurt sometimes, she says they helped her to grow into the self-assured person she is today.
She’s surrounded by so much love, she says, pointing as well to her amazing brothers and sisters, her friends, her youth group and youth director — not to mention Nevus Outreach and the blessing Mark, Kathy, and their daughter Megan have been to the creation of this organization.
“Only God could have taken something that is so difficult to live with like a nevus and turned it into something so wonderful,” Fields says. “I’ve met the greatest people through this organization, I get to give back, and I’m learning so much. I can’t believe I get to do what I get to do. What a blessing this has been to me.”