Cancer is a scary word


On Friday February 1st I noticed I had a missed call. I listened to my voice mail message. It was from my dermatologist’s office. The nurse charged with reading test results needed to speak to me. The office was closing at noon. It was 11:53 am.

I knew what this call was about and was a little scared to hear what the caller was about to tell me. On January 25th I had gone to the dermatologist to have two scary spots on my body evaluated. An ARNP did the examination. She looked at those and found a few more that looked suspicious that only required freezing off. One spot on my left wrist, I am convinced, was only a burn scar from a steam wand I got during my many years working as a barista in Portland, Daytona and Altamonte Springs. But, hey, better safe than…. She also found a questionable spot on my back just below my left shoulder. I hadn’t even noticed that one. She biopsied the three scary things. I knew the call concerned those biopsy results. I called and asked for, Josephine, the nurse who’d left the message.

Josephine looked up my results. “The spot on your upper left back turned out to be a moderate dysplastic nevus.” This is a fancy medical term that means, “abnormal mole.” On a scale of 1 to 4, or 5 (I was too nervous to remember) mine was a three.” This is not skin cancer,” she said but, it has to be excised and checked every six months.

I sensed her mood change. The spot on my chest, above my right breast is basal cell carcinoma. “That needs surgery,” she said. I sucked in my breath and my mind swirled as she explained the surgery procedure. She was talking about the steps involved and I was too busy thinking, Holy fuck, holy fuck, holy fuck, holy fuck…I heard her say something about the possibility of the surgery leaving a dome-shaped scar. At that point my mind switched to: I don’t give a fuck if it leaves a scar in the shape of a mini foot sticking out of my chest. I just want this shit removed from my body.

“The spot on your right hand is squamous cell carcinoma,” she continued, “This surgery has to be done first.” This was the spot I was most concerned about. Two doctors ago-about a year and a half ago-my primary care physician told me that spot was a broken capillary. My first thought was, bullshit. But, she was the one with the medical degree. I am glad I continued to doubt her opinion.

Josephine continued to explain the spot on my hand was slow growing but, it was imperative that it be cut out. Again, she explained the surgery steps and how each slice would be immediately sent to the oncology lab at Orlando Regional Hospital in downtown Orlando where it is evaluated. The rest of my surgery is coordinated between the doctor and the biopsy reader. The procedure takes at least two and a half hours and could last all day.

These spots do have a small chance of metastasizing but that is rare. Still, being told you have any form of cancer is an unsettling thing. I’m still processing this information and I’m sure that the day before my first surgery, which is March 25th, I will be very anxious and probably not sleep much. The spot on my chest gets removed exactly a week a week later on April Fool’s Day. If only this were an April Fool’s joke.

In the picture above, that’s the spot on my right hand the day before I went to the doctor and had it biopsied.

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