Cancer is a scary word

Last Friday 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 for the weekend at noon. It was 11:53 am.

I knew what this call concerned and I was a little scared to hear what someone was about to tell me. On January 25 I had gone to the dermatologist to have two scary spots on my body evaluated. An ARNP did the examination. She found a few spots that looked potentially suspicious including a spot on my back just below my left shoulder. I was unaware of this spot but, she biopsied it and the two spots that were making me anxious. So,  I called and asked for, Josephine, the nurse who had called me.

Josephine answered my call and 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 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, even over the phone. 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…I heard her say something about the possibility of the surgery leaving a dome-shaped scar. At that point my mind had switched to: I don’t give a fuck if it leaves a scar shaped like 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 the most worried about. Two doctors ago, about a year and a half ago, the doctor told me that spot was a broken capillary. My first thought was, bullshit. But, she was the one with the medical degree. I’m glad I continued to doubt her analysis.

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 with every slice that piece gets taken to the cancer lab at Orlando Regional Hospital in downtown Orlando and it gets examined immediately. The next slices are coordinated between the doctor and the biopsy reader. The procedure takes at least two and a half hours and it 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 a very unsettling thing. I’m still processing this information and I’m sure that the day before my first surgery, which is March 25, I will be very anxious and probably not sleep much. The spot on my chest gets removed exactly a week later on April Fool’s Day. If only this were an April Fool’s joke.


This is the spot on my right hand the day before I went to the doctor and had it biopsied.