Q: So what's been happening this week?
A: Yesterday afternoon I had a plastic surgeon cut a two and half inch gash on the side of my face.
Q: That sounds awful. Why?
A: It WAS kind of awful. I found out last week that I have skin cancer- a basal cell carcinoma- on my right cheek. Yesterday I had it removed.
Q: How did you find out about the skin cancer?
A: I was at my yearly checkup with my dermatologist and she has been keeping an eye on a mole-type thing on my face. It wasn't dark, it wasn't a pimple or a rash, just this thing that hung around for over a year on my face, never really bothering me. It was tiny. She took a biopsy and it turns out it is cancer.
Q: Why do you go to a dermatologist?
A: My mom had skin cancer when I was a middle schooler but has never had a recurrence, thank God. She had the terrible kind that can kill you. Since she had it, I am at a high risk for skin cancer, so I get to be examined from the top of my head to the tips of my toes every year.
Q: But yours can't kill you, right?
A: Right. Just causes "tissue damage and deformity if left untreated."
Q: So it's not a big deal, right?
A: Well, right. I have a 99% chance of being cured by yesterday's procedure, which is a very comforting statistic. But it's still cancer, right? But clearly it's nothing like the cancer my dad is battling. I mean, come on. This is trivial. But in a way it's not... now on every health history form I fill out I have to put that I have had skin cancer. I've never had a serious health issue of any kind. No medicines to take, no specialists (except for the dermatologist) to see. I proudly wear the Invincible Armor of Youth. I'm a healthy, hearty young woman. Right? RIGHT? But I guess I went from having cancer to being cancer free in the space of a week. And I should be all set.
Q: It's too bad it had to be on your face.
A: Yes. This would suck so much less if it wasn't on my face.
Q: True dat.
A: The incision is much bigger than I thought it would be. The cancer itself was about the size of a pencil eraser. But he had to cut a wound into an elliptical shape so that he could sew the two sides together into a straight line that wouldn't pucker when it's all healed. The doctor told me, "When you are older you will have wrinkles here and no one will see your scar."
Q: Did that make you feel better?
A: No, because I am now only 38 years old and do not really have any wrinkles on my face.
Q: Did he say anything else that was funny?
A: Yes. When he was about to start cutting, he asked, "Do you have any last words?" and I said, "Goodbye, perfect cheek. I have loved you for 38 years..." and then the doctor said, "Okay, that's enough."
Q: So it sounds like you've been kind of sad about this. How have you helped yourself feel better?
A: The 24 hours has been a Gorge Fest of Chewy Chips Ahoy, Hershey's Chocolate Eggs, "Hoarders: Buried Alive" viewing, and hours trolling Pinterest for Home Decor and Organization ideas.
Q: Has that helped?
A: A little.
Q: So what's your next steps?
A: Well, I can't bend over for a week, leaving me to squat doing laundry and loading and unloading the dishwasher, I can shower starting tomorrow, and my stitches come out next Tuesday. I have to make another appointment with the dermatologist because I have another spot on my shoulder that I am a little concerned about. I am feeling very hyper vigilant about my skin right now.
Q: Anything ironic to report about this whole situation?
A: Yes. As I was being diagnosed with skin cancer, I literally was 3/4 of a month through unlimited tanning at my local salon. I COULDN'T have planned a worse thing to be doing to my skin. COULDN'T HAVE PLANNED IT WORSE.
Q: Were you enjoying the tanning?
A: Yes, I was. I was just starting to get a little color and not feel like a vampire. I love being warm and quiet in the booth. It was very relaxing, but it was clearly horrifying to everyone who knew I was doing it.
Q: Do you regularly tan in a booth?
A: Absolutely not. The last three years I have gone probably 12 times, just in February/ March to help perk me up a bit.
Q: What does this all mean for your sun exposure from here on out?
A: Well, my sun exposure has to be kept to a minimum now and that makes me feel just plain sad. I love sitting out in the sun, swimming and enjoying nice weather. This is a serious change in how I spend my summer months and I am just really sad about it. I know that I can use sunscreen and wear a hat but I will always be wondering if I am doing more damage to my skin.
Q: Well, thanks for talking to me today.
A: No problem.
Q: It sucks to get older.
Q: And clearly you are not even that old.
A: This is most certainly true.