Who hasn’t heard this word and have it send shivers down your spine. We all know what it does, what it can do. To many, including myself it’s a death sentence. To some, it’s a bump in road of life to be beaten. When you’ve had as much cancer in your life with loved ones and the outcome is always death, then it seems like a death sentence.
I just had my first up close and personal brush with the monster myself. I’ve waited 2 long weeks to talk about it. I didn’t want to mention it, in fact I’ve tried really, really hard not to think of it. But who can not think of it when it’s up in the air with uncertainty?
I’ll start from the beginning which was just a few short weeks ago, just before Christmas. I had this place pop up on my face just about overnight, it seemed. It was raised and looked like a nasty whelp. I get all kinds of weird little rashes here and there, I’ve got crazy sensitive skin so I didn’t think much about it at first.
My family was celebrating a late Christmas together and I showed my dad. Of course, he was concerned, rightly so, because my mother died 6 years ago of skin cancer. I asked Daryl, my husband, what he thought it looked like and he said, just a whelp or rash. My aunt even said she had one on her leg, so I wasn’t too concerned… yet.
It didn’t itch, well maybe a little around the area but not like a rash. It got bigger, quick.
Then my husband noticed.
He never notices anything. He even said “you ought to go have that looked at”. It’s more red and bigger. Well, if he notices something then it must practically be waving at him. It’s in a spot incredibly hard for me to see very well. So, I made an appointment with my doctor.
I got in within about 2 days. The doctor didn’t know what it was. He said skin cancer doesn’t usually grow that fast because of course that’s the first word out of my mouth. He thought it was ringworm. Right. Okay, I’ll do the 10 days of ointment, even though I knew it wasn’t ringworm.
By the time the 10 days was almost up, it wasn’t clearing up the problem whatsoever. I knew it wasn’t ringworm! So, I thought proactively and knew if I called the doctor you know how they are, they’ll say “Well come back in and have us look at it again” only to say “We’re going to have you see a dermatologist”. So I skipped that part.
That Monday morning, I called a dermatologist in my network and as luck would have it, got an appointment the very next day due to a cancellation. I thought to myself, this is falling into place a little too nicely. It can take months to get into the dermatologists, at least that’s been my experience. I kinda saw that as a sign.
I’m kinda big into signs.
I saw other things as signs, as well. My dog, Zoey, is my shadow all the time, but lately she has been extra clingy like she sensed something. I would bend down to see if she would sniff the whelp, you know like a cancer sniffing dog might? I had visions of her trying to nibble it off. Yes. I went there.
I saw my vivid dreams as signs. I dreamed a lot of big cats. A cougar or mountain lion a lot and most recently I had a very real and intense dream of a black leopard. I read up on spirit animals hoping for some insight. I always have wild and crazy vivid dreams, but now I thought they must carry more meaning.
So I went to the dermatologist. I was a little shocked that they asked me to remove my clothes, I thought they just would look at my face, but they wanted to do a skin cancer body check. Okay, not a bad idea I thought. I barely got that silly little paper night gown on before he walked in. I had a little of a hard time understanding him talk, he wasn’t from around here.
He looked me over rather quickly and then my face. He looked at it for just a second and said I’m going to do a biopsy. Okay I’m thinking, I had no idea what was involved but I figured another appointment and a big ordeal.
But the next thing I knew, he was wiping my skin with alcohol and sticking a needle in the whelp! I didn’t have time to think or even be scared. It just happened. The needle pricked a little, about like a Novocain shot but it wasn’t all that bad. It went numb quickly and I see him taking a swab and rubbing over it. I see a tiny bit of brown on the swab and thought he must be scraping it a little. I felt nothing. Let me tell you, there is a reason there are no mirrors in the exam rooms.
He put on a little round bandaid the size of a nickel and said a few things about tests and vacation and off he went. I mean really, I don’t think I saw him for more than 10 minutes. Not that I wanted to sit around and wait. I had to go pick up my son from school, so I was glad for a quick appointment. The assistant or nurse, I’m not sure what she was but she was in there the whole time with me explained to me that they would be out of the office the following week for vacation and I would have to wait two weeks to get results! I about fell over. Two weeks!!!!?? What the hell?
I left, and picked up a prescription to put on it until it healed. The rest of the night went in a blur as most school nights do. You know, pick up, homework, dinner, clean up, showers, bedtime and the day is over in a flash. No one even noticed the bandaid on my face.
Later that night, I was about to get in the shower and I removed the little bandaid thinking I would see the same whelp I’d been looking at for sometime. Holy shit! He carved a rectangle out of there! I about crapped on the floor right there.
I had no idea he was removing flesh! Was he digging for gold?! I was amazed that I felt no pain. It was just the teensyiest bit sore, probably just from the shot. Then reality kinda set in. I showered and thought about what had happened that day. How would I last two weeks without going mad to find out the results? I started to get really emotional, like that’s hard for me anytime… hah.
I did fall asleep that night finally with a little help.
The next morning it was a snow day. Great. I remembered getting a paper from the dermatologists office when I was trying to recount what had happened in there. I found it folded in my purse, and then I read it. Imagine my shock when I see that one little word, we are all so familiar with these days. Malignant.
Of course I Google’d it. Malignant neoplasm. Yes, that was the worse thing I could probably have done. I’m looking at these horrible images of huge gashes in the skin, eyeballs bulging out and falling, huge parts of faces missing. I had to stop. All these clinical photos of these poor people in doctor’s offices. I thought I’d look for a real life situation, a journal type thing, like my blog. I searched a while and I really couldn’t find a blog or personal recollection of it anywhere. Not good, I thought. Maybe no one survived long enough to write one?
Just a side note. When we found out Mom had cancer, she only lasted 4 months.
Thoughts of worry entered my head. Who would raise my son? He needs his mother! I’ll miss everything! If I die, I’ll be around him always as a ghost, I’ll never leave. How will I guide him through life? Will he remember me? Will Daryl just let his mother raise him how she wants? I didn’t want that. I worried about my dad. How will my dad take it? I’m like the last of his family just about, close relatives for sure. I wonder how I’ll look in a casket? Will it be open casket? Will my paintings be worth more money after I’m gone?
I thought of making an eye exam appointment. I’m due for a checkup and because I thought I remembered reading where ophthalmologists are the first to detect cancer sometimes.
These are the thoughts that I was thinking. Each passing day, more bizarre thoughts came and went, I didn’t share them with anyone.
Then a bit of depression set in. I had a pity party. Especially since not many people knew and so no one really asked me how I was. Yep, I was feeling sorry for myself. By Saturday, I sulked on the couch wrapped up in my comfy blanket and watched tv all day. I wistfully watched my son as he went about his normal weekend play. I would hug him longer and more often and was incredibly weepy which made him look at me as if I were crazier than normal.
But, life goes on. There is still things I have to do. Dinners to make, school, homework, housework, etc. etc. all mixed amongst my feelings of sorrow for a life shortened with the inevitable death from cancer that I was surely about to be bestowed. Would I make it to my 45th birthday in April? Would I have the strength to garden this year?
My thoughts went to a guy I knew from high school, John, who just lost his battle with cancer last week. A story I’d been following from a distance as I didn’t really have a connection with him other than being schoolmates and fellow humans. He was a year younger than I am, and sadly left a new baby, toddler and a wife. Another creative and talented musician, gone. Look at all the talent recently who have died to cancer in just a short time, Glenn Frey, David Bowie and Alan Rickman. They always come in three’s Mom always said.
A friend of mine and art collector, Deborah Marchand, lost in December. I was stunned to see her casket on her Facebook page a week after I had seen her in person, at my art show no less. She had an intense love for gardening, photography and women’s lib and we had much planned for this year. I wondered if she was standing around me or waiting in the gardens for me to return to in the spring. I feel the loss of a great friendship that was about to begin. I’m still brought to tears thinking of her. I didn’t get to say goodbye.
I began to take a renewed interest in palm reading. I looked for my life line and tried to remember if it were shorter than the last time I went through a palm reading phase. I once went to a psychic that told me I’d have a very long life. I wondered if that were still true. Can’t you change the outcome of things by choices we make? I don’t know. Maybe it is all planned out. Maybe not.
I tried to not make a big deal of it. I continued to put on the ointment and it began to heal fast. Just this past weekend I noticed that it felt smooth and I stopped putting the ointment on. New skin had filled in the rectangle that had been cut out. It was tender, pink new skin. Up until the end of last week, I was still wearing a bandaid to hide it. My son had told me it looked gross and I should wear the bandaid. He’s nothing if not honest. *sigh*.
I somehow made it through the two weeks and just this morning, Monday morning at 9:15 am I called the dermatologists and asked for my lab results fully prepared for them to tell me they’d have to call me back since they were on vacation the week prior.
But I was wrong, she looked up my account on the computer.
A rush of relief spread through my body like I had taken a shot of whiskey. I thanked her and hung up. I wondered why I hadn’t gotten any dreams or signs from Mom or other friends and loved ones telling me it was going to be alright. Maybe they knew it would make me think they’re waiting for me and my mind would go off on another tangent. Didn’t they know it already had?!
So here is today’s photo. Just a couple hours after the call.
Here’s closer look. It seems a little bit is growing back, I wonder if it all will.
I hope it doesn’t grow back, it was pretty ugly. At this point though I’m so relieved to know it’s not cancer I’ll worry about how it looks later. I have plenty of brown sun spots to try and cover, what’s one more pink spot?
I’m going to pick up a new prescription in a day or so and in two weeks apply it for ten days. Why, I have no idea why I have to wait two weeks unless something got lost in translation on the call. I had a hard time understanding her as well however she was very nice.
So that’s the short journey for now. There is no profound lesson to be learned from it. I hope I have nothing but good to report in a few weeks. Time will tell, I guess. Zoey must’ve just been hovering around me more because she sensed I was stressed. She’s such a good girl and has undying love.
I never told Asher (my son) what was going on completely or of my cancer scare. I told him I had a sore that needed help. Maybe someday if this blog is still around, he’ll read about it when he’s older.
I thought it appropriate since I have a new lease on life… so to speak.
“This Artists Observations of the Day”
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