| Don't let this happen 2 U |
I don't (often) get on the soap box, but there are some days I'm just too grateful not to.
This week: my annual skin exam.
Sixeen years ago I was diagnosed with melanoma. Skin cancer. Ultra-bad skin cancer. There are a lot of "fortunatelys" in my story. Fortunately, I'd been paying attention. Fortunately, I went to the doctor to have it checked out. Fortunately my doctor, however unimpressed with my small lesion, trusted my instincts over her own. Later my doctor told me, Well, you just might have saved your own life. Fortunately, I'm here to write about it.
My skin cancer was caught early. I had blood work, tests, scans. Excisions. Lots of them, my skin's every wart and bauble now eyed with wariness and suspicion. Even that small mole on my shoulder, a lifelong embarrassment, was carved out and tossed to the scrap heap of just-in-case (hooray!). Most were benign. A few were marginal. The soon-gone melanoma left a tidy reminder scar, but I'd dodged the chemo, the radiation, the terminal prognosis.
Eight years later, a lesser repeat. This time, a basal cell carcinoma on my nose. Plastic surgery was recommended. Not being particularly vain (or so I thought), I asked my dermatologist if she couldn't just cut the thing out. She said she could, but I'd be left with three nostrils.
I opted for the plastic surgeon. Fortunately I had a good medical plan.
And I had my friends. One, Diane, understanding my face would be a mess, did what any good friend would do and purchased for me a handy disguise (above), so I could move through my post-surgical days without drawing undue attention to myself. Another expressed alarm as he thought I'd tangled with a raccoon.
Eventually I graduated to a once-a-year evaluation plan. It's no big deal, showing up for that annual appointment to have my physician check me out. It's an important thing to do, but what matters even more is my ongoing vigilance, my routine of keeping my eye out for myself.
I'm lucky. I've always been aware—thanks to a long personal history of mysterious skin outbreaks and a father who had his own skin cancer follies—that I should probably be paying close attention. In fact, when I was in my early twenties I made an appointment with a dermatologist just to talk about my skin, to educate myself, to learn what it was I should be wary of. What I received was a lecture, a Grade-A scolding on how I was wasting his precious time. Sure, he was a jerk. But looking back, I see now how I might have been ahead of my time. I also see how I might have been deterred from taking care of myself, how that one sour experience could have turned me away from vigilance.
Fortunately, it didn't. And because of that, I've had sixteen good years I might not have otherwise had.
This week I received a clean bill of health and a friendly reminder as well—to come right in if a future anything causes me concern.
Now it's my turn to offer a reminder: Pay attention to your skin. It might have some very important things to say.
Nancy Carol Moody
I'm a poet and a letter-writer. Yup, that kind. The kind who uses pens and paper and actual stamps. The kind who will leave the house with nothing on the agenda but to get to the mailbox before the scheduled pick-up time. The kind who understands that technology is a wondrous thing, but nothing quite beats finding a real letter with a real stamp on it amid the credit card solicitations, pizza coupons and seminar catalogs.