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Network Health Blog

My Skin Cancer Scare

Beach Skin Care

I was a child of the 80s. I could lay in the sun for hours. I’d grab my reflective mat, baby oil, a boom box loaded with a Rick Springfield cassette tape and I was good to go for the day.

Now, 30 years later, I wish I would have opted for sunscreen instead of baby oil. I’m fair skinned and I burn, but a day or two after, I had, what I thought, was an amazing tan. Years of sun exposure without protection is not good for anyone, especially me.

It all started with a tiny scratch on my neck. When I say tiny, I mean the size of a grain of rice. This thing just wouldn’t heal. I noticed it seemed to be getting bigger and knew something was wrong but chose to ignore my instincts. I let it go for about a year before asking my doctor about it during my annual physical. She said, “Debra, you need to see a dermatologist as soon as you can.” That didn’t phase me.

Finally, I made an appointment with a dermatologist. The doctor took one look and said “We need to do a biopsy.” He suggested doing a full-body check. That’s when they found another spot on my forehead. After two biopsies, they were both positive for basil cell carcinoma (skin cancer). I was shocked. Cancer is a scary word in any context.

The best course of treatment for me was an outpatient surgery called MohS. It has a 98% cure rate. I don’t know why, but I chose to wait a while before scheduling the surgeries. I was in denial. I’m embarrassed to say, I was worried about the scars.

A scar on my forehead and neck? No thank you, I’ll pass. Then one day about a year later, my 13-yearold son said, “Mom, do you still have cancer on your head?” “Yes,” I said. His response sparked a change in my thought pattern.

He said “If I had cancer in my body and all I had to do was have surgery to get it out, I would do it.” I thought ‘smart kid’, and he is absolutely right. How lucky am I? My cancer will be gone with two outpatient surgeries. After that, nothing. No further treatment needed. I wish everyone could be so lucky.

I started to feel grateful and called to schedule an appointment the next day. The doctor and nurse were wonderful. I could not have asked for better care. I was fully confident they wanted as good of an end result as I did.

The surgeries were not fun. I had 20 stitches on the middle of my forehead all the way down through the middle of my eyebrows. It wasn’t pretty. When I saw myself for the first time I thought, ‘Wow, I’m going to be one heck of an awesome Frankenstein for Halloween this year.’ Then I cried for two days. I was dreading the second  surgery. Two weeks later, I had surgery on my neck. This time 40 stitches across the front left side of my neck. I wore scarf every day until the stitches came out. I was so worried about people seeing my bandages. I cover my scars even though they look really good for only being a few months out, and I’m still a little self-conscious about them. But, if you see me and notice them, I’m OK with it. I’ve made peace with it. I am healthy and grateful.

If you are reading this, there are two things I would like you to do.

1 – Wear sunscreen and reapply as necessary. It makes a difference.

2 -No one knows your body better than you do. If you notice something strange on your body, have a cut that won’t heal or just think, ‘Huh, this wasn’t there before’ please make an appointment with a dermatologist. It takes five minutes for a body check. If they find something, get treatment early, don’t wait like I did. I would have avoided a few stitches if I would have surgery sooner and I was lucky the consequences weren’t more severe.

This is often a preventable cancer, so let’s take steps to prevent it.

Debra's blog

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