Skin cancer. It’s the monster under your bed; the boogeyman in your closet. You can’t help but be scared. I know I was.
I’m a dedicated ”anti-hypochondriac.” I do not get sick. When I went to the doctor for a long overdue checkup, I assumed it would be routine. Worsening ”age spots” didn’t worry me. I was a low cancer risk with my Mediterranean coloring. I wasn’t expecting it when I was told I had skin cancer and I’d need to see a dermatologist immediately.
Tip # 1 : Run, don’t walk, to your dermatologist if you have any change to any part of your skin. False alarms are forgiving. Undiagnosed skin cancer is not!
Needless to say, I was floored. I called the first name on my insurance company’s list of approved doctors and was horrified to find that their next available appointment was in 10 weeks. My conscience told me I deserved this for waiting 15 years between doctor visits. I mentally began making final arrangements and planning my last words. I knew I couldn’t wait 10 weeks. When I called Dr. Carranza’s office in Humboldt, Tennessee (the next on my insurance list), I must have sounded as bad as I felt. The kindly receptionist found a spot for me to come in the next day.
Tip # 2 : Don’t cave in to guilt. Call around and find a doctor who will see you right away. Feel free to cry. It works wonders.
Fear is a formidable opponent. To confront yours, come to the battle well-armed. Knowledge is power. There is a wealth of it at your fingertips. Particularly useful resources are skincancer.org and mayoclinic.org. Most types of skin cancer have a high survival rating if caught early. Beware the ”horror stories” of those who were diagnosed too late. Fear is cancer’s weapon. Focus on winning, not losing. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and ready yourself for battle. Don’t let cancer take you down, You take cancer down.
Tip # 3: Don’t waste precious energy worrying about what you can’t control. There is much you can control with a double-edged sword of knowledge and willpower.
My biopsy came back positive for squamous cell carcinoma, a non-melanoma form of skin cancer. In less than a week, Dr. Carranza scheduled me for Moh’s surgery, a procedure where the cancer is surgically removed and examined under a microscope until the margins of the skin are cancer free. It took about two hours, with two breaks of about 20 minutes while the doctor performed the lab work. Two years later I am still cancer free. The monster under my bed didn’t eat me. I won’t tempt him again. When was your last checkup?