The small wound on my right leg just above my sock would not seem to heal. Blood, scab, scar, repeat- about four times. I assumed that my sock was irritating it, but even after two summer months of no socks, it was still there. I searched the internet with my symptoms. Could be skin cancer.
I had no recommendations for a doctor, so I searched Yahoo and found a local one who got good reviews — a friendly man who appeared to be in his mid 30s. He numbed the area and made a small incision for a biopsy. He explained that if it was found to be cancer, it would have to be removed surgically. The lab would take about a week to make the determination.
And I found out a week later that it was indeed cancer. I didn’t panic, but I could not help but think of my parents who both died too early from cancer. Both were smokers and had it in the lungs, and I’ve never taken to nicotine. My entire colon had already been removed due to pre-cancerous cells, and a pouch from small intestine built in its place. You’re never prepared for the psychological effects of major surgery, I discovered. And there’s no guarantee of the results.
I scheduled the operation to take place in the doctor’s office. It would be simple, as it was explained to me. He would remove the tumor that was underneath the skin, then check my leg for remaining cancer cells. If there were any, he’d have to use the scalpel again to dig deeper.
My leg was propped up and anesthetized. Working alone, the doctor made an incision and then cut something out, which to my surprise, he put on a tray and then placed on my lap, the dime-sized tumor in my view. I said nothing, but found out later that this is not a usual step in the procedure, and raised concerns about my doctor’s skills. I waited for the determination to see if he’d have to cut deeper, and after a period of time, within the hour, he said the surgery was over. He stitched me up with about 10 stitches and my skin was rough and bumpy. I was given bathing instructions, and applied Vaseline on the wound until my next visit when the stitches were removed.
Since then I’ve read that removing cancers sometimes causes the body to allow undeveloped cancers to grow. I look at the wound now, 6 months later and there is what looks like a bruise that is the size of a large half-dollar. Did I have any option but to remove it? I wasn’t given any. I just hope that having it removed was not a mistake. If I cough, I’m sure it’s the beginning of cancer. A pain in the back of my head surely must be cancer. In time, the symptoms dissolve and so do my fears, for the time being.
When you’ve watched both your parents slowly slip away into the morphine world of inoperable cancer, the trauma never really leaves. The word “cancer” can mean death to you, no matter where it is. You can’t help but see yourself there in the bed, following the footsteps as your breath diminishes.