Friday, November 16, 2007

When good news is really just mediocre news in disguise

For most of life, my skin and I have been at war.

I recall having blackheads on my chin long before anyone else my age – around 2nd or 3rd grade. By the time I got to high school, I had full-blown acne. I’d get giant, painful cystic pimples that sat under the skin but grew to the size of pennies. Big, red welts covered by jawline almost constantly.

My weapons of choice ranged from everything from over-the-counter Clearasil to tetracycline and Retin A prescribed by my dermatologist. But my most-used and most-loved weapon was the sun.

Every possible sunny moment, I sat outside slathered in suntan lotion with little to no SPF. In the winter months, the tanning booth was my best friend. I visited two to three days a week – just enough to keep my skin a lovely mahogany brown. I don’t believe the sun stopped the breakouts, but it helped conceal them and that was good enough for me.

I kept right on tanning until I was in my mid-20s, never giving much thought to wrinkles, never mind skin cancer. And if I did get skin cancer? So what? Skin cancer wasn’t deadly (so I thought). It was just a funny little mole that had to be taken off and then life went on. I’d had moles taken off and it was no big deal. So I didn’t worry. And I kept right on tanning.

Until one day I saw an article about skin cancer that truly terrified me. It was graphic, showing people with parts of their noses removed or with horrible scars on every part of their body where lesions had been cut out – along with lots of surrounding skin. It talked about types of skin cancer that spread to other organs and become deadly. It scared the crap out of me and ever since I’ve been a religious user of hats, sunglasses and sunscreens with high SPFs.

Soon after, I went for my first full-body skin check by a dermatologist. I held my breath while he gave me the once over, pointing out moles I needed to watch, but in the end giving me the all clear. No cancer.

After the babies came, I did what a lot of new mothers do and neglected by own professional health care for a while. My last skin cancer check was in 2002, many months before I got pregnant with Peanut.

About six weeks ago I stepped out of the shower and began toweling off when I noticed it. On the back of my arm – a funny, irregular shaped mole that I’d never seen before. Standing close to the mirror, I ran my finger over it. It was flat, which was good, but oddly shaped, unevenly colored and kind of big. It sent me into a panic.

The very next day, I was on the phone with my doctor getting a referral to a dermatologist. It was a long wait – over a month just to get in for a check up, but today my appointment finally came.

I’m happy to say, it is nothing.

“Just an age spot,” the doctor said. “It will probably get bigger. Here’s another one starting here on your chest.”

So, PHEW. Good news. Great news, right? Right . . . ?

Sure. If you consider the fact that instead of having cancer, I’m just getting damn old and my skin has found a new way to torment me.


The age spot that ate New Jersey.

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Blogger ryssee said...

Older without cancer is great. Beautiful lady at 35+ is awesome.
Glad you're in the all-clear.

10:46 PM  
Blogger Colleen said...

Great news, yes!!!
We can all live with older.

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Rocas said...

I got a really bad sunburn on my shoulders when I was on a canoe trip back in the late 70's, and I ended up with big splotchy freckles. I have these checked every year despite my derm doc saying not to worry about them.

I love the beach, but I'm the weird looking one thats either covered or what isn't covered is under an umbrella.

11:56 AM  

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