under the skin

Well.

My skin biopsy results came back and it turns out I have skin cancer. The biopsy on my eyelid tested positive. I wasn’t expecting this turn of events. I wasn’t thinking about the biopsies anymore. The doctor called me with the results herself and I wasn’t even suspicious during our initial hello-how-are-you’s.

It’s not nice to hear the C-word. Although I work with young and old cancer patients all the time, and have friends and family who have died of cancer, some younger than I am now, I admit it was a disease I mainly associated with older people. (Most skin cancer cases do arise on sun-exposed skin of people over 50.) One of my first thoughts was: Wow. I have cancer and I’m only in my early thirties.

The good news is that it’s the most common and most treatable of skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma. Basal cell carcinoma is localized and does not usually spread in the bloodstream to other organs. Which is good. It grows at a relatively slow pace and infiltrates the surrounding area destroying the tissue, muscle, bone and nearby organs. Less good. Remember how it upset me that my biopsy was this close to my eye? Well, now the cancer tumor is this close to my eye. Not a fun thought. But when all is said and done, if you were forced to go out and get yourself a cancer, this would be one of the better ones to get.

Here’s a photo of it, you can hardly see it, thanks to my dermatologist’s ‘esthetic stitch’ after she took the biopsy. 

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Have I ever lain on the beach under the midday sun (without adequate UV protection) in hopes of a tan? Yes, I have. You surely have, too. Nobody can change what’s already happened. But you can change your attitude regarding the sun today. Starting now. Skin cancers usually occur 20-30 years after the actual UV damage. Which probably means my UV damage happened when I was just a kid. In the late seventies and early eighties, parents were not running to slather their children in sunscreen every two hours. It just wasn’t done back then.

This means that I am now at high risk of getting more basal cell carcinomas or other skin cancers, including malignant melanoma. I also have to go to the dermatologist for a check up every 3 months now.

Because of the location of the tumor I will have Mohs surgery, also known as Mohs micrographic surgery, or ‘chemosurgery’. This specialized surgery is mostly used for eyelids, lips and noses and offers a cure rate of over 90%. I saw the surgeon for a consultation and he is rather dashing: I will have to try extra hard not to embarrass myself by fainting during the procedure.

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43 Responses to “under the skin”


  1. 1 Lawyerish December 15, 2008 at 19:06

    Oh, wow, I’m so sorry to hear this! But of course I’m glad that it is so treatable and that a handsome surgeon will be caring for you. 🙂 Be well. I have very fair skin, too, and I am extremely paranoid about skin cancer, so this is a good warning to the rest of us to be vigilant!

  2. 2 Sher December 17, 2008 at 07:24

    What a shock. My husband drives me nuts – he lets himself get burnt all the time. Needless to say he’s going to be taking a visit over here tonight to read this.

  3. 3 spasmicallyperfect February 9, 2009 at 23:04

    Not sure where I was. Wow. Mum always told me to watch my spots and run to the Doc once one changed.

    Yes, Missis lies for hours in the sun!

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I really like the phrase "always an adventure". I am a Reiki Master and work as a therapist in Manhattan, in my private practice and at a cancer center. I also freelance as a translator in the New York City area and beyond.

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