Last year I discovered a weird mark on my chest. I went to the dermatologist and lo and behold, I was told I had a basal cell carcinoma form of skin cancer. They would have to perform an in-house surgery to remove it.
I suppose I should have been frightened, but I wasn't. I'd had moles burned off before. Why should this one be any different?
The extraction went smoothly, but they didn't get it all out. I'd have to go back for some initial digging. "It's nothing to freak out about," the doctor reassured me. "You won't die from this kind of skin cancer, so relax" Taking his word on it, I didn't panic.
Cut to one year later, and new health insurance, I finally sent the pathology report to a new dermatologist who sliced a bit further into my chest and took out the cancer. Or so I thought.
"We didn't quite remove everything," the nurse said over the phone, one week before Christmas. "You'll have to come back for another procedure. How does December 28 work for you?" What was I going to say? "Ooooh, sorry. I'll be too exhausted from the seasonal merriment. Maybe in March? Or maybe in 2011? Let's see how much more this thing can grow?"
Even after that phone call I wasn't worried. But after relating the story to a friend and my mom, I wondered if I should be. They seemed genuinely shaken. Should I have been? Was I being too cavalier? I called the nurse back who, one again, reassured me that I had nothing to worry about. "If it were that major, the doc would have called you himself," she said.
That sounded good to me. And truthfully, I barely thought about it over Christmas. But on Monday, I was a little panicked. Luckily I had Rex with me.
"You're going to be fine," he said, weaving between cars to get us there on time. "I'm not worried about it at all."
And you know what? His calm attitude really steadied my nerves. The procedure was over in twenty minutes and the lovely dermatologist said, yet again, that these forms of skin cancers are very common, non-lethal, and very treatable. Sunscreen is my best defense against future outbreaks.
After Rex had a quick body scan for moles (although I'm shocked they could even see anything through all that fur on his body) we headed to a local diner for some breakfast. We laughed about "getting older" and what a great holiday we had - skin cancers or not.
When Rex left the booth to wash his hands, I sipped my coffee and thought about how marriage is sort of like my little skin cancer scare. Occasionally wonky things arise, but if you nip them in the bud, you can go on to live a healthy, vibrant life. Kindness, companionship, laughter and forgiveness are incredible sunscreens - buffering out unnecessary damage. Worse case some occasional irritations burst through your sunscreen, nothing is unfixable. Some dates, some talking or even some counseling can extract the nastiest hurts, allowing one to start fresh with the person they married all those years ago.
The downside to my skin cancer is a pretty ugly chest scar that I'll likely live with for the rest of my life. The upside of it is that, when the chips were down, my husband was right there with me... "in sickness and in health."
I hope you'll do the same for your mate. Until next time, have some laughs, go on a date, and please, folk, wear your sunscreen!
* Photo called Happy Retro Woman by Dennis Hallinan
Posted by Andrea Frazer
Reprinted with Permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.