A learning, albeit scarring, experience

Once a year I actually get to see my primary care physician. I think it is some kind of law otherwise I doubt I would even know what he looks like.

This year I was all prepared with a years worth of inquiries and observations about my aging body all written down lest I forget something. Failing memory was at the top of the list.

My doctor is young, cute, and as luck would have it, very professional. My fantasy of a Lifetime movie based on an inappropriate dalliance was quickly squashed.

After the usual flirting (OK, he asked me if I had any problems, complaints, questions) I reminded him of the small pimple/bump between my nose and eye that was preventing me from being a super model. I had pointed this out to him the year before but he said that removing it would cause a scar that might be more unflattering than the bump.

This year I wasn’t having any of that. This “thing” was ugly and was it my imagination or had it gotten bigger? Sure, no one had ever noticed, but I said hello to it every morning and attempted to keep it hidden with make-up. Enough! Time to see a dermatologist and have it sucked off my otherwise perfect face. My doctor agreed easily to the referral.

When I followed up with my dermatologist, she looked at me for about 10 seconds and said, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, Carcinoma.” I do not intend to compare a diagnosis of skin cancer with a more serious cancer, but hearing this caused a bit of an out-of-body experience.  This happened once before. During a routine ultrasound for my second pregnancy the technician said, “I see two babies.” For just a moment you tune out while your body adjusts to the news. I guess it is better than screaming at the top of your lungs and scaring everyone in the reception area.

The doctor did a biopsy and told me she was quite certain I would need surgery. I tried to be cool. I thought of Lance Armstrong. I thought of my mother who had survived breast cancer and her sister who hadn’t. I remembered a friend’s child who had fought a losing battle with cancer and realized how brave people can be. I told myself to listen and not get hysterical. I told myself this could be my moment! I needed to be cool and calm and a shining example. I am proud to say I held it together and made all the necessary arrangements.

The surgery was a couple of weeks later.  The procedure was relatively simple. I was conscious but felt nothing. Everyone at the hospital was wonderful. I was texting my kids at various times and actually took a picture of myself at one point.

While any surgery requires a recovery period this wasn’t too bad.  Some swelling, black eye, a bit of pain, but within a week or two most of that had disappeared.  I now have a small scar that is easily covered with make-up. (Actually, I kind of like my scar.)

When I first went to the dermatologist the assistant asked me some questions. Among them was whether I had ever gotten a sun burn that had caused blistering. Vivid memories of painful summers on Long Island came flooding back. When I was a kid there was no such thing as sun block. When you felt like you had too much sun you simply put on a t-shirt. More than once my sister and I covered ourselves in Noxema to try and cool off our bright red skin. Despite the pain we knew in just a few days it would turn to tan. We had no idea the damage we were doing to our skin and certainly cancer was not a thought.

I have not “tried” to get a tan for close to 25 years, but as with most things we tend to pay the price for our youthful ignorance as we get older. Mickey Mantle once said, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

My daughters tell me they will no longer go tanning so that makes this all worthwhile. I know that at “20-something” it is easy to believe that “50-something” is a hundred years away, and that looking good is far more urgent than a possibility of skin cancer or blotchy, leathery, sun-damaged skin.

Such is the nature of life. We learn through experience. Here are some pictures of my experience. Use your sun block!

reporting live from the e.r.!

Mom legit sent us this picture. - Angela (editor)

Post-op!

Now!

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Comments

  1. kevin bartner says:

    Rocky,

    Sorry to hear about your bout with skin cancer. Hope all is well with you, Rod and the girls. BTW, made an appointment today for my physical since 1988. This will make my sister very happy. See you in April at Lori’s wedding.

  2. Glad everything worked out okay! And agreed… tanning is bad.

  3. Ah I am pale..wah..thanks a lot MOM!

  4. look how great the scar looks in the last pic. you can barely see it! oh mom and her ailments.

  5. sorry, but I have to leave you now, scarface. rod

  6. Wow, we really do need to keep in touch more often, I didn’t realize you were in your 50’s . . .

    Cathy and Anna are always busting my chops to get a physical and a colonoscopy (Anna takes great pleasure in seeing me uncomfortable and in pain). I know it’s the wise, grown-up thing to do.
    But I really hate being prodded and poked and touched(and not in a good way) by anyone, let alone strangers.

    However, if age has taught me anything, it’s this . . . . .
    Ignorance may be bliss, but it can also be fatal.

    So sis, your experience has convinced me to stop being a baby and get myself checked out.
    Thank you, but if they hurt me, I’m telling mommy.

  7. Rochelle..aka..scarface says:

    So Stu… did you write this comment before or after we spoke on the phone? You never even mentioned anything! Plus, do not whine to mom about me. I am the nice sister. You are not so big that I can’t lock in a closet.

  8. kate mahaney says:

    rochelle, great story and lessons inside. be smart about getting your vitamin d everyone.

  9. big daddy says:

    I’ve been tanning a lot lately, plus losing weight and getting hair plugs. I am planning on leaving Rochelle. After all, she’s falling apart. just look at those freaking pictures!

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