I have always hated my skin. It’s embarrassing to admit, but when you hate your skin, it really doesn’t matter what size or shape you are, because it’s all covered with the same thing. Every since I was a young girl, I’ve had freckles, speckles, and moles. I come from freckly Irish folks and there are lots of people in my family with freckles. It goes without saying that I’m also pale as the moon, and I garnered more than my share of ridicule for being a pale freckly girl. In the military they called me “Casper” and “Appaloosa”, and I lost count of how many times someone complained about my blinding white legs. I eventually gave up on wearing shorts (except on rare occasions) and took shelter in a world of tights & leggings. Part of the reason I despise Summer in OKC is that it’s just too hot for much covering, but I have always gone with longish dresses to hide my nearly transparent snow white pallor.
I have often joked that I’d probably end up with skin cancer. Anyone with THIS many freckles was bound to run into trouble. I also wear sunblock religiously, but I’ve still gotten a few sunburns in my life that were fairly bad. Sure enough, this past Summer, I noticed a few irregularities and immediately fell down the rabbit hole of melanoma Google images. Try to avoid that, if you can. It took a long time for me to work up the courage to find a dermatologist. I had this brush with mortality this Fall with the loss of my Mother-In-Law and I became convinced that I was probably dying too. Tragedy does weird things to people.
At any rate, I finally got an appointment and went in for the MOST AWKWARD EXAM of all time. My doctor was super nice, but there is nothing fun about being checked head to toe. She examined me thoroughly, and then informed me that there were some questionable or “atypical” areas that were concerning, and they removed them for testing.
Um, OUCH. I left feeling scared, sore, but full of information and reassurance that they’d let me know in a week whether I had anything to be concerned about. I took a photo of my moles each on their little tubes, ready to be sent off for testing, and texted it to my husband. He said, “Aww, your moles are going to have an adventure…” It was totally bizarre to see little parts of me, that COULD be poisonous evil cells, or , you know, just bits of skin, headed off to some lab.
Two days later I boarded a plane for Alt Summit conference, fully expecting not to hear from my doctor for a week. I worked hard at convincing myself that I wasn’t nervous, but the gripping fear that I’d been carrying around since Summer was pounding in my brain. It’s just that, I have SO MUCH I want to live for. I’m not trying to be dramatic, but… I LOVE LIFE. I want to stick around. I want to NOT have a battle with cancer. I want to worry about regular stuff like bills and what to cook for dinner, and how to potty train my stubborn toddler (still taking tips on this!) and you know… LIFE. I knew that no matter the outcome, I’d be a fighter. I will not be taken down by some little freckles.
The morning of Day 1 at Alt, I got a wake-up call at 7 AM from my doctor. She notified me that my spots, while atypical, were CANCER FREE and I was okay to come back for a regular check-up in one year.
I felt elated. I jumped out of bed and notified my puzzled roommates that I was NOT DYING. They were confused, but, you know, supportive. The rest of the day though, I felt… a bit wrung out. I couldn’t really shake the feeling that I’d cheated death somehow and that maybe it was a mistake, or maybe I shouldn’t be so happy. I wasn’t dying, and for that I was grateful, but then I felt… a sudden respect for everyone I had ever known that had been staring down the barrel at a test for cancer, hoping that it would be negative, but found out the opposite.
Ultimately, I realized that this little foray into testing for cancer is something that is pretty common and lots of people over a certain age have to deal with in some capacity. It did make me hate my skin a little less… For all it’s freckly pasty whiteness, at least it’s doing its job of protecting my insides, and giving me something to walk around in. On that note, I have decided to channel my gratitude into doing a tiny thing to help others. It’s unrelated to cancer, but since I’m O- blood type, I get calls from our blood bank all the time asking me to donate. I’ve decided to start donating once a month, in honor of my negative test results. A little meditation, if you will, on being grateful for being cancer free and healthy.
If you’re reading this and even a little concerned about your skin, I’d encourage you to go get checked out. It’s awkward, but the peace of mind is worth it. And, for the love of pete, don’t Google melanoma. Just go see a doctor.
Thanks for reading,