Diary of a Cancer Survivor:
So what I say is, the day after your diagnosis is absolutely the first day of your survival, amirite? So here we are.
I moved to California eight years ago, from grey & gloomy Newcastle on Tyne. I did that classic English thing, blooming in the sunshine and the heat. I’ve been in T-shirts and sandals since I came; can’t remember the last time I wore a sock.
No, of course I don’t use sunscreen.
Yes, of course I have melanoma.
Actually, what I have — had — was a sweet brown mole the size of a little fingerprint, that had been there all my life. On my back, where I could never see it. M’wife of course saw it nightly, so she was the one who saw it growing, and growing darker. By the time I checked in with the doctor, it was the size of a big splurgy thumbprint. Doc sent me to a dermatologist; I saw him last week, and he mulled it over and said he didn’t think it was anything to worry about, but he wanted to send a portion of it off for biopsy, better safe than sorry — and then he took a second look, and changed his mind, and took it all. Just in case.
And yesterday he phoned up, pleased with himself for having taken it all, and rather surprised at the news he had to share, because yup. Melanoma. Early stage, not a serious matter for concern, but none the less: he was referring me to a dermatological surgeon for further treatment, and I’d need to go back in three months for another top-to-toe visual examination, just in case.
This morning, the surgeon’s office phoned. They’re scheduling me as an emergency. I have to report next week at 5.45am, for wide local excision — but due to the size of the thing and what he’s learned from the photos and the pathology report, the surgeon will be using the Slow Mohs technique, where he’ll leave the wound open for a couple of days until the new pathology report gets back, in case the margins aren’t clear and he needs to go back in. Either way, I’m going to have a big hole in my back, and it may need plastic surgery to fix it.
And this-all has happened in one day, and I still don’t really know how I feel about any of it. Before the diagnosis, I was a little distressed at losing my friendly little mole for no reason; since then, I suppose I should be glad it’s gone? I do still miss it, though. And I’m almost — almost! — glad that the removal was worthwhile, that it wasn’t just lost to overcaution. Is that weird? Probably. I do weird rather well sometimes.
Anyway: yesterday I was feeling kinda strange in my skin all evening. Restless, uncomfortable, a little alien. I was doing better today, until we fell into this emergency-surgery rabbithole. It wasn’t supposed to be this hectic: melanoma, sure, but early stages, comforting survival rates, yadda yadda. Surgery in a month or two, most likely. Now I’m unsure again, and I don’t know what to do with myself. So right now I’m in the wine bar, and when I go home I shall be making proper Oxford marmalade, because here in California I can grow Seville oranges, and I can’t think of anything more definitively British to do with my time. (The further I leave England behind me, the more English I become: even apparently to the point of sprouting cancers after a mere glimpse of the sun, hey-ho.)
[to be continued…]