Yesterday morning I woke up, rolled out of bed and headed straight for my closet. I flicked through my wardrobe until I found the perfect dress – a navy v-neck with a bold floral pattern and accents of pale lemon and coral. I carefully ironed the ruffle around the neck and the tie for the back – I desperately wanted to look impeccably casual, as if perfect creases would give way to a perfect life. I checked my unmade up face in the mirror then decided I couldn’t pull off a completely naked face, so quickly added a touch of eyeliner and mascara to soften the eyes that hadn’t really slept the night before. I threw on my denim jacket, some “cute” shoes, grabbed my bag and glanced at myself in the mirror – healthy? Do I look healthy?
More than 20 years ago my father had a severe, rare form of skin cancer and as a cautionary procedure my sisters and I were all thoroughly screened. That process lead to me having a a series of moles (somewhere between 11-15 I can’t quite remember) removed. Only a few of them were completely benign – the rest were atypical and/or had early signs of pigment or cell mutation but they were able to get everything with the removals and I went on with my life.
Over the last six months one of the moles which had been removed has grown back. I don’t remember EXACTLY what that mole looked like before so I can’t tell you if this one is its twin or not, (I’m calling it the Zombie Mole) but it’s grown up in exactly the same spot. Which is kinda bad news. In fact, according to Australian skin cancer research more than 90% of mole regrowths are melanoma.
So yesterday I tried to channel my most healthy looking self in the waiting room of a major skin clinic – sadly the pale lemon and coral didn’t distract from the obvious – it needs to be removed, and pronto. Surgery has been scheduled for the end of the month.
I’m swaying between totally freaking out and being fine. As anyone who’s been in a similar situation will tell you the waiting is the killer, excuse the pun.
I mentioned to someone the other day I was going in to the hospital to be checked out by a specialist team and they said “Well if it is cancerous then at least its the good cancer.” I didn’t realise cancer came in different flavours. Does good cancer slowly eat away at your cells, turning them to glitter until you sparkle like a Cullen on midsummer’s day? (Oh please let me be all sparkly like Edward!!!!!!) Or maybe it means I can consume as much chocolate and wine as I like without gaining an ounce – the Dr must’ve missed that part when we were talking outcomes.
Hey ya, I know it’s easier to remove cancerous moles than say, a cancerous spot on a lung, but I’m still having a chunk of my body cut away. And there’s a mighty high chance that I’ve had cancer growing in my body for the last 20 years. Which just freaks me right out. (Both the growing and the “last 20 years” how do I have that as a reference?) Whatever it is, wherever it is, for everyone, cancer is still cancer – I have no desire to dress it up and introduce it to my friends and I don’t think we do anyone any favours when we try to be pc about it.
In the last four months, five acquaintances or friends of friends have died of cancer and two friends are currently going through chemo, one on her first round, the other on her fourth and fifth – ALL between the ages of 30 – 40. This shit is serious. They haven’t been taken down by something sweet or friendly; the “Big C” is not some drooling harmless frat boy playing pranks, Cancer is a serial killer. One we need to outsmart and pray we outlive.
So although I don’t know exactly what I’m dealing with, I do know that I intend to beat it. I’m going to use my time NOW, to refocus on what I want, what I really need, to contemplate what my best life really looks like it and figure out how to live it. The last three months have been (and still are) excruciatingly hard and now I have this to contend with on top of all the disappointment, betrayal and sadness. There has to be a light at the end of the tunnel (although I hope its not “the light” if you know what I mean!) and I need to move towards a stronger, happier, more connected life after all of this.