Friday, January 14, 2011

The creation of a dimple

Here goes. Lots happening in the last three weeks and it's time that I write about it.

I have spent my life in the sun, especially summers at the pool. From the time I was young I relished playing in the water and being with friends and family. Sunburns were not unusual, especially on the ski slopes where the white snow reflected all those rays right back at my unprotected face. I wore my deep, dark tans proudly. Sunscreen? For sissies.

In the last few years I started using a good screen daily, both summer and winter. Too little, too late. On December 22nd the doctor patted my knee as he smiled and used the words "I'm sorry" and "melanoma" in one sentence. He was then quick to reassure me that we would grow old together and become very personally acquainted. (I love this guy.) He also explained that even though it was caught very early I would be referred immediately to the Huntsman Cancer Institute for treatment.

Let me introduce you to Melanoma in situ. This was taken in July. Today it is just a red spot, barely noticable after the biopsy.

I had watched this spot grow on my cheek from nothing to pea-size for about two years. It was not a mole, just a new spot that resembled my many other freckles. Over the last six months it doubled in size and took on some dark and irregular features. Still, the doctor and I were surprised when the results came back.

Waiting the long three weeks for the appointment at HCI was difficult. They had already told me what the treatment plan would be and after researching both the medication to be used and the eventual surgery I was terrified. Athena and Eris warned me to stay away from the horror stories found on the internet. I took their advice and felt much better after that.

The idea that there are malignant cancer cells lurking in my cheek like an oil slick is disconcerting. The reality is that I am extremely lucky that it is Stage 0 and 95-100% curable. The plan of attack is in three stages: topical chemo for two months to reduce the size of the tumor, two months for the chemo damage to heal and then surgery. The first stage was started last night and I will admit that there were a few tears shed when I spread that cream all over my cheek knowing what it would do to my skin.

Dad lost his short battle with lymphoma but Mom is a 16 year survivor of breast cancer. Two years ago I watched in awe as Zeus went through his successful (and unpleasant) prostate cancer treatment. I am surrounded by supportive family and friends who will stand by me while I navigate this very small bump in the road. For that I am more grateful than words can express.

The plan is for treatment to be finished by the time the pool opens in June. I'll be there with SPF 150 on my face, a large hat and a t-shirt emblazoned with the words "Put On The Sunscreen, Stupid" on both front and back! The bikes, kayaks and running shoes will be back in service.

And hopefully I will be sporting that new dimple on my right cheek that I've always wanted!


(due to a persistent cold, both in my chest and outside, the numismatizing has not gone well. The few ralks I've done were not very productive and not ready for counting. Hoping for a fresh start soon.)