Skin Cancer . . . Again?!

Let me start off assuring family and friends that this is nothing to worry about.  It is the relatively harmless (but still annoying) basal cell kind, not the melanoma (dangerous) kind of skin cancer.

Last week I had Mohs surgery on my lip for the second time (the first time was about a year ago).  The day of the surgery, Joe was traveling, so I had to go pick up the kids from camp with my lip still bandaged. Kids are utterly unable to *not* stare when they see something unusual, and seeing a mom with her lip bandaged up drew many wide-eyed stares as we left.  I tried to not feel self-conscious (I need to be a good example to the kids and all), but inside I was cringing.

The next day the swelling went down, and I was able to go out without any bandages.  My lip still drew weird looks, but it was about the equivalent of a bad cold sore.  With a friend, I mentioned that I had had skin cancer surgery– “No, it’s not a cold sore”– but I’m not sure which is worse.  She put a concerned look on her face and asked about it.  I ended up explaining a bit about my family history, and that this type of skin cancer is more annoying than scary, but I realized that this was more information than most people want to hear.  She was sweet to listen to me, and I felt badly that my explanation took longer than it should have.

My family heritage is Irish/English/Scottish, and I have very fair skin as a result.   Being born and raised in California with lots of sunshine, we are very susceptible to skin cancer.  The fact that my dad had a ski boat when we were growing up, and that I had terrible sunburns every summer, means that I had a lifetime’s worth of sun damage by the time I hit adulthood.  I have been great about using sunscreen for a long time, but so much damage was already done that I have known it was only a matter of time before skin cancer appeared.  My brother had it before I did (on his neck first, then his forehead).  My dad has had several growths removed.  My grandmother had many cases of it.  Thankfully, no one in our family has gotten melanoma, but we all need to be vigilant with skin check-ups twice a year.

“Cancer” is a scary word, one that no one wants to hear.  We all know people who have fought brave battles with cancer, and most of us know someone who has lost that battle.  It feels strange to use that word to describe annoying little skin growths that need to be removed.  I will probably get these skin growths throughout the rest of my life, but I try to remind myself to be thankful that while I hate having minor surgery on my face (mainly because of vanity), I am lucky that this is the worst health issue that I currently face.

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