Thursday, October 17, 2013

Further Proof That I Am Psychic

There was a strip of tape on my bicep. It looked like some sort of medical tape, and it had been there for longer than I could remember. I had tried to remove it over the years, but it was hard to get off, so there it stayed. Finally, one day, I yanked the tape hard. It gave way to reveal a raised scar, in a  straight Frankenstein line. Also, there was a bloody hole an inch deep. How had I gotten that? When?
I began calling and meeting up with friends to see if anyone could help me remember. No one knew.

Suddenly, the light switched on. My husband and kids were wishing me happy birthday. It was 6:21 am. It was so disorienting, being woken from this dream, so early on a Sunday morning. "Give me a minute," I said, and told them about the dream.


I wrote the above paragraphs back in September, a few days after my birthday, for a post I had titled "The Birthday Monster." It was to be about my birthday tears and joys, but I never got past those few words. Long story short: I was weepy and feeling sorry for myself, until my sweet daughter did everything she could to make my day special. Love her.

 I am sharing the writing now (I have not changed a letter) because it is proof that I am psychic. I have long believed this to be true. My husband rolls his eyes, and maybe you are, too. But listen to this: I now have a Frankenstein scar, acquired after this dream. A few weeks after my birthday, during a routine skin check, my dermatologist (I have had trouble but finally found a good one) discovered a suspicious growth on the back of my neck.

 This thing was not even on my radar. It was small, reddish, hard and pimple-esque and had shown up about 3 weeks before. Nothing like the brownish moles I worry about. The doctor removed it for biopsy,  and called me with the results a few days later.  It turned out to be squamous cell skin cancer.  Squamous cell skin cancer is not as deadly as melanoma, but a little more deadly than basal cell. If not caught early, it can spread throughout the body, or disfigure a person. This was caught early.

I was not terribly surprised by the diagnosis. Though I have been very careful about the sun for the past two decades, I grew up in a time before SPF and thus endured many sunburns. As a teenager and young adult I would sunbathe, trying to get tan, which I regret whenever I see the milky white skin on my unsunned abdomen. If only I had stayed out of the sun, my entire epidermis would look so good.

My mom has had a few squamous cell growths removed from her face. My grandmother had numerous large basal cell skin cancer moles. I mean, they were gigantic. I pray that nothing like that ever appears on my body. It motivates me to sunscreen up and regularly get checked at the dermatologist. I have had so many suspicious skin growths biopsied, but before this, they had all been benign.

The doctor said: "It's absolutely nothing to worry about." So I did not worry that much. I worry about all kinds of things you are not supposed to worry about; still, I was not THAT worried. She explained they would have to remove a little more skin to see if the cancer had spread, which I took to mean they would numb the area and scrape a little off. She did say I had to see a dermatologic surgeon for this procedure, called an excision.

So last Tuesday, I took the train into the city, and made plans to meet a friend for lunch. I did not look up "excision" on the internet. Or ask many questions. That is why I did not realize that a hole five millimeters from the outside of the growth would be cut into my neck. The train was 45 minutes late. Thus, I arrived that late at the fancy doctor's Fifth Avenue office, across from Central Park. I sat under a crystal chandelier on a white leather couch. The leather was buttery soft, unblemished, like the skin of an unsunned belly, if you will. The lillies on the coffee table were dead, which I found odd.

The doctor had beautiful red hair swept into an elegant chignon. She and her receptionist were looking at tile samples for the bathroom while I filled out my paperwork. Later, when I was in the room, "excision" was explained to me. A hole five millimeters from the edges of the growth would have to be cut. Honestly, it is probably better that I did not know too much beforehand. After a monster amount of local anesthetic was injected into me, the cutting began. Then the doctor cauterized the edges. Maybe to kill any stray squamous cells? I was not really listening.   I could smell my own flesh burning, and it was like chicken cooking. That was gnarly. Finally, she sewed the circle closed in a straight Frankenstein line. Ten stitches.  See! I am psychic.

They sent out my flesh for biopsy.  The nurse showed me how to change my bandage, then she stuck on a pressure bandage, which I guess was to impede any bleeding. I was told not to move my neck, carry anything heavy or travel for the next two weeks. When I emerged, my sweet friend SueAnne was there in the waiting room. I was walking with a stiff neck. I also had a bandaid under my eye because another growth that was bothering me had been removed. So I was looking pretty gorgeous.

We went to lunch, but I had no appetite and was finding it too much effort to eat without moving my neck. SueAnne paid, and insisted on taking me in a cab to Penn Station. Due to traffic we missed the train by one minute, so I had a one-hour wait. I spent the time thinking about my many loved ones who had had cancer-- those who had made it, and those who hadn't. Both parents, cousins, uncles, in-laws, grandparents, beloved friends. They had endured unspeakable treatments. I merely had a hole cut in my neck and a Frankenstein scar. I probably should have gotten someone to drive me instead of taking public transport, but my issue was so minor, hopefully. I reflexively turned my head to look at the board, and learned why I had been advised not to move my neck. Ouch.

That night was Back to School Night, my daughter's last at her elementary school. My husband Dalton thought I should stay home. But I did not want to miss it. He had to carry my purse. "You are walking like a robot, you have a bandaid on your face, and I am carrying your bag," he said. "You are raising a lot of questions." I laughed.

Long story short, my biopsy came back clear, which raises the question of why it was necessary to cut a hole in my neck. But, I am not a doctor. The stitches come out next week. I have nice friends who brought me lunch. I realized I wait on my family like a servant, and I taught them how to do chores I can't right now. Another silver lining: now that my daughter has seen the scar, I don't think she'll argue about the importance of sunscreen. I made up a hilarious song: "You say squamous (short a)/ and I say squamous (long a)."

Anyway. My point is, I am psychic. And also, you should wear sunscreen and get a skin check.

how it looked one week later





6 comments:

  1. very glad it was caught early, ck.

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  2. I think you are a psychic too... I'm a believer!

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    1. Thanks for telling me what I want to hear

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  3. I've been to the cancer place and it's one of the worst feelings in the world to have someone tell you that you've got it. Even worse, it feels like ever since my diagnosis, too many people have also gotten cancer. I suspect that I'm simply more attuned to it now, but I'd love it to quit. You sound like you folded in an incredibly rough situation. I'm glad that it's in the past, and that the weeks of "Oh Christ what if it's everywhere and I don't know it" are gone. Respect and continued health to you!

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  4. Christina that is a tough-looking scar! I'm freckly and fair but after exposing myself to sun worshipping in my teens and twenties like you, now sport a two toned body. My arms have the permanent tanned freckled look, whilst my stomach is also porcelain white. In my thirties now (a little wiser?) I do pay attention to my moles, but thank you for reminding me it's not always the brown irregular ones to watch out for.
    Take care and glad to hear it was caught early and taken care of!

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