“Action without love is meaningless, and love without action is irrelevant.”
~ Hafsat Abiola
Ya’ll have been with me through dentist and doctor’s visits, even a gallbladder removal, and for the most part such things are routine for us aging sort. However, I want to share a tale about skin cancer, and the importance of early detection. The photos below are graphic, so if you’re the least bit squeamish, don’t look, though please do heed the words, even if you have someone else read them to you. They could save you a lot of pain and anguish, maybe even your life.
See that red spot on my hand in the photo on the left? That is a squamous cell tumor. In January, we had a relatively warm day, so I slipped on my work gloves and spent a few hours in the yard. When I took off my gloves there was a red bump on my hand. I was amazed that mosquitoes were out in January. Two weeks went by, and the bump didn’t get smaller. Plus, it itched like no bite I’d ever had before. I thought it must be a spider bite instead. Armed with tweezers, I began to dig for the stinger. I never found one. The itching continued, and when I say itch, I don’t mean a tiny itch, I mean it itched like I wanted to rip my skin off itch. By March, when it clearly wasn’t going away, nor was the itching, I saw my awesome dermatologist, Gretchen Cliburn PA-C, at Lexington Dermatology. She performed a biopsy, and sure enough, it was Squamous cell carcinoma.
I’ve learned a lot about skin cancer since then. Basal Cell is usually non-invasive attached to the outer layers of the skin. It can generally (but not always) be treated with a topical cream. Then there’s Squamous Cell. It, too, is rather non-invasive, by that I mean it generally doesn’t attach to organs or spread throughout the body. But it grows deeper into the epidermis, and therefore, must be excised. Finally, Melanoma: the worst of all skin cancers. It’s invasive, with a genetic component, and can definitely kill you. It can sometimes be hard to detect because it’s often mole-like, whereas Squamous, though not always itchy, is pretty obvious, frankly. The point I want to drive home is that you can easily pass off any three of these as something other than cancer. Anybody of any age can get skin cancer, but those of us with blue/green eyes and/or blond/red hair and fair white skin – as well as the generation that slathered on baby oil like a fried chicken – we run a much higher risk of developing skin cancers. It’s vitally important to know your body so you can catch this stuff early before it becomes disfiguring or life threatening.
As for me, I’m just fine. I’ve got myself seventeen new stitches and a three-inch hunk of my hand missing, but I caught it early. It could have been much worse. I probably would have ignored it were it not for the itch, but I knew itching was a tell-tale sign, so I wasted little time. Dr. Deborah Phillips, the surgeon that fixed me up today, was sweet as she could be and graciously allowed me to photograph the procedure (as best I could with one hand in a prone position). Now annual skin exams are added to my list of things I have to do as a middle aged person to make sure I turn into an old age person. If you’ve never had one, go. If you’re over 40, definitely go soon. I want ya’ll to be as blessed as I was. Pay attention and be good to yourselves.