The unfamiliar phone number that I ignored left a message….. “Ms. Bice…… We have your biopsy results and we need to schedule a follow up appointment right away. Please call us to discuss your results.”
I always knew this day would come.
All in the Family
My mother had a sore on her face that would not heal. After a few months she finally made an appointment with a Dermatologist the biopsy results confirmed her worst fear; skin cancer.
I was in my Freshman year of high school and when I was told that my mother had “skin cancer”, I lost it. All of the worst scenarios were playing in my head; I was going to lose my Mother, she’d never see me graduate, she’d never see me get married, she’d never meet my children. I was was terrified.
Once I calmed down, I started looking deeper into her diagnosis. I learned there were different types of skin cancers and my mother had been diagnosed with Basal Cell Carcinoma. Imagine my surprise when I find out that Basal Cell Carcinoma is very common. More than 4 million cases are diagnosed in the United States each year. I also learned that my grandfather (my mother’s father) and my uncle (my mother’s uncle) also had cancerous skin cells removed.
Where my Story Begins
Learning that I had so many close family members with skin cancer diagnosis made me realize that I would likely one day join them in this diagnosis. I immediately started bathing in sun screen. While all my friends were scheduling tanning appointments for Homecoming & Prom, I was browsing the sunless tanner selections at the drug stores.
For my Junior year in high school, I choose to do a persuasive speech on the importance protecting your skin from UV rays. This was a project that was graded by our peers and I failed solely because 60% of my class mates were females that were addicted to tanning.
At 21, even before I had health insurance I started getting Skin Cancer Screenings. When I didn’t have insurance, I would look for Dermatologist clinics hosting “Free Skin Cancer Screenings” during the month of May (May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month).
“Take Everything Off, Even your Socks & Put On This Robe”
This appointment was very much like all the previous screenings; strip down, put on the robe & wait. When the doctor came in she inspected my body (even the bottoms of my feet) and took extra care to view certain moles with a magnifying glass. The doctor called out medical jargon to the nurse in the room that was taking notes.
Having found one spot of concern on my middle back, she told me she wanted to do a ‘scraping’ so we could have it tested.
“While you’re at it, can you take this mole off?” I said. I had this mole on my shoulder that my bra strap was always rubbing on & it was annoying. She gave it a second look over & said it looked fine but she’d have to send it to the lab anyways; anything that is scraped is tested.
I got quick numbing shots on the two spots then scrape-scrape, band-aid-band-aid, I was on my way.
Biopsy Results: Cut it Out!
I was told no news was good news so when a few weeks passed of not hearing anything, I figured I was in the clear. But then that call came in. One spot was fine, the other was cause for concern & needed to be fully removed. So back to the Dermatologist I went. Surprisingly the spot that would need to be extracted was the one that I had requested to be scraped off. Remember the bra strap spot? And it looked fine to the doctor’s trained eye? Cancerous.
The extraction process was pretty much painless. The only ‘pain’ was the numbing shots. After that, I didn’t feel anything. The procedure was pretty quick. The doctor was kind enough to answer questions I had since I couldn’t see what she was doing.
“Will I have a sweet scar from this?” I asked as she was stitching up the extraction site.
“I hope not! I’m working my ass off back here to make you look good!” She ended up giving me 17 stitches in total.
What Happens Now?
My mother ended up having that spot removed & she began getting regular Skin Cancer Screenings. She has had a few other new cancerous skin cells removed over the years but because she gets annual screenings, she has been absolutely fine.
Like my mother, I will continue to get skin cancer screening every year. If not more frequently. I am constantly aware of any new questionable spots that pop up.
And both of us will continue to lather on the sun screen & continue encouraging everyone else to do the same and get screened regularly!