I wasn’t going to write about this. Everything is under control, after all, and I didn’t want to seem like I was looking for extra sympathy because there are plenty of bigger problems in the world to worry about. A few months ago I was diagnosed with a form of skin cancer and I decided to talk about it here today with the hope that my stupidity will be a lesson for others down the line.
I’ve always had dry skin but never really thought anything of it. I would just put some skin moisturizer on it and the itchiness would go away, no harm done. A couple winters ago, however, I noticed a lot of patches starting to form and at times the pain became so bad that I could barely sit. My doctor had retired and since I hadn’t located a new one yet, I simply bought a stronger skin cream and ignored it.
I know what you’re thinking. “Why didn’t you go get a doctor and have it checked out, you idiot?!”. You would be correct in that assumption but I do have an explanation, regardless of how thin it seems. You see, when my father passed away I went through a really hard time mentally. I developed a severe case of hypochondria that robbed me of almost a full year of happiness, and one of the side effects of breaking out of that depression was a tendency to ignore symptoms and to brush them off as nothing.
In my defense, the tactic technically worked in that I got my life back on track and was able to find the happiness I had once enjoyed. The downside is that while I was ignoring my skin, the dry patches were getting worse and multiplying at a rapid rate and I was growing more and more uncomfortable. It finally came to a head when, while at an unrelated appointment with my new family doctor, I happened to mention it on the way out and he took a look. The conversation that followed is one that I have had with a few doctors now and is something that never gets less embarrassing.
Doctor: “How long have you had these red patches?”
Me: “About 4 years…”
Doctor: “Really?? Have you ever had them checked before?”
You get the idea. I felt like I should have to walk around with “Stupid” stamped on my forehead for eternity. I mean, seriously, 4 years of ignoring this? Idiot! Long story short, the doc did a biopsy which came back positive for a skin cancer known as Mycosis Fungoides and I spent a good week with a glazed over feeling before I was able to actually look up what I was dealing with.
Since that first diagnosis appointment I have been poked and prodded, seen numerous specialists and now spend 3 very early mornings a week at the hospital having phototherapy treatments, which is kind of like standing in an upright tanning bed. The doctors have all said I should be completely fine after these treatments, which is reassuring, but there’s always that nagging “what if it isn’t” voice in the back of my head trying to have its say. As someone who went through a crushing bout of severe hypochondria, I’d say I’m doing very well at staying calm while my brain screams at me to freak out.
The ultimate point of this story is not to make you feel sorry for me, but instead to encourage you to not ignore symptoms the way I did. If you think something is feeling a little off, go get it checked out. I’m willing to bet that 99% of the time it is probably nothing, but on the off chance that they find something, you’ll be glad you went in early.