The Big C

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?”
Me: “No…”

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.

18 replies
  1. Christine
    Christine says:

    I too am guilty of avoiding the doctors until that last moment of sheer exhaustion and pain. I just greatly dislike going to the doctors, but I don’t mess around with it as much as I used too.

    Really glad you’ve gone to the doctors and begun treatments. Remember all that strength you’ve instilled into those darlin’ kids of yours, time to take advise from the master 😉 You got this!

    Thinking of you <3

    Reply
  2. Julia Chiarella-Genoni
    Julia Chiarella-Genoni says:

    So happy #1 that you are ok and getting it taken care of, but also #2 that you wrote this. Skin issues is something I have always been cautious about (skin cancer runs in my family) but not everyone thinks about it. This post will help others take notice. 😉

    Reply
  3. Alyssa
    Alyssa says:

    Thank you for sharing. Sometimes as adults we have a hard time admitting when something isn’t right (I’m guilty myself!) but good on you for taking the first steps! Good luck and best wishes in recovering!

    Reply
  4. Fariha
    Fariha says:

    Wow. So sorry you’ve been dealing with this Chris. Glad to know you’re doing okay. Sending you healthy vibes and well wishes. Thanks for the excellent reminder.

    Reply
  5. Larry
    Larry says:

    Glad to hear you will be fine.
    I don’t think you’re stupid at all for not going to the doctor. It sounds like you went through a lot during a particular time, and some things were not handled in the way you might have had things been more typical.
    No need to be hard on yourself.

    Reply
  6. Karen W
    Karen W says:

    As I know you peek into my blog from time to time, you can consider that I’ve stayed off sugar for the whole month of September just for people like you. Ummm, not for people who ignore symptoms mind you, but definitely for anyone who has, or has had cancer. I can no longer walk to raise money for cancer, but I can do the Sugar-Free September thing. I hope all goes well for you.

    Reply
  7. Natalie
    Natalie says:

    Wishing you the very best in your recovery. As parents, while we rush to the doctor’s office for our kids, we normally talk ourselves out of doing the same for ourselves. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply

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