My twitter followers already know about this (thanks for the notes of support, folks!), but here’s the full story.
For a few months, a light coloured, flat mole on my back had been slightly bothering me. It would scab over and itch. The first couple of times, I thought I might have knocked it, but after a while, I realised that it was doing it all on its lonesome. Everyone knows that scabbing and itchy moles are No Good.
I had a punch biopsy (Ouch! Who makes up these names?! Why not ‘candy biopsy’ or ‘fluffy bunny biopsy’?!), and sure enough, it was a spreading basal cell carcinoma. Not a melanoma, which is the serious kind of skin cancer… if you are going to have a skin cancer, a non-melanoma one is the cancer of choice.
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2010), over 1850 Australians die from skin cancer every year. About two thirds of Australians will develop skin cancer by the age of 70, with the risk being higher in men (2 in 3) than women (3 in 5). *
In the United States, more than 2 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are found annually. Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, accounted for about 68,130 cases of skin cancer in the US in 2010. **
Caught early, it is easily treatable and non-melanoma skin cancer (like the one I had) rarely spreads to other parts of the body.
Personally, I grew up before the era of skin cancer awareness, summers were spent on the beach slathered in baby oil (baby oil!) with a steely determination to ‘get brown’, and I did… brown and burnt and brown and burnt etc, summer after summer. Photos of me in those days have me super tanned in little bikinis. I doubt that there is anyone of my generation who doesn’t know someone who has had skin cancer.
Nearly two weeks ago, I had the mole, and quite the chunk of skin around it, removed (since the cancer spreads, the objective is to ensure you cut out enough surrounding tissue to leave no cancerous cells). Four internal stitches and five external stitches later, I was done.
Today, I had the stitches out and got the results of the pathology tests that check that all of the cancer has been removed. It was all clear.
Funnily, while I was not worried, I bounced out of the appointment feeling much lighter and happier. I had been carrying around testy irritation this last week for no good reason that I could discern. I realise now that THAT was the reason.
So yeah, fuck you traitorous cancer mole!!!