|Me, Rehoboth Beach 1965|
Yesterday I went to the VA in Wilmington, Delaware for an emergency appointment with my dermatologist. I had just seen them this past September. At that time they removed a small keratosis spot on my left cheek. Keratosis is a pre cancerous skin condition. If you don't remove them, they could turn cancerous. I've had this condition since 1987 when I noticed a painful spot on my face when I shaved. Over the years I regularly visit a dermatologist to be checked for the return of these spots. Occasionally they return. The dermatologist removes them by burning off the scabby keratosis spot with dry ice. Afterward my face looks like I was beat up but eventually it heals and I'm back to normal.
Shortly after my visit to the VA last September I had another painful scabby spot show up on my left shoulder, right by my shirt line. I tried to ignore it, hoping it would go away. But it didn't. So I called the VA Friday hoping that I would have to wait two months for an appointment. I was in luck, they had a cancellation for Monday so I went up with Significant Other who also, coincidentally had a scheduled appointment with the dermatologist.
We were both sliced and diced. I had the spot burned off of my shoulder. I also had a spot taken off of my right shoulder blade. That wasn't cancerous but "just" a barnacle. When you're old like me I guess you get "barnacles" just like a ship. Then the doctor noticed a spot on the base of my spine. It wasn't cancerous either but would I like it removed? Sure. What the heck? So she dug and dug at it, while the intern looked on. After a few minutes of painful digging she said she got most of it, would I like to to "dig" some more? Uh......no. I'll live with it. No more digging into my flesh as long as it wasn't cancerous.
Then she found a suspicious spot on my right ear. I noticed it too. It looked like clotted blood but it wasn't painful so I ignored it.....of course. She said she would like to send it in for a biopsy. Uh huh. Biopsy isn't a word one want to hear when one is in the dermatologist's office. She said she would "slice it off" after she gave my ear a needle (first time my ear ever had a needle) and "send it in." She said the ear "heals very quickly" so that was a "good thing." Uh huh. So I get the needle in my ear and it is just as you would imagine, a sharp prick to the ear (another First.) She "slices" off then offending parasite on my ear and then looks for a bandage to stop the bleeding. In all my 69 years I never had one of my ears bleed. I did yesterday. There is always a first for everything.
She couldn't find a small bandage so she put a too big bandage on my ear and told me they would be "contacting me." She said if the biopsy turned out positive then they would "have to have a conversation with me." Okay. That sounds ominous. Lots of key words and phrases to perk up my ears.
Coincidentally earlier this week Significant Other showed me an article in the local paper about how well the VA Hospice Care Unit function. The cover story was on a 64 year old veteran who had terminal skin cancer. A big bandage was on his face where his nose should have been His daughter was in the picture with him. This picture came to my mind yesterday. Then I thought of all those years I used to lay on the beach getting a tan.
I'm here to tell everyone right now. Those tans weren't worth it. All the warnings about skin cancer? They were true. I know. I'm dealing with it now and it is damn scary.