And the saga of Ed continues

About a month ago I got a call from my doctor to notify me that the biopsy had come back on the skin cancer she had removed from my arm. Maybe I should take a step back here and explain a few things because this topic always seems to have a polarizing effect on some readers. There’s that one camp who thinks that the only reason I talk about the fact that I have skin cancer is because I am trying to stir up drama. They are angry people, or at least I think they are because the email they send me is written as if the SHIFT key is broken and permanently set in the ON position from hitting it with their foreheads so many times. I’m sure they are lovely people once they’ve taken a long walk around the block to cool off, or once someone has duct-taped their faces shut.

Then there are those very concerned people who have sent me their condolences and fully expect me to die within the hour. There are moments when I start to get a grip about the whole thing and then someone will send me an email to tell me a story about an entire town in Iowa that died from skin cancer. Someone’s father or brother or neighbor’s cousin’s hairdresser died FROM THE EXACT SKIN CANCER I HAVE, and they want to urge me to get my will in order. These people mean well, I know that and I am very thankful for their concern, but they might want to reconsider the strategy of trying to make someone feel better by suggesting luxurious casket fabrics.

I think it’s pretty important to talk about my experience with this especially since I just found out that my best friend from high school was diagnosed recently with a squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common skin cancer after basal cell carcinoma, the one that was found on my arm. I think this points to the fact that one, there is a giant hole in the ozone right over Memphis, Tennessee, and two, my generation hasn’t ever taken the threat of skin cancer very seriously. I think we should all be knocked upside the head with a tub of SPF 50. And then forced to scroll through every image that Google returns for a search on the word sunburn. (ALERT: before you click on that link you should be aware that some of those images are not safe for work, and curiously, not one image of George Hamilton turned up within the first 20 pages, I CHECKED.)

Turns out that my doctor didn’t remove all of the cancerous cells on my arm. The biopsy showed that the margins of the excised skin were not normal. This made me sad because the scar had healed really well, better than I thought it would, and here I was being told that I didn’t get to keep it.

My doctor set up an appointment for me with a local dermatologist, and last Wednesday I drove down to his office to have the cancer removed once again. The only way I can possibly begin to describe this man and his office is to compare it to a graphic science fiction/horror comic book, it was that unsettling. He began by telling me that the incision that my doctor had made on my arm could have made the problem much worse, because by cutting into the cancer like she did she could have deposited diseased cells into the deeper layers of skin. When I reminded him that he was the one who had told her to just go ahead and cut it out herself, he said, “Really? That was pretty stupid of me, wasn’t it?” EXCUSE ME FOR A MOMENT WHILE I PICK OUT AN EXPENSIVE FABRIC FOR MY CASKET.

After he performed a quick visual assessment of my arm and other areas of my body — when he saw the troubling mole on my back he said I wasn’t allowed to leave his office until he had taken it off — he walked me into the operating room. It was a giant expanse of white walls and white floor, and in the very center of the room sat a giant space-age chair. I stopped at the door and told him I wasn’t going any further until he promised that he wasn’t going to knock me out, strap me to that chair, and suck my brain out of my nose, because all arrows were pointing in that direction.

His pleasant bedside manner continued when, after I had taken my place in the chair, he walked over and started shooting local anesthesia into my arm without telling me what he was doing. When I asked if maybe he could try being a tad less barbaric, he suggested that if I was so concerned about my feelings I should just hire a psychiatrist. Charming! Somehow this led into a discussion about what I do for a living, and I suddenly realized that I have a hard time telling people that I am a writer. I’m always saying that I have a website, or that I write things online, but I’m reluctant to use the word WRITER because when it comes out of my mouth it sounds like I’m pleading with someone to PLEASE TAKE ME SERIOUSLY. It also makes me sound like I’m fond of wearing fedoras and plaid capes. And beige orthopedic shoes that smell like cabbage.

Someone once dismissed my career by saying, “I know that’s what you do, you write about your feelings, but…” And when he said feelings he made it sound as if that word were interchangeable with ear wax or chlamydia. I think from now on when anyone asks me what I do for a living my answer is going to be, “I write about my feelings,” and when I get to that last word I’m going to claw at my chest as an indication that RIGHT HERE IS WHERE I STORE THE MAGIC. And I’ll keep track of how long it takes people to throw up.

Once my arm was numb the dermatologist used a method called curettage and electrodesiccation, two very big words for scraping and burning. I tried not to watch what he was doing, but at one point the flame at the end of the soldering iron he was using to cook my arm temporarily blinded me. I’m not sure exactly how he removed the mole on my back, it happened so fast, but the scar leads me to believe that maybe he zapped it off with his evil laser eyes. The entire procedure was over in less than seven minutes, and after he told me how much he was going to charge me, I calculated that this man makes 100 DOLLARS PER MINUTE. This man may just have a better job than Oprah.

I’m posting links here to pictures of the new scar, but I’m putting them in pop-up windows so that if you don’t want to be confronted with the gore you don’t have to be. The new wound is indeed very grody, much worse than the first one, and makes a profound case against future sun-bathing:

The new wound on my arm.

Close-up of the new wound on my arm.

The wound on my back.

Close-up of the wound on my back.

I know some of you are going to criticize me for not going to the dermatologist in the first place, and of course I know now that I should have taken that course of action, but I’m sort of bound by what my insurance is willing to think about covering, what we have in the bank account, and possible long-term payment options. I trusted my doctor when she told me she could remove it herself, and I didn’t really have the option of saying, you know what, thanks, but I’d like a second opinion first. Sometimes those second opinions are prohibitively expensive because the insurance company has made it pretty clear that I’m on my own. I tried to make the best decision with the options I had.

Let me make it clear, though, that I know I’m lucky that I have any options at all. I’m lucky that I have access to treatment and that this doesn’t have to turn into something much worse. And the good news is that the biopsy came back for the mole that I had removed, and it was totally benign.


That noise you hear? That’s me kicking skin cancer in the nuts.

  • M@


    It kinda looks like someone burned you with a cigarette. That wasn’t one of his utensils, was it?

    Wait, no… you’re not in Missouri.

    So the skin cancer is pretty well nut-kicked. Can you do something about this pesky Middle-East crisis? It’s a total downer.

  • Chair

    Groty, indeed.

    I dare you to google LEEP, though, man. You think having hot lazers remove skin from your ARM is groty, how ’bout on your cervix!? Fortunately, I didn’t feel a thing. But still.

  • Liza

    Fuck the bastards that treat you like shit for worrying about having cancer.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Hopefully Ed and his compadres cease and desist. Saw the gruesome pics, can’t imagine what you’re going through. Good luck!

  • Jenn

    It really sucks that you went with the cheaper option only to have to go with the more expensive option ANYWAY. Those health insurance companies really are bastards. I hope it’s taken care of for good.

    Did you name the mole on your back, even though it’s already gone?

  • MelanieinOrygun

    Hell, yeah! That’s great news. And as far as Mole B-9 goes, it’s still better to lop that fucker off and know for sure than to still have it on your back and worry about it.

  • Pioneer Woman

    My BCC scar on the back of my neck is now itching, thank you very much. Oh, now it’s throbbing.

    The only criticism I have about your posting this graphic saga is that when I finish reading these posts, I start visualizing MY casket fabric. I’m just sure, by the last sentence, that I’m a goner.

    But it’s important. People don’t check themselves enough. It’s a problem!

    I hate tanning booths. Why did I have to grow up in the 80′s?

  • jaime

    I once had a similar encounter with a sadistic derm Dr. I seem to be one of those people who need a little longer for the novacaine to start working. So I’m all of twelve years old, lying prone on the table as the Dr’s scraping suspicious moles off my pale, pale back. And twelve-year-old me starts crying. “I can feel it.” “It hurts.” And the lovely doctor says, “No it doesn’t.” As if I ought to buck up, because having my flesh sliced off doesn’t hurt too bad, right. I think I don’t understand why these insensitive asses are doctors, allegedly interested in healing people, but then there’s that $100/minute thing.

  • jon deal

    Coincidentally, I’m going to the dermatologist in a week or so to have “things removed” from my body.

    I hope my doc has laser eyes, too. That sounds way cool.

  • dancingnancy

    for sure, dr. evil zapped off your mole with his LASER BEAM!!!!!!!!!!! good thing he didn’t do it with liquid hot magma….

    sorry, couldn’t help myself! glad it’s zapped and benign! way to express your FEELINGS. :) i applaud you.

  • Iusedtobecool

    I’m just thankful that you share your feelings as a writer! If it weren’t for you I would think I was the only parent who maybe wasn’t doing the best job possible (and not apologizing for it)…plus, everyone knows doctors are inherently evil (even the nice ones)…Someday I’ll share my experiences as a disfellowshipped Jehovah’s Witness and then the ones where I was a full time Mary Kay consultant just so we can compare scars…

  • SarahRod

    Heather- Start taking Vitamin E now to combat the scar tissue. After a biopsy surgery, I took a regimen of Vitamin E tablets on the advice of my fanatical German Mother-In-Law(fanatical about vitamins, not about things Germanic) and I believe it was good advice. My operation scar is nigh invisible to anyone who doesn’t already know where to look. Cheers to you!

  • Lolajb

    Because of you, I now wear a hat EVERY SINGLE TIME I go outside.
    Because of you, I now wear sunscreen EVERY SINGLE TIME I go outside.
    Because of you, I force both my children to do the same EVERY SINGLE TIME they go outside.
    Because of you, I nag my husband to do the same EVERY SINGLE TIME he goes outside.
    Thanks for taking care of our family too.
    I know this sounds like a bad 80s ballad gone wrong, but I honesttogod think of you every time I consider skipping a ProtectMyselfFromtheSun step.
    Hope you get the all clear soon.

  • Mo

    I’m disappointed to note that my concept of the dermatologist apparently using a cigar as an excision tool wasn’t an original one.

    These entries hit home for me — I’ve had a mole on my head for about 15 years, about three inches above my right ear. It totally freaks my wife out, and she continues to insist I get it removed, but of course insurance is a factor (read: I have none). Besides, I’m sure the doctor will want the hair gone before removing the mole, so that rules out times when people are around to blind with a clean-shaven pate.

  • Vaguely Urban

    B-9, baby!

    Sounds like you were very brave. I hope that the follow up did the trick, and heals up nicely.

    Also, thanks for spelling grody with a “d”. I much prefer that to “grotty” as is used by some.

  • Lisa Sigler

    Dear Dooce,

    I am so happy for your results. Thanks for sharing about your experience and scaring the shit out of all of us so we will all go to the dermotologist now! hahahahaha…..I need to make my appointment asap. You rock. Hope you heal up quickly!

  • Rhi

    The scar from the mole I had removed from my right boob looks just like the scar on your arm. My bra size increased by a cup shortly after I had it removed. I like to think that was holding it back.

  • Amanda B.

    Oooooh, I smooch your whole cancer-free self.

    *and smack dat ass*

  • KellyC

    I’m so happy your mole came back benign. I just had another one removed as well and it wasn’t cancerous this time. Yeah! It really does make you worry about your skin, though. It also makes you muy 60 SPF sunblock a lot;) Kelly

    Home of Pass the Torch Tuesday

  • lilysgift

    Thank you for sharing this with your readers, it’s an important topic. I’m 37 and 5 years ago I was diagnosed with Melenoma on my upper left thigh. Talk about a shocker…I thought skin cancer was for old folks in Miami. My mole looked pretty harmless, other than it was almost black and about the size of a pencil eraser (it was smooth too) My Mother noticed it and said I should have it checked, and thank God for her poking around in my business. She probably saved my life. Don’t be shy to ask your doctor to look at your moles, it only takes a minute.

    Heather, I hope you feel better soon and I’m thrilled that your results were good. I know you hear it all the time, but your blog is a real highlight in my day! Thanks!

  • Soapdish

    So good to here about the Bob not being sickly (I’ve named the one on your back “Bob”. I hope you don’t mind).

    The minute I saw BEE NINE I thought B9 and couldn’t that be a snappy new masthead for October. I mean it could totally suck too…just what flashed through my head.

    Hope you get to feeling better and pretend that the jerky doc is cancer. Kick in balls. Repeat as necessary.

  • heathabee

    CONGRATS ON THE BENIGN RESULTS!!!! Fabulous news!!! (That called for extra exclamation points, I think!)

    You should totally move to Canada. Free health care. FREE! And what health care doesn’t pay, insurance does, and the fees are pretty manageable and reasonable. I doubt it would cost upwards of $700 here, to get a mole removed! We’ve got mountains too! :)

  • Tara

    “he said, ‘Really? That was pretty stupid of me, wasn’t it?’ EXCUSE ME FOR A MOMENT WHILE I PICK OUT AN EXPENSIVE FABRIC FOR MY CASKET.”

    You made me snort. At work. My coworkers thank you.

    Thank you for sharing the whole Ed saga with us. It made me get my moley (moly? mol-ay?) self to the doctor, where I had 2 removed. And as jutrzenka said, “benign” never sounded so sweet.

  • Wicked H

    Livestrong Armstrong!!! Sorry, I just had to.

    Glad it all turned out well. Bravo for making the rest of us aware. If 1/8 of us listen, you’ve made a huge difference.

  • kate gunnison

    I am really glad to hear that the mole was benign and that you are going to be okay. That’s excellent news.

    This is not to belittle that awesome news in anyway, but the real reason I am posting my first comment ever is to say that the September masthead is the Best. Masthead. Ever. I think I go to your site approximately 12 times a day just so I can laugh all over again at Chuck and his headgear. Seriously, it’s so damned funny and cute and fantastic that I’m begging you to leave it up for more than a month. My best friend and I are in awe of Chuck and his balancing abilities – we cannot get our dogs to perform anything remotely resembling the tricks that Chuck can do. It’s really all we can do not to stalk the dog parks of Salt Lake to find him. OK, that sounds a little weird, I promise, we aren’t doing that. But I think if we ever saw Chuck, it might be the most exciting celebrity sighting ever.

    Anyway, congrats again on the good health news and keep up the good work. My work day would be a barren and empty place without your blog.

  • Samantha


    Oh Lord–look at your arm! I’m so sorry but so glad it was done.


    “take that skin cancer–you can’t scare me in your various forms” SPF 50

  • June

    It’s well known that the doctors who get sued are the ones who talk down to patients and give the impression that they are deceitful or dishonest, no matter what their skill level. Likewise, the ones that are trusted by their patients are rarely ever sued, even if they make pretty egregious mistakes.

    That said, I’m glad this cancer bit is being take care of once and for all, even if the excision was performed by an asshat. Hope no more skin things develop! And no bad can possibly come out of raising awareness of skin cancer, so pbththtp to the people who try to dictate what you should write about.

    One last thing – I had electrodessication performed on my cervix some years ago (sans anesthetic agents!) to stop a would-be cancer. If you think your skin looks bad, imagine how I felt when I looked down the table and saw wisps of smoke coming out of my craw…

  • tksinclair

    Heather, my mother just went through this with a “spot” (looked like nothing more than a brown age spot) on her face. She had to go back in several times as they took more around the margin. The upside – the Dr.’s don’t want to take any more tissue than absolutely necessary. The suck-side – you may end up having to return for more surgery. Maybe they should have told you that huh? My mom has had reconstructive surgery and it looking pretty good under the circumstances. I’m a mess. Now I’m completely paranoid and want every “spot,” mole, discoloration, age mark, beauty mark, indentation, etc. burned or scraped off my body immediately. Anyway, you rock and as always tell it like it is. Most of us expect nothing less and nothing more.

  • jutrzenka

    As of yesterday, I too kicked cancer square in the nuts! The word “benign” never sounded so sweet.

  • jennifer

    It’s really wonderful that you DO share this with others, because skin cancer is much more common than most people realize. By showing your experiences, both good and bad, you’re raising awareness.

    The haters? They can suck it. Seriously.

    Oh, and the doctor who made the completely unprofessional comment, he can suck it too. I wonder if it’s possible to report his inappropriate behavior to the insurance company.

  • jes

    Cargo lighter? Is that what it’s called?

    You know what I mean. A car cigarette lighter thing.

  • Rob

    If Thoughtfloss is correct, you don’t need to kick skin cancer in the nuts, just spray sunblock on them.

    And all the zapping and searing reminds me of Goldfinger:

    “No, Mr Basal Cell Carcinoma, I expect you to die…”

    Hope your new crater does the job.

  • Meg

    Hi Heather,
    I really appreciate you sharing the details of your saga…I am 28 years old and as of yesterday, have had 7 moles removed…2 of which have been deemed ‘pre-cancerous’. Reading your site prompted me to head back to the dermatologist after a 12-month slacker period…turns out I need 3 more removed…well, 2 more after yesterday’s removal. Anyways – as I sit here typing with gross stitches in my arm, it’s comforting to know I’m not alone! Keep speaking up – who knows, you might have saved my life (a tad dramatic but could very well be true!). Thanks! :)

  • Cloudy

    Very John Bender looking scar: “It’s about the size of a cigar…Do I stutter?”

  • jayfid

    LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! this month’s masthead by the way!

  • Helen

    Isn’t the point of writing to be interesting? I don’t get the problem some people are having with the ‘drama.’ Of course it’s dramatic, it’s skin cancer. You made a very upsetting personal experience hilarious though. By that I mean, some of the things you said in the course of describing what you went through. I have a round scar like I assume your’s will be from ‘something’ my grandfather (Dr.) burned off my chest as a child. I am another one with freckly arms and pale as milk children…always wary.

  • jes

    OH, GAWD. Heather. The spot on your arm looks precisely like someone took a cargo lighter from a car and thrust it into your precious, tender skin.

  • islaygirl

    i’m glad the arm is ok, and i have no problem with you discussing it as much and as often as you want. BUT the reason i’m commenting is the writer thing. my ex has a story he tells about this wannabe writer who wrote, like, Tylenol-packaging copy and always introduced herself in this whining sandpaper voice, “I’m a WRIIIIIIter.”

    I live in fear of that, even tho i am, as my site declares today, ‘paid to write stupid stuff.’

    really glad the arm & back are ok.

  • April-Lyn

    Sucks that the doctor didn’t get it all on the first try, but hurrah for being Ed-free, and for BEE NINE Ed-lets!

    On a different note, I just wrote a long, rambling, written-too-late-at-night-to-be-conscise piece on my own weblog about writing, and how I always feel like a fraud when I refer to myself as a WRITER. I don’t want people to think I’m any more pretentious than they already to! The difference is that you actually get paid for it, whereas I just crank out entries and notes and beginings of stories and half-finished poems when free time and motivation allow. Yay for you! :)

  • April-Lyn

    Sucks that the doctor didn’t get it all on the first try, but hurrah for being Ed-free, and for BEE NINE Ed-lets!

    On a different note, I just wrote a long, rambling, written-too-late-at-night-to-be-conscise piece on my own weblog about writing, and how I always feel like a fraud when I refer to myself as a WRITER. I don’t want people to think I’m any more pretentious than they already to! The difference is that you actually get paid for it, whereas I just crank out entries and notes and beginings of stories and half-finished poems when free time and motivation allow. Yay for you! :)

  • jayfid

    You are a great, entertaining writer. It bugs me that you have to include all these disclaimers for the haters. Go away bothersome haters!

    Way to kick it in the nuts!

  • Alanna

    What is it about dermatologists? I have the world’s most profane one, I am convinced. Par example: the first time he met my father, he said, “Hi, I’m Dr. L——. I want to fuck your wife.” Granted, this is hilarious to my family, way more hilarious than the apparent torture chamber you visited. In any case, I’m very glad to hear you’re all benign, you writer you.

  • Heather

    Having had a few moles lobbed off myself (luckily no burning or scraping) I’m a big fan of the pastey look. Hope the next dermatologist you see is less of an asshat.

  • Joanne Viskup

    First of all, I am amazed that you are opening up comments on this one considering the wack-jobs that have posted in the past. Wow.

    Secondly, OUCH! Looks like a cigarette burn. Poor you! I know you will be getting a lot of well desrved TLC from Jon, Leta and Chuck.

    Thirdly, besides kicking cancer in the nuts (Yay!), it would have been nice to kick Dr. Evil there in the nuts too. He deserves it. Sorry you were at the mercy of such an idiot.

  • BREM experience

    Hearing this account of your experience makes me realise that however shitty our medical system is, with queues and waiting lists, at least I never have to jeopardize my health for money considerations. Well, mostly anyway.

    Hope you recover well. Have a beer or some alcohol, it helps. If you can find any in Salt Lake City.

  • Eeyore_784

    Great post. Sounds like we have the same Dr. Mine told me that my next option was *points his gun hand to his head and pulled the trigger* that was 2 wks ago. (caused a bad chemical depression and now I am fighting suicide daily) Jerks. Feel Better and hope it doesn’t hurt as bad as it looks like it does.

    Heather, Can I post a link here for Kittens and Puppies that are in my rescue here in KS?

    This link here made me think about it as I was getting ready to post. Those people answering that post there don’t realize those two have been in rescue for months. I just hope I can get these guys placed. I thought of the pound today because of how sick I have been and that snapped me awake. I won’t abandon them but I am drained, miserable and a hi jacker of your post apparently. Guess I feel its ok since I have been here since the start. :o P Again, feel better. I sure am trying to.

  • marcilambert

    do you know why i had to click on all those scar photos? because i live in memphis and have two little girls.

    who will never go outside during daylight hours again.

    sorry about dr. frankenstein. doctors who wield knives aren’t known for great compassion.

  • msadventures

    *le sigh*

    At the risk of sounding like a naysayer, or perhaps self-centered, the bad thing about you having such a popular website is that by the time I get to make a comment, everyone else has already said the stuff that I’d like to say and I just get to sit here and sound like an echo.

    ANYWAY. Very happy to see that the skin cancer has gone bye-bye. And in trying to be a better person, I hope nothing evil befalls the stupid arse dermatologist for his idiotic behavior. However, if something highly annoying were to befall him, I might secretly rejoice on your behalf.

    In short, erm, well done?! :D

  • sarah g

    YAY!! Congrats. And even if someone doesnt want to hear about it, too bad. Your blog, your life, your scary news! Cause cancer is scary stuff.

    so yay for you! way to show it who is the boss!

    as for the bedside manner.. grr! I had to go in for a followup after my wisdom tooth removal because they lost some of the tooth into my sinus..blah blah. and totally rude and laughed at me, yes laughed at my questions, when i was at the followup!

    Wish i could kick his butt!

  • uppahand

    Congrats! So happy for you!

  • Audrey

    Congrats on kicking that cancer in the nuts! Hopefully your new scars will be even better than the first one.