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.

BEE. NINE.

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

  • Laura Horacefield

    I know they are probably not the best things in the world but I was expecting much more gore. Not bad and they look like they will heal well.

    I hope it all goes away soon so you don’t have to be strapped in scary white chairs anymore.

  • http://houseofhill.blogspot.com gin

    Maybe you should kick the evil skin doctor in the nuts, just make sure you do it off the billing times.

  • http://www.sarae.net sarae

    Congrats.
    Now, I think I might never go into the sun again.

  • Thoughtfloss

    I just wanted to mention that sun damage avoidance is so much easier now with those spray-on sunblocks. Just be advised never to spray them on your nude husband’s scrotum while nude sunbathing, unless you want to see a grown man weep.

  • Ani

    Your experience inspired me to finally get off my ass and get some of my own moles checked. Two of them were removed, though they turned out to be benign. My Dr was a very aloof jerk too. Maybe they teach that at Derm school?

    You also inspired me to make sure I slather myself and my kids with sunscreen to keep them from having holes cut into them.

    Rock on, Heather. And to the naysayers…bugger off.

  • http://prozac-mommy.blogspot.com NuttyDutty

    There is a spot in the middle of my back that is currently twinging and making my stomach curl….that would be the mole I have in the EXACT same spot as your BEE.NINE. mole.

    I work in the medical field and have seen GROSS stuff, but for some reason your photos of the enlarged ED have disturbed me. Looks like someone took the end of a cigar and put it out on your arm!

    For years I’ve been wanting to have the mole on my back removed, but at the same time afraid of them cutting it off!!!

    This coming from a person that was totally cool with changing dressings on a burn victim….

  • Elise Foreman Carter

    As much as people like to hate, or like to give the worst-case scenario but with good intentions, I will say this:

    You write on this website, every day, for us. I mean, I know you write it for you, too – or I assume you do, because I think that’s why most writers write. But you post it on the internet for us. You think about us when you write it, you consider what we would like to hear, you decide what you would like us to know.

    So for that, thanks! We like it. Even the well-intentioned naysayers – they like it too. I’m sure of it.

    I’m happy I get to know about your experience thus far with the cancer. Hopefully we won’t hear much more about it, because it will be gone. But either way, thanks for writing about it.

  • http://shiz.ca/ Shiz Shiz

    “Kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.”

    - Bruce Cockburn

  • southerngirl

    Knee cancer in the nuts, sistah!

    My GP recommended that his nurse practicioner cut out the basil cell carcinoma on my husbands’s face because “her father was a dermatologist”. Afterwards, when my vet saw his scar, he said, “Next time come to me. I can do better than that.”

  • http://www.livejournal.com/~returnofthejeni JeniG

    ::Applying layers and layers of sunblock::

    Congrats, Heather. Way to kick it in the nuts good!

  • Zoot

    I went to the beach soon after you first told us about Ed. My goal for myself and my entire family was to come home with zero difference in skin color. We succeeded, although we spent nine-gagillion dollars on sunscreen. And it’s because of Ed. So, thanks.

  • http://www.overactiveimagination.blogspot.com Dawn

    I’ve always wondered what type of low-life, non existent life asshole would leave a shitty comment to someone who posts about a life changing event like skin cancer(or whatever).

    Those incision sites look rough Heather but I have you in my thoughts and prayers that your doc was able to get all of the this time and Oh yeah! we LOVE BEE-NINE!!

    Heal well and wear that sunblock girl.
    Dawn

  • AndreaCG

    Ouch..I felt the kick from here! Ah well, cancer deserves it…biotch!

    Congrats Heather!

  • http://www.grace-filled.net jen

    i had several moles on my chest and back removed last month and my sadistic doctor decided that liquid nitrogen sessions were the way to go. when i asked him why he didn’t just cut the flipping things off, he replied that doing so would leave a scar.

    yeah… like the red spots on my chest and back after almost 6 weeks AREN’T scars?

  • http://www.leahpeah.com/blog leahpeah

    xoxoxoxoxo

  • http://www.maypapers.blogspot.com Tracey Clark

    I had the same thing on my NOSE. They found it 3 months before my wedding and they didn’t want to wait to take it off. Hi, I had to get 10 stitches down my nose as my wedding day drew near. Cheers!

    In the big picture, who gives a shit about a scar when we are A-friggin’-OK now. Talk about your reality checks.

    Glad to hear you kicked it as did I! I will no longer fight the SPF. That is until they find out that IT causes cancer.

  • http://burrito19.livejournal.com Beth

    Yeah nuts!

    The one on your back looks like it was done with a punch (think of it like a cookie cutter taking a sweet niblet out of your skin).

    Thanks for being a sunscreen and skin cancer advocate. Those ninnies who think you’re trying to stir up drama have probably never seen the sun because they’re too busy downloading rabbit porn in their windowless basements.

    Doctor Beth

  • Red

    Wow, what is it with dermatologists? I had a similar experience – I’ve had 10 moles removed so far, and the first 8 of them were just scraped off the surface of my skin with razors. Then one time, I go to the dermatologist for what I think is my 2 week follow-up appointment for one of those scrapings, and instead the nurse tells me I’m having an excision (cutting a hunk of skin out with scalpels). With no warning! The doc claims she called me to talk with me about it, and she says she has a note from the call, which NEVER HAPPENED. They’ve scheduled me for surgery without telling me why, what the risks are, etc. Yikes. I was too stunned to really think about it, so I went ahead with the surgery, which turned out to have been totally unnecessary. I found a new dermatologist after that.

    Sorry to hear you had similar trouble.

  • Blue.

    Heather, I say that if people don’t want to read what you write about because they think you’re self-absorbed or going to die, well, then, they just shouldn’t read Dooce. Frankly, I like your Ed updates, and you can be damned sure that I made my husband read the first Ed update because he’s a sun-baby. Keep up the nut-kicking!

  • Galatae

    I’m with comment 255′s remarks too. I enjoy reading your blog.

    and then…

    What, there’s only one dermatologist in Utah? You, girl, are ALLOWED TO SAY NO to doctors who give care less than what you expect. Everyone is. Believe it or not, there are nicer doctors around and you don’t have to settle for crappy bedside manners.

    http://www.quackwatch.org/04ConsumerEducation/QA/mdcheck.html lists some resources for background info on docs.

  • prittykitty

    This is the first time I have posted a comment. I read your blog daily and there are times I have wanted to post a comment. But, and I will be honest about this, I have been to damn lazy to create an account so I can comment. But today, I decided to go ahead and do it.

    I just want to say that I love reading your blog. You tell it like it is. And I for one appreciate that kind of honesty.

    I’m glad everything came back positive and you’re doing well. And I agree with gin, you should kick that dermatologist in the nuts. But even if you do it during billable hours, wouldn’t it be worth it?

  • lisa

    That doctor did NOT say that about the psychiatrist. And people do NOT think you’re writing about this to be a drama queen. There is a class of people called Borderline Personalities, and to qualify you must become rabidly indignant about anyone getting more attention than you do. You must also have never heard the term Borderline Personality, because it never occurs to you that you are a f–ing nutcase for being jealous of someone who has cancer. I am, like so many of your readers, so happy to read the word benign.

  • http://www.gooseberried.com Gooseberried

    Congrats for kicking that cancer in the balls. Always a good feeling.

    I’ve been pretty good about staying out of the sun this year, mostly because I only had two weekends off in total this summer which left no time for sunbathing. It’s so hard to avoid though because as a college student, my friends are always pleading to go to Sedona or to Oak Creek. It’s hard to remember to apply sunblock when you’re getting trashed in Arizona.

  • kelbutt

    Hey, I’ve had two of those removed, too. One was on MY HEAD. In my hair. Above my ear. Where I had to get a shot to numb it before all the scraping and burning. Now I have a bald spot the size of a pencil eraser, and a scar the same size and shape on my back to make a matching set. And I feel lucky to have ‘em. Further, I feel lucky that you have a matching set, too. And glad your luck outmatched your doc’s boneheadedness…

  • jagamom

    As someone who has heard the word Benign in connection with their child I share your joy at hearing that word from your doctor. Here’s hoping you kick Ed to the curb never to be heard from again!

  • http://www.profilesintoolness.com profilesintoolness

    Wow, that doctor sounds like the epitome of total tool douchebag. Great news that the other mole is benign, though. Keep kicking skin cancer in the balls.

  • lmj (alias hez)

    Benign. It’s a beautiful word. Congratulations!

  • http://karinka1.blogspot.com Carrie Johnston

    P.S. Your arm looks like Jon put out a cigar on it.

  • CompletelyWorthlessBum

    Heather, I think that you *should* write about your earwax and your chlamydia–or someone else’s, provided that you don’t have any. If anyone could make earwax and chlamydia interesting to read about, it’d be you.

  • Radical Turn

    Dear Heather,

    You are definitely a writer — claim it boldly!

    Well, as someone who is fighting cancer, I’m interested in your fight and glad your biopsies are benign.

    I love your site! Keep writing!

    Rad

  • http://karinka1.blogspot.com Carrie Johnston

    Actually, go straight to a surgeon. Skip the dermatologist. I’m not criticizing, though. I love reading about your feelings. Feel on!

  • Miz_Booshay

    Dear Heather,

    I think you are an excellent writer…and should not hesitate to call yourself one.

    Great news about The Cancer being benign….very excellent news!

    Donna

  • keohinani

    i can’t quite put into words how much i appreciate that you write. anything and everything you’ve ever written about that i’ve read since i found your website has been valuable to me in some way. you seem to find the humor in reality and the reality in humor, and i can’t say i know if you’re doing it consciously. if whatever you call this – writing things online, having a website, being a WRITER – is what you do for a living, for what it’s worth, you are definitely living.
    and seriously? luxurious fabric for a casket? you might as well ask me what kind of underwear i would want to be wearing for my wake. i’d rather be made into a diamond…because you know what they say: a diamond is forever. you can do that now, i hear. and dammit, if someone sells me on ebay, i hope it’s for no less than a million. cuz that’s basically how much my parents said they spent on putting me through private school.

  • YoMama

    Dear Heather the Writer,
    You are worthy of the title “writer”.
    Because of you, I am getting my little cauliflower looking scabby thing on my arm checked out at the dermatologist this week. I have been putting it off all summer since I read your first post about the skin cancer. Now your second incident has pushed me to get it checked out immediately since it looks exactly like yours did and does that little bleeding thing sometimes!

  • Elyse

    If I didn’t have to run to work this very moment I’d write a longer, more heartfelt comment, but on that note: Yay! Sack those cancer nuts! *high five* Lets get ice cream!

  • http://frankensoul.typepad.com frankensoul

    As I was reading this, I found it very sad that you had to explain yourself at the end of this post. I know I should have done this, I know that, but this was this, etc. Major bummer.

    Anyhow, know that I am thinking of you and wishing you well.

  • http://www.blackbeltmama.com Black Belt Mama

    For whatever reason, the term “dermatologist” tends to be synonymous with “lacking any and all personality.” Last year, I had a mole removed from my back, one that “worried” my dermatolgist. It worried her so much that she started telling me about a patient of hers (my age) who had a similar mole who is now dying because the cancer had spread to her brain (melanoma). Then she told me she couldn’t do the procedure until the day after Christmas and told me “Don’t let it ruin your Christmas or anything.” So, I spent the two weeks leading up to and my Christmas thinking it would be my last. I arrived the day after at her office and she located the mole and said, “Oh, this little thing.” I wanted to PUNT HER. It was benign and I hate her for ruining my Christmas. Dermatologists really should have to take intensive bedside manner classes. Hope you heal soon. Glad to hear you’re o.k.

  • littlefirecrackr

    CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!
    I have never met you, yet I feel like I know you and even got all teary eyed when I read this. Way to Go! What a great thing for you, Jon & Leta.

  • Anu

    Glad to know that the mole was benign. I feel that you dont have the need to explain what you write on your website, especially about your cancer, to people who don’t have the ability to keep their negativity under control. These people feel the need to constantly put down someone else to make themselves feel good for those 30 seconds it takes to type the hate mail.

    Hope things work out as soon as possible so you can put all this behind you and move on with your life.

  • http://www.zia.blogs.com/wastedbirthcontrol/ Cecily

    Perhaps while sunbathing you can just tell folks that Jon put his cigar out on your arm?

    Heh.

  • http://noninfidibulum.blogspot.com El Dorado Jr

    These topical sorts of skin cancers are becoming much more prevalent. Emanations from Uranus no doubt. But seriously, my son’s girlfriend had such a cancer removed from her face. You need to have a plastic surgeon do this sort of work unles you don’t mind unsightly scars here and there. Stayouttadasunlamps too. This isn’t drama, its everyday stuff. Ask around, a lot of us dolts have this stuff now.

  • http://dailypiglet.wordpress.com Piglet

    You go Heather, do a “Laura Croft” kicking of that cancer’s ass. I think it’s safe to say you got enough people behind you that “got yo’back”.

    Thanks for sharing this b/c God knows I never woulda known what it looked like, and I cannot be the only one that likes to be educated about this kind of stuff (from real people, not some big ass corporation that wants to control what we think).

    You rock!

  • erinchosen

    Heather, sometimes I think I love you more than life itself…..

  • kate

    Heather- keep up the good word on Sunblock & Cancer! It is crucial that people are aware that “yes, it can happen to you”. I was 23 when my first “melanoma insitu” was discovered, and 25 when they found my 2nd. Now, I visit the Melanoma Clinic in San Francisco every 4-6 mos. and will continue to do so forever I assume. I have also discovered that my children also have the “A-typical pattern” so they visit Mt. Zion yearly as well. Yep, that means that I have passed this wonderful gene down to my 4 little darlings. Please note that I am of Irish decent, and although I could tan pretty easily, I have the lovely pastey white look by choice! I have convinced my 13 yr old daughter that when everyone else is old and wrinkled, we will be as beautiful as we are today because of sunblock and keeping ourselves covered as much as possible. She also agrees that hats can be cool, and the scent of sunblock is almost like perfume. Congrats on the good news of BEE-NINE. That’s one of our favorite words!

    Post Script
    You may want to call your insurance and see if there are any other Doctors you can see… sounds like your guy should be a proctologist instead- I bet he would fit right in working with a bunch of asses…

  • Erica

    I am glad I found your blog Heather-besides the fact that I am learning about motherhood and get to laugh my ass off-I am thankful for these posts.

    I just found out that a spot on my face may be basal cell as well (and on top of that I am 4 month preg with a high risk neon sign over my head). I went to the dermatologist (who spend many a minute with me) and he gave me a class c “do not use when preg” steroid cream. I figure if pregnant rats and rabbits had problems with their babies at taking low doses aganist their will-well maybe I should listen to the drugs own website warnings. Ha! So I am not using it (after my primary doc and my ob said not to-why do most derms suck?) and I am hoping they will just remove it like they should of in the first place. But as with my insurance-I think the derm didn’t want to do much since (unless forced) he is getting less pay.

    So I am with you on the frustration-and I thank you for putting your life out there. I am one of the crazy people who appreciates every single moment!!! :)

  • http://cauri.wordpress.com Cauri

    Completely off-topic, but

    I love Leta’s bershon in yesterday’s pic!

  • http://lifeisgoodatthebeach.blogspot.com/ BeachMama

    My Hubby had a suspicious mole removed from his back about 8 or 9 years ago. It too came back benign and the scar looks similar to yours. We just tell people he was shot in the back and survived. It is much cooler than saying he had a mole removed. Sorry you had to have more removed from your arm, hope Ed is gone for sure now.

  • http://forevervoyaging.blogspot.com Mike Drips

    “duct-taped their faces shut”

    This is the insightful, gentle and nurturing kind of advice that I enjoy reading your column for.

    Just keep entertaining us with your diseases, mentally challenged relatives, unemployable husband, alleged dog, and your strange, odd, loveable and yet so-much-like-her-mother child.

  • http://cmoonchild.blogspot.com cmoonchild

    I went to the doc with a suspicious mole on the middle of my back. While the (actually really nice) derm didn’t think they were anything, she went ahead and removed them, since they are hard to keep an eye on there.

    My husband has lupus, and the sun is a trigger factor. I stand over him until he puts SPF 50 on before we leave the house, and I’ve started wearing it too — not just to prevent cancer, but because I’m ridiculously vain and don’t want wrinkles.

    Thanks for being so honest and sharing your story, Heather. I know you’ve made a lot of people — including me — think about an important topic.

  • Georgia

    I hope everything turns out in your favor and that the scar isn’t too noticable.

    And for the record… I’m sorry that you feel like you have to cover your ass on your own website(i.e. making sure nobody thinks you’re throwing a pitty party OR making light of the situation)… It’s pretty much ridiculous.