the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Another instance when my early twenties continue to haunt me

About a year and a half ago I noticed what I thought was a scar on my left shoulder that seemed to be increasing in circumference very slowly. A few months later while getting a general check-up with my doctor, I showed her the scar and she said to keep an eye on it, that we’d take another look at it the next time I was in. It was soon after that Jon left his job and we lost our insurance, and then several months later when we finally found an insurance group that would cover us I refused to go to the doctor for any reason because I would rather spend the money on something more important to our lives than my health. Like cable television.

That scar has continued to grow despite my attempts to ignore it. I often cover it up with a little bit of make-up whenever I wear a tank-top because I’ve grown tired of the terrified looks, the stolen glances that do nothing to mask the horror in people’s faces when they realize that they are standing within inches of a leper. My mother is the worst, and if she ever stops by the house before I’ve had the chance to cover it up she is compelled to point it out and talk about it out loud: EVERYONE, BEHOLD. AN OPEN SORE IS AMONG US. And then horror of all horrors, she will point to it with her index finger. I have to try very hard not to lean over and bite that finger off at the knuckle.

She used to do this all the time when I had a pimple, point it out to me as if I didn’t know it was there in the first place. Bulletin: I WAS ACTUALLY TRYING TO FORGET IT WAS THERE, BUT THANK YOU FOR THE REMINDER, MOM. I forgive her for this, though, because I have experienced the same urge with Leta and have actively had to fight it. So many times she will round the corner into the room with a giant, nubbly green booger sitting in the opening of her nostril. My instinct is to throw my entire body at it, because I can’t imagine that she is getting enough oxygen, not with that obstruction. My fingers will involuntarily twitch with the urge to pluck or flick, but if she is okay to walk around with the bumpy toe of a troll sticking out of her nose, why can’t I be?

Last week I had to give in and go see my doctor because all of my prescriptions were about to run out, including the one for the medicine that prevents me from speaking in tongues. My doctor is a unique woman, very smart and adorably odd, and she speaks with a Northeast accent that makes her sound as if she is the one who is teaching my daughter how to speak. Leta has a very surprising accent — she throws a bwall, like to twahlk on the phone, thinks her fwather is the most chwarming man, and loves to play cwards while watching reruns of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” I guess when you combine the accents of her parents, Southern Drawl with Northern Utah Farm Speak, you get New York Jewish Cat Lady.

This time when she looked at my scar her eyes got as big as the hubcaps on our truck, and she said she’d need to take a biopsy to make sure it wasn’t something dangerous. When she said “biopsy” I asked her how much that would cost, because if it costs more than a casket I might need to weigh my options. She asked why I cared, wouldn’t my insurance cover it? And when I told her that I was self-employed, that my insurance was the equivalent of no insurance at all, we got into an uncomfortable discussion about what I do for a living. We got all the way to the part where she realized I was a blogger, except when that came out of her mouth it really did sound like a diagnosis: malignant blogger. And then I turned the conversation around before it went any further. She already has intimate knowledge of my lady parts, and knows the exact shape of my right ovary. Why give her my URL when there is nothing left to learn about me?

The results of the biopsy came back a few days ago and indicated that I have a Basal Cell Carcinoma, The Most Common of All Cancers. It is not a melanoma, and most likely will not kill me, but the fact that I have one at my age is cause for concern. It is the result of many years of negligence on my part, of all those times I never fully protected my skin from the sun. I’d say it wasn’t ever willful negligence, necessarily, maybe just a huge portion of carelessness mixed with laziness and the idiotic assumption that it would never happen to me.

Now I’m afraid to go near a window else a ray of sun touch my skin and kill me instantly. Irrational, yes, but look what being rational got me in the first place: CANCER. Next week she is going to cut the whole thing out of my arm, and then I am going to bring it home and plant it in a jar next to the kitchen window. I will name it Ed.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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