This here bringer of the pooper to the fun party

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.

  • oh dear! will be thinking of you, doocilicious. stupid evil sun. xx

  • drwallyb

    I say you place Ed right on the window sill till Ed developes cancer as well. That’ll teach him.

  • Wishing you booze and doritos is the closest I get to prayers, so get ye many. Take care of yourself, and let us know if Ed starts sprouting in that jar.

  • arline

    think of it as a warning sign that some of us never get. you now know to check yourself routinely for any skin changes. my mom gets these so i have to keep an eye out myself. i cringe everytime i recall her sending me out on the beach (when i was much younger) with just my bottoms on!
    my mom also feels compelled to point out any zit on my face. in the depths of morning sickness we went to have lunch with her on father’s day. she sat across from me and tapped her nose to point out what was on mine. as if i could have gotten my mascara on WITHOUT noticing something that big! my husband still does that when he imitates her.

  • courtney

    I’m a freckly kinda girl with spots all over my back that I can’t get a proper look at. I had several bad sunburns as a child and know I should go to a dermatologist to have a once over. You’ve just reminded me and convinced me that there’s no time like the present. I’ll be making an appointment shortly.

  • My husband and I are also self employed and pretty much have to have brain surgery before our insurance kicks in. However, it has also challenged us to actually work hard to keep healthy. I also think it’s important to note that the third (maybe second) leading cause of death in this country is our health care system, whether it’s a denial for care, medication screw-ups and magic pills, dangerous hospital viruses etc. It’s the most expensive and least effective system in the world. Having just major medical may not be a bad thing. Here is hope to a great recovery

  • Heather,
    Guess what? I had a Basal Cell Carcinoma taken off the back of my neck when I was thirty. I’ve kept the self-tanning industry afloat since then, and I’ve enjoyed joking about my status as “Cancer Survivor” ever since. Scary, but so glad it wasn’t the big “M”. Increased my awareness and made me feel oh-so-shallow-and-stupid for those thousand-or-so hours I spent in tanning booths during the late 80’s. Live and learn.
    Ree

  • Perticus

    So when ARE you going to tell your doctor about the blog… or are you afraid that another person with intimate knowledge about your naughty bits is going to start referring to you as dooce?

  • mediaguy74

    Heather-

    I have been to the plastic surgeon twice to have pre-skin cancer moles removed. He makes a shit load of money for 10 minutes worth of work, but its the best $$$ Ive spent. I asked while I was in there if they could suck my love handles out, but considering he doesnt accept any insurance, I opted not.

  • Delurking to say the above posters are absolutely right, this is highly treatable and I’m sure you’ll be fine. I’m also totally on board with the inappropriate naming of things (haha, Ed?). My grandmother had a masectomy several years ago, and named her fake boob Blossom. As in, “Oh shoot, I forgot to bring Blossom to the barbecue!”

  • Ah geez, what a bummer…

    So sorry to hear the news. My mom had a basal cell carcinoma on her nose. Thankfully, they caught it early: the doc just used Retin-A to peel it off. She’s as good as new. I’m certain you will be fine as well.

    As others have suggested, you could parlay this misfortune into a “Tom Green” moment for all to see. You, of course, will probably get to wear your underpants during the procedure, unlike Mr. Green.

    Good riddance Ed!

  • Laurie

    I, too, am coming out of hiding to wish you luck.

    So, good luck. I hope it’s a quick road to 100% wellness.

    And I hope that road is covered with chocolate and a river of vodka runs beside it. Because it’s been my experience that, in times like this, alcohol and candy are not just allowed, but REQUIRED.

  • Long time lurker, first time commenter. Well, except for the email I sent you about the ejacculatte post and whether they sell it at Starbucks. I had to come out of the shadows for this.

    Sending you my hopes for a painless procedure and a speedy, easy recovery. I know you’ll be fine. :o) Love that you’re keeping your sense of humor about it. Never thought I’d laugh through a post about cancer.

    And I really think you should name it Carson. As in Carson O’Gin. :o) Sorry, that was bad, I know.

  • la_florecita

    Holy crap, you made being diagnosed with cancer funny. Impressive.

    My cousin works at M.D. Anderson and he also insists that skin cancer is the one to get as it’s the most curable.

    I’m going to the beach tomorrow- I think I’ll go for the spf 30 instead of the 15.

    For real though, it sounds a little scary and I wish you and your fam all the best.

  • Yesterday when I read your post, I felt panicky. Cancer? Dooce? Is this a joke? I wrote a friend an email and asked if they had read it and thought about writing you, asking for more information. But decided you’d probably post about it soon enough and since you don’t know me, it’d probably be kind of weird.
    So, now that you have, I actually feel pretty relieved. You are joking about it. That’s a good thing. You are tough and I expect to be reading this blog for much longer than I have (two and half years now), including in China starting in September.

    I hope Dooce isn’t blocked by The Great Firewall of China. I need updates!

  • My dearest Heather. I am so sorry to hear of your recent diagnoses. I too, am an incredibly young cancer patient (I’m only 21). I too, have a young child (born February 2nd, 2004). I understand the terror that comes with a diagnoses of cancer, even if it is “the most common” or “the most curable”. This isn’t an easy time, and no one expects you to be sane. You and your wonderful family are in my thoughts.

  • Best of luck, you are in all of our thoughts.

  • Meretrice

    Can I place a request that “Malignant Blogger” be the headline for your next masthead? Because that would be so hot!

    On a serious note, yesterday’s post had me so worried. I was thinking about sending you a strongly worded email demanding that you open comments when you drop a bombshell like that on your loving audience! Damn your open sores, think about us for a change! 🙂

    Thanks for the update. I know you will take care of yourself, and I hope your recovery goes well.

    On the bright side, you will have a physical scar to point to when Leta demands to know why you are interrupting her fun to slather coconut-scented goop all over her body.

  • I wish you the best of luck with that, and please do keep everyone posted. The word cancer is a scary thing, no matter how small or common.

    By the way, maybe you should make Ed’s home outside…could possibly scare away the tarantula’s, you know?

  • Msyvone

    Hi Heather,
    Don’t fret too much about your Basal Cell. I personally have had two separate occurances of it, RIGHT SMACK ON MY NOSE!

    I’ve had both removed, and had to deal with a huge honkin’ wrap of gauze on it both times. It heals in about a week. It’s a pain to deal with, but thankfully, its not the “dangerous cancer.” It’s a good excuse to go buy one of those luxuriously large sun hats, and hey, every gal needs shoes to go with the hat.

    I wish you a speedy recovery, darlin! and get yourself some sunscreen!

  • jes

    Ed, indeed, is a lovely name for your cancerous blob. Perhaps a middle name? Or placing it as the centerpiece on your dinner table, and allowing Leta to lovingly fondle her very own piece of Mama, while wearing a HazMat suit?

    Bonus: she’ll already have her Halloween costume!

  • I had the same thing, except horrifyingly, on my face, last year. It started out as this little flesh toned thing that I convinced myself was a clogged pore. Well, needless to say, that “clogged pore” grew for 2 years and I ignored it. Finally, I went to a dermatologist who biopsied it and diagnosed it as cancerous. I was 31 – my oncologist said I was the youngest patient he’d seen.

    I had MOHS surgery the following week, and there was a nasty, fast growing tumor underneath my little spot. I had to have plastic surgery afterwards to reconstruct the area where it was removed. Luckily, my scars are virtually invisible.

    I cringe now when I hear people talk about “going tanning” or “laying out.” I wish I hadn’t been so stupid, and I wear 30 SPF daily.

  • You, more than just about anyone I can think of, will kick The Most Common Cancer’s ass. There is no way in hell that someone as uniquely fabulous as you would be conquered by something so…common!

  • Crap. That sucks. On the other hand… glad to hear it’s non-life-threatening, Heather.

  • Cassie

    aw sweetie… my grandpa had that, and it would pop up every once in awhile, and he’d go have it removed… no big deal, but it’s scary just the same to think you have something so foreign messing with your body.

    *hugs* positive thoughts to you. try not to worry!

    And – I totally agree that your next masthead must be ‘malignant blogger’ 🙂

  • Good luck to you Heather and good riddance to Ed.

    Hugs and positive vibes from Greece!

  • pitt_chick

    Hello Heather,

    Long time lurker but this entry compelled me to comment.

    Kick Ed’s fucking ass. We all know that you can.

  • First of all – I’ve had basal cells since I was 16 and they aren’t the end of the world. Some people are predisposed to them genetically, and if caught in time, they’re fairly easy to get rid of. My mother has also had them from a young age, and she’s 56 now. Nonetheless, nobody likes to hear that they have cancer, and I’m sorry that you’re going through this. At least it’s the easiest kind to get rid of. It’ll be okay. Get Ed cut the hell out!

  • my thoughts are with you.

    ed should start a blog too, so we can hear his side of the story 😉

    good luck with the removal, hope it’s a clean break.

  • Talon

    I am SO envious!!

    I had to get the damned melenoma. And on my BUTT of all places!! Good news is I’ve been cancer free for almost nine years now. 🙂 Good luck with the excision!!

    And welcome to one of the clubs no one wants to belong to. Bleah. Also, my grandmother and my MIL have both had several basal cell cancers removed. So don’t sweat it too much. 🙂

  • Kick’s Ed’s ass.

  • oops. I mean Kick Ed’s ass. sorry for the typo!

  • greenthumb

    There was a time that I would wade through all the comments catching all the zingers and wit, but this time I feel I get the jist of all those that come before me.

    THAT said, have you seen the new hair style that Amanda B. gave you? I’m with her, you really should just let go and let it all hang out. HE! HE! HE!

    Seriously though, you know I got you (points to middle of chest) HERE!!! XOXOXO

  • Smacky

    Oh my is this frightening! Your typing of this has resulted in my worrying about you as if it were myself instead. Let’s hope it is indeed unharmful. If anything were to happen to you.. I-I would just die. Everyday I think about what you’re doing up near the mountain side, if you’re photographing the latest rush of clouds and what-not, or if Jon is out in public in his clogs again. Do keep us informed and updated, okay? Much love to the family from the family.

  • ahorn05

    I’ve been ignoring a thing on my face. I’m your age. I’m going in.

    I also have a brother-in-law named Ed.

  • This is pretty scary. First, my 35 year old sister-in-law dies within a week of a sudden bout of lymphoma. Now, someone I went to kindergarten with has melanoma.

    Oh, by the way, I am praying for you in my liberal presbyterian but almost agnostic way. I’m sure that’s comforting.

    Jennifer

  • good thoughts heading your direction.

  • Or you could dress very eccentrically to protect yourself from the sun and just tell people it’s your meds making you do that. Like the way Diane Keaton seems to wear gloves all the time in public. I think she wants everyone to think she’s setting another trend but frankly I’m sure she’s hiding something or protecting herself from the sun. (What’s up with those gloves, Diane?) Or the lady that used to work at my company who liked to go and walk outdoors on her lunch hour but who would wear a big floppy hat, a big shirt to cover her arms, and yes – gloves. She had had a bout with skin cancer so that’s what she did to protect herself. In fact I’ve even heard it said you should put sunscreen on your hands when you’re driving because the windshield doesn’t protect against the bad rays. (I don’t DO that but I’ve heard about it.)

    Damn, yet another evil consequence of our collective misuse of the ozone layer… increase in skin cancers.

    I’m glad it’s the easily treatable kind. You’ll be fine.

  • I’m so sorry, Heather. Please be brave and GO to your doctor’s appointment. Even if it costs a fortune, your life is worth it. You’ve got me worried and I’m going to have my doctor look at something creepy growing on MY arm tomorrow. Take care!

  • tksinclair

    My aunt and mother have recently had melanoma’s diagnosed (my mother now has a boomerang shaped scar on her face from her ear to her nostril to her upper lip) and I can relate to the feeling that every mole, scratch, tiny vein or blotch has now become suspect. It seems as if I’m sprouting skin “lesions” by the hour that I never noticed before. I would love to go to the Dr. and have every single up-until-now insignificant freckle and mark removed but we only have insurance that kicks in after my death.

    It’s frightening and totally sucks when you hit that point in life where “things” mean “things.”

    BTW, some people can say insensitive things. I’m sure they mean well or in the least don’t mean harm. Take care of yourself and try not to get too freaked out. I will be thinking of you and wishing you the least amount of emotional and physical trauma possible under the circumstances. Self employment – no health care, no paid sick days either.

  • I am wishing there were a way to erase the day I spent lying in the sun by the pool yesterday, which I am now feeling TERRIBLY GUILTY about. Never again. At least not without a full-body jumpsuit. With complicated zippers.

    I think Ed’s middle name should be Basil, which is sort of like Basal. I am sending him lots of bad, gnashing-of-teeth vibes, and sending lots of happy, organic-food-on-sale, cute-pair-of-shoes-at-TJ-Maxx ones to you.

  • danioz

    As and aussie that grew up in the 70’s (pass the bronze-oil) we now have full body skin cancer checks every 12 months. They tend to cut the whole thing out first and test later – i’ve had a couple of near misses and now swim in 30+ sunscreen when I leave the house. Last time I had to wait for a result I basically assumed that I had it and what a nice life I had so far… of course it was fine.

    Hope this is the last we hear of it from you.

  • Coralie

    Yikes.

    I might just put some suncreen on before going to sleep. So, you know, I can be ready for tomorrow.

    Best of luck. We’re all rooting for you over Ed on this one. May he be confined to the jar.

  • baseballmama

    Heather, I’m so sorry. I had melanoma when I was 22. It scared the shit out of me, but I’m okay now. They were able to get it all with surgery. I still go back every six months and get checked and have any suspicious spots removed, but none have been malignant since. It was/is a terrible ride, but I’m just thankful that its a type of cancer that can be cured. You have my best wishes and fervent prayers that yours is as simple as mine was.

  • Kate

    Good luck Heather. I’ve had a mole on my upper thigh (..okay, my ass) for awhile and think it’s grown/changed colors. Hmm, you’ve inspired me to get it checked out. Seriously, take care.

  • Bitter Betty

    Well, that’s some scary ass shit right there. But just know that lots of cancers can be managed. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer 3 years ago and I’m still around to bitch and moan about it.

    If you need any advice or information please feel free to e-mail me and I’ll do whatever I can to help. Hang in there, chica.

  • M@

    Hey Heather,

    I personally loved when my doc told me I had “THE GOOD CANCER” 7 years ago. Nice eh?

    Problem with mine is that it was like an iceberg so they needed to take a lot more than they had originally intended.

    That being said, not to scare you, but to show you that 7 years later, with full body scans every 6 months, I’m still cancer free and I go outside and play in the sun and even lay out sometimes.

    Just make SPF 50 your best freakin friend. 🙂

    Breathe deeply and be calm. Keep us updated pls.

    M@

  • Sounds scary. Also sounds like an opportunity to pick one or two really items of Jon’s (or any other family member) and demand it be gifted to you or forever banished for the sake of your health and your child growing up with her mother. I say, milk it for all you can. You held it together when they shoved your child in the big tube not once, but twice. You deserve some consideration here.

  • zmom

    Horrible news. You’ll be in my thoughts and, dare I say it…prayers. Good luck with the removal!

  • I will reserve my wit and charm for my next post as you don’t know me yet BUT I’m thinking of you ~ I grew up in a time when the highest SPF was Coppertone oil at SPF 2. I seemed to always start my first sunny of summer getting burned to a crisp then had to wear long sleeve white shirts the rest of my school vacation while I healed.

    Praying everything is easy on you! As for blogging, this week, I tried to explain blogs to my shrink (sort of) then she gave up and asked me how to spell it for her files on me. 🙂

    Tammy – Thinking of you from Maine