The crazy world we now live in dictates weapon screening even at Penn Medicine in Radnor, PA. A place to help people and heal them is now required to screen every single person. I think that’s kind of sad. It doesn’t take long, but eyeglass cases will set it off.
So the reason I was, there is my second cancer after breast cancer 12 years ago is skin cancer. I’m fair skinned, genetically predisposed, and an avid gardener.
I was at a regular dermatologist appointment and while doing a scalp check, a spot was found, literally on the back of my head. I have rather thick and long hair, so it’s literally a spot that has never seen sun. So it’s fascinating where skin cancer will go.
The pathology came back positive for basal cell skin cancer. There are three types, basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma. I have had surgeries for basal cell and squamous cell removal, including a skin graft on my face.
I never had a regular dermatologist before breast cancer. It was one of the list of requirements of doctors I needed to have in my repertoire, post, radiation treatment and also thanks to breast cancer meds. I had tried other dermatologist before the ones I have at Penn Medicine years ago when I was forced by geography to have Main Line Health as my local hospital system on a then HMO. My doctors have always been through Penn Medicine so during these years, all my doctors at Penn Medicine were out of network which meant a lot of the time I paid for them myself. I personally think this was some kind of a Main Line Health turf war because it was right when Penn Medicine was coming into Radnor.
Anyway, those dermatologists I tried out from another hospital system because I didn’t really have a choice then and couldn’t afford everything out of pocket in a word sucked. I tried a couple different ones and the emphasis was always on basically kind of cosmetic creams and fillers like Botox. So I never had a regular dermatologist until early 2012. And from that point forward I have had all sorts of things removed that were predominantly basal cell but also as I mentioned, squamous cell. I have had two prior Mohs surgeries before this most recent Mohs a week ago.
Mohs is a very specific surgical and scientific procedure done under local anesthesia. It’s a very methodical process of scraping away layers of skin and testing them in a lab right then in there until all the cancer cells are gone.
The Mohs surgery last week resulted in a golf ball sized wound with space around it after the procedure that is well, devoid of hair. I could post a photo, but I won’t. It might gross some of my readers out. So the whole thing is about 3 inches smack in the middle of the back of my head.
Why am I writing about this? Because, although I hate breast cancer awareness month, it is technically Pinktober and people are paying attention, even if they’re spending money on pink plastic crap. As a survivor of breast cancer, I don’t like Pinktober. But I am using it to draw awareness to what cancers in women can make women feel like.
As a breast cancer survivor, I can tell you that breast cancer will hit at the core of a woman’s self image. As a woman, you have a choice to get past it or let it swallow you. But in order to get past it, you have to allow yourself to feel some of the feelings you’re feeling.
Before my breast cancer surgery, I had to face a few things. And one was that depending on what they found, I could lose an entire breast and depending on what they found I could also face chemotherapy and complete hair loss along with radiation treatment. I ended up with a lumpectomy or partial mastectomy with clear margins and radiation. I never did breast reconstruction. I decided that wasn’t for me and I was lucky I didn’t have to have chemo.
But even with no chemo and just radiation, I have faced many mixed emotions over the years. I knew post cancer treatment breast reconstruction wasn’t for me. You see, as a woman finding out exactly what they have to manipulate to get good mammograms on women with implants it just seemed like something I did not want to do. That was my choice, and I certainly do not begrudge the choices of other breast cancer survivors. And truthfully, many breast cancer survivors, who get prophylactic double mastectomies often choose to go flat athe rest of their lives, and not do reconstruction at all.
But now, as a result of this latest skin cancer procedure, I am actually facing a post cancer removal reconstruction surgery. On the back of my head. If I don’t have the procedure that draws the wound together, I will end up with a rather large permanent spot of alopecia for lack of a better description and that is because a Mohs surgery removes layers of skin until the cancer is gone and you have clear margins. So it took hair follicles with it.
This is kind of a lot for me to contemplate and I’m working through it. And I decided there are many things I can do without, but the hair in the back of my head is not one of them and it’s not like I’m getting hair plugs or anything like that, it’s literally drawing the two sides of the Mohs post surgery wound together and then the hair just grows back. But what that means is that for a while I will probably have a bald spot/shaped spot the size of a softball on the back of my head.
I dare any woman to say that that’s 100% OK. It’s hard and I will get through it but it has made me face some of those self body issues that I faced many years ago as a new breast cancer survivor and I found that interesting, so I’m writing about it.
I don’t know if you remember, but a couple of years ago this time of year, a woman posted a photo of me in a hospital gown on Facebook to inquire as to whom I was when she already knew because she had posted a photo that was taken before my breast cancer surgery 12 years ago. It was a purely spiteful, female move to have a go at me. it was a photo that back then I had been public about, so posting a photo like that of a woman at a vulnerable moment in a hospital gown was just spiteful. She did it because of her politics, essentially. She was a super Trumper and anti-masker/anti-vaxxer. She used to make a public spectacle of herself at school board meetings in one district.
I know people like to think I am this horrible bloggeress and am heartless and whatever pejorative adjectives are ascribed to me at the time. Honestly, for the most part, I don’t care. I can’t control the jam of whoever is doing it and usually it’s because they don’t like something I’ve written, or they disagree, but they don’t have the basic intelligence to either discuss it rationally like a grown-up, or just move on to something else on the Internet.
I’m sharing this because a regular dermatologist for skin checks for skin cancer is something that people often just don’t make time for and it’s important. And skin cancer doesn’t care about your sex, race, creed, color.
Thanks for stopping by.