I had such a good time walking in the annual Black River 5-K to raise money for the Williamsburg County Junior Leadership group. These kids learn so much and they are such a wonderful bunch. They are our future and talking with them at the event showed just how lucky we are to have such bright young people in this county.
There were other people there that made an impression on me. I recently had cancer removed from my face so I had bandages and black and blue marks. I’m sure I was a sight and many ladies asked me what happened. I enjoyed telling them that the SgtMaj (who was a black belt in tae kwon do in his early days) was showing off his roundhouse skills but rounded his foot a little too close. Of course, I laughed and told them the truth.
But the jokes didn’t make me feel great on the inside. The form of cancer I had is the most common type and not the dangerous melanoma but even that didn’t make me feel any better. All I saw was a hideous face that was going to end up looking like the bride of Frankenstein with a massive scar running down the side of my nose. It took everything I had to go back to work the day after the surgery which happen to be my 63rd birthday. Eye swollen, black and blue and a pile of bandages were all I could see in the mirror.
Though I sign up for the Black River walk every year, this time I was ready to back out. However, as the reporter for The News, I couldn’t let everyone down. These kids deserve the exposure. Fortunately, my fears were swept away just minutes before I joined the walk. My friend Rosie has had the same type of cancer surgery, not once or twice but five times. I stared at her beautiful freckled face in amazement as she described her surgeries. I had to look hard to see one of the scars, the rest I did not see at all.
Turns out we have the same team of doctors from MUSC. We both underwent Mohs surgery and if her results are any indication of what my results will be I was in good hands. Rosie made me laugh as she described how hard I will need to massage the scar to minimize lumping. Go hard, she said, till you want to cry. And she gave me a list of self-tanning brands that work best for her. When was the last time I thought of self-tanning? I hadn’t. In my younger days I was a lifeguard and, like many girls of my time, the only thing I put on my body was baby oil mixed with Mercurochrome or vegetable shortening.
According to skincancer.org, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. Basal cell carcinoma (the type I had) is the most common form of skin cancer. An estimated 4.3 million cases of this type of cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Melanoma is the most deadly form. It’s estimated that the number of new melanoma cases diagnosed in 2019 will increase by 7.7 percent, however, the number of melanoma deaths is expected to decrease by 22 percent in 2019.
Rosie’s attitude was more than comforting. Her “Que sera sera” attitude made me realize life is too short to worry about such a trivial thing as a scar. Moving on and living well is the most important result of any diagnosis. As I observe Skin Cancer Awareness Month, I thank Rosie and everyone who has been touched by this disease for their inspiration and courage.
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