The Big C

I am missing a big chunk of my leg this week. No, I didn’t get bitten by a shark or attacked by some criminal with a knife.

I saw my dermatologist.

As many of you know, going to the doctor in general isn’t one of my favorite things to do. It seems like whenever I go to a doctor I end up with something smashed, something violated, or something involving needles or x–rays.

I do not like going to the doctor. I cringe when I hear “This will only hurt for a little bit.”

Seriously?

I don’t want anything to hurt. Ever. Not even for a little bit.

I’ve discovered with age that I seem to be allergic to pain.

Years ago I had a zit on my nose that wouldn’t go away. The more I tried covering it up with makeup, the more it seemed to say “Look at me – I’m not going away!!!”

After about a month of mashing it, I decided to go to the doctor.

He was 150 years old and had glasses so thick that it made his eyeballs look freakishly enormous.

“Hmmmm,” He said. “I think we need to take this off. It’s not a zit. Looks like skin cancer.”

Uhhh, what?

I was only 24 years old. Okay, YES, I had used baby oil and iodine at times to get a tan, and YES, I had gone to the tanning bed when I was younger, but skin cancer? Don’t only old people get skin cancer?

He numbed my nose with a needle that was the size of a railroad tie and felt like it was coming out the back of my head. Then he performed what is called “Mohs” surgery, where they scrape a layer of skin off and then check it for cancer cells. They repeat the process until all of the cancer cells are gone and they have hit clean skin.

He scraped, and scraped, and scraped, and I was afraid I was going to end up with a third nostril.

Finally it was over and there was nothing more that needed to be done. Turns out it was Basal Cell Carcinoma, which wasn’t deadly, but it meant I would need checkups from that point on.

Fast forward 15 years. I’ll admit I became a little lax about going to the dermatologist EVERY year. Who has time for that? My life was too busy.

Then my father was diagnosed with cancer and that changed my thinking.

So I scheduled an appointment with a new dermatologist, this time with someone other than Dr. Kevorkian.

Dr. T is 5’ tall and weighs less than a fifth grader, but she is super sweet and incredibly smart.

She looked me all over and I mean ALL OVER and said “The only thing I’m concerned about is this little mark on your leg.”

“It’s been there for as long as I can remember. I always thought it was a freckle,” I said.

“It’s never changed?”

“No.”

“Well, if it were ME, I’d recommend getting it removed. Since you’re not having any problems with it, it won’t be covered under insurance (of course not!) and will be considered an elective excision but I’d do it if I were you.”

Elective excision? That’s me ASKING to be stuck with needles and cut on?

Hmmm. I’m gonna have to think about that.

So my husband and I talked about it and he said that we’d better be safe than sorry so we scheduled it on the calendar.

The day of the excision, I took a Xanax because as I stated earlier, I am allergic to needles. I also doubled up on my blood pressure medicine. Okay, okay. I might have doubled up on my Xanax also.

She circled the spot on my leg, which was about the size of my pinkie fingernail. The circle, however, was about the size of a golf ball.

Then she pulled out a needle.

“This is only going to hurt for a second.”

Shut. Up.

It did only hurt for a second. But then she stuck it in again, and it hurt for another second. And as she stuck me with the needle ALL THE WAY AROUND THE CIRCLE – about 25 times and I felt it EACH TIME. So for me, that “only hurt for a second” actually lasted over 25 seconds. Just a second. Yeah right.

I couldn’t watch. I stared and focused on Dale and squeezed the blood out of his hand.

Finally it was over. I went home and went to sleep.

Two days later I was allowed to remove the bandages and finally got a good look at it.

Holy cow. When I said golf ball size, I didn’t realize I meant golf ball size deep too. It looked like Hannibal Lector had taken some of my leg for a skin suit.

And the stitches? Clearly, my doctor has never studied plastic surgery. Was she blindfolded when she stitched me up?

My leg looked like Frankenstein’s neck.photo(10)

However…

My irritation quickly dissipated when she called to say that she had “good news and bad news,” which is something you NEVER want to hear from your doctor. (“The good news is we were able to perform your lobotomy. The bad news is that you were in here for an ingrown toenail.”)

For me, the good news was that she got it all.

The bad news? It was Melanoma.

Oh. Dear. God.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so terrified of a doctor in my whole life. Not even with one brandishing a needle at me.

Melanoma? No, it’s not a country in Europe.

Wow. All of those days out in the sun with no sunscreen on had finally caught up with me.

But I got lucky. God answered my hysterical prayers and my promises to feed the children in Calcutta, never miss church on Sunday again, and correct all my wrongdoings if He would let me be okay.

And even though it’s 37 degrees outside, I am heading to the drugstore shortly to buy sunscreen, which I will probably start bathing in.

Just to be safe.

(Friends, if you have not had your skin checked recently, please, PLEASE do so. Did you know that Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer but is one of the easiest to treat if caught early? And even though I write blogs to talk about these things and try to be funny about it, please do not ever skip seeing your doctor. One rough day isn’t worth the consequence of not going.)

Advertisements

Just Call Me Grace-Fall

I’m a klutz. It’s embarrassing but it’s true. I try to be so careful so that no one sees me being a klutz but it happens anyway.

I think it started when I was a child. I was always covered in Band-aids and bruises. If I was on the playground, I was the kid crying at the bottom of the slide because I didn’t know how to stop myself from flying off the end and landing face first in the dirt.

TIMBER!!!!  (This clearly was going to end badly...)

TIMBER!!!! (This clearly was going to end badly…)

When I was very small, my dad was cementing the four corners of our swing set into the ground so that it wouldn’t tip over when we were on the swings. My mom had just bought me a pair of $35 Forrest Gump-like corrective shoes. Now to me, $35 is a lot of money, but I can assure you that $35 back in 1969 was TRULY a lot of money.

So my parents weren’t too happy when I stepped into the hole and went up to my knee in cement, completely ruining my brand new shoe.

My cement shoe

My cement shoe

Dinnertime was equally as difficult for me. I regularly dropped my plate, or more often than not, spilled my drink all over the kitchen table. Sippy cups were invented because of children like me.

I broke my wrist when I was a sophomore in college. I was a little sister for the SAE Fraternity, and we were working on a roast of the brothers. As we were sitting in the library of the house, I saw one of the brothers that I needed to talk to walking by the front windows. I ran out of the house and slipped, landing on my hand.

Keep in mind, this was the fabulous fashion time frame where full prairie skirts were in style. When I slipped, my full skirt swooped up and landed over my head like a parachute so I was sitting in my underwear on the front lawn of the fraternity house.

While the guys were at dinner.

Looking out the window at me.

By the time I got over my utter horror of the situation, I realized my arm was hurting a little bit. When I looked at it, it was already twice its normal size. And it was turning purple.

Yep it was broken.

On a side note…One of the upsides of being a SAE little sister and breaking my wrist at the fraternity house is that the brothers sent one of the pledges over every few days to wash my hair for me. I may have milked that one a little longer than necessary but seriously, who is going to complain about having their hair washed by a bunch of good looking guys? Helloooo. I may be blonde, but I’m not stupid!

At least I got it honest...check out my mom's foot after being cut by a stingray

At least I got it honest…check out my mom’s foot after being cut by a stingray

Years later, I was in the parking lot of my office building, and as usual, I was checking e-mail on my phone instead of watching where I was walking. I had the great luck of stepping into the only pothole in the entire parking lot. A 6” x 6” hole, resulting in the most unladylike fall.

I was, however, back up just as quickly as I fell, and the only proof of my embarrassing mishap was a ripped skirt and two very badly skinned knees.

I glanced around the parking lot. Whew. No one saw me. At least that’s what I thought until I walked into the building and two of my co-workers were clapping.

Yep. Just call me Grace-fall.

Four years ago my klutziness came to a head when I stepped off a four-inch curb and BROKE MY FOOT. Yes, you read that correctly. As I was walking down the sidewalk, a dog came running up behind me. As I turned to look over my shoulder I stepped down and CRUNCH…that was all it took. I was on crutches until I realized I could do more damage to myself with them than if I were carrying a sword.

I finally got put into a boot that made me feel like a lopsided giant. There’s simply no way to be ladylike when you’re wearing a 50-ton piece of plastic strapped to your foot with industrial strength Velcro.

The boot on one foot, along with a slingback on the other foot. Clomp. Click. Clomp. Click.

Now I’m taking vitamins and calcium like Tic-Tacs because I’m kind of terrified that as I get older and my bones get more brittle, I’m going to break my hand by opening a bottle of wine.

But you know what?

I think that just might be worth it.

Along Came A Spider

I’m a girl. I have a God-given right to be afraid of a lot of things. Mice, snakes, bugs, etc.

Those things, however, do not scare me at all. I mean, I’m not crazy about them and I certainly don’t want them on me, but I’m not really all that scared of them.

I am, however, terrified beyond belief, of spiders.

I don’t care if they are big or small. As a matter of fact, there is no such thing as a spider that is “small”. They are ALL enormous.

Every hair on my body will stand on end when I see one.

I think it all started when we would spend summers at my grandmother’s house. My cousin, Brian, who is four years younger than me, would throw granddaddy long-legs at me. My hair was really long at the time, so they would get stuck in my hair. Sometimes I didn’t realize he had thrown them in my hair until hours later, when they would get untangled and would scoot across my face, causing me to scream in terror until the culprit was found and destroyed. Although I love him now, I was not Brian’s biggest fan back then.

As an adult my fear of spiders has not faded. If anything, it’s gotten worse.

My ex-husband and I were visiting my great-uncle in Alabama on his farm. We had to drive through a wooded road to get to the farm and I saw him out in the field on his tractor. I rolled down the window to wave at him, when suddenly a huge gray and black spider with equally huge hairy legs appeared out of nowhere and began crawling through the open window into the car.

And disappeared inside.

Did I mention I was in the driver’s seat?

And the car was still moving?

And I jumped out of the moving car on the passenger side?

While somehow my seat belt remained buckled?

My ex-husband and my uncle searched the car high and low until they found it. Which was very smart of them because otherwise I would have just sold the car as is to the highest bidder.

After my divorce, and until my son got older, it was my job to be the spider killer in the house. I was prepared. I kept cans of raid within an arms reach.

Spiders in my house should know upon arrival that they are in serious danger if I see them. You know that old saying “They’re probably just as scared of you as you are of them?” Well that’s just a bunch of malarkey. Even armed with a can of Raid, old shoes and a vacuum cleaner to suck up the bodies, I still break out into a cold sweat at just the sight of them.

One morning I woke up all sleepy and snuggly in my bed. I laid there listening to the bird chirp outside my window and allowed my eyes to adjust to the light.

What a wonderful morning.

That’s when I saw it.

Dead center above my head, on the ceiling, was the enemy.

And he was big. Actually he wasn’t big-big, but as I said earlier, there is no such thing as a small spider.

And he was looking down at me.

I stealth-rolled out of bed, smooth like a Navy Seal. I slowly pulled the pillows off the bed and then the sheets. (After I counter-attacked, I didn’t want spider guts or the occasional severed leg to end up on sheets! Or even worse, God forbid that it should get LOST in my sheets, so I put them in the bathroom. Just in case.)

My son, Matthew walked in the room as I was standing on top of the mattress, shoe in hand, armed and ready to kill. However, I was startled and started to lose my balance when I heard his voice saying “WHAT. ARE. YOU. DOING. MOM?”

At that moment, the spider jumped like he was kung-fu fighting.

At me.

Or so I thought.

I threw the shoe at the ceiling and somehow hit my target. I fell on the bed and bounced onto the floor
as if I had hit the trampoline safety netting of a trapeze artist.

I looked around.

Where the heck was it?

Matthew was laughing hysterically.

I tried to calm myself. I mean, good grief – I was almost ambushed by my nemesis WHILE I WAS SLEEPING. He was going to get me while all of my defenses were down. What kind of fair fight is that?

I looked around and found it’s crumpled dead body right where my pillow would have been. And his leg was still hanging from my ceiling.

Gag.

Thankfully his family never came after me for revenge.

Because otherwise I would have just sold the house.