And they come with no warning,
nature loves her little surprises.
Continual crisis!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Scalp Scab 2.0

Today I debut Scalp Scab 2.0. Three weeks ago I had a little bit of skin taken off the top of my head and then my new dermatologist recommended cauterizing the tissue around it, whereas before we just froze it off. A week later I started writing what is below.

In case you didn't know, I do write a lot that I don't actually post. There's a lot reasons for that. In this case it was fear. Fear of the future, fear of sharing, fear of just who was reading, fear of this coming out at the job. There was also a lot of "WTF are you whining about, Buchheit" going on in my head.

But today is Scalp Scab 2.0. See, last weekend while replacing a bathroom sink I scraped Scalp Scab 1.0 off. Today is the first day without a bandage again. What I find strange is that between lots of other events, braces, etc, I have received the most comments on having a bandage on my head. And it hasn't all been positive.

Anyway, time to post this.

So, I think I've mentioned before about how with my family's medical history that cancer is the gun pointed at my head. In the past six years that gun has clicked on (mostly) empty chambers, but this past week it finally fired.

I have basal cell carcinoma. It's a non life-threatening cancer that's highly treatable and only metastasizes after the cancer has aged a long time. It's highly curable and the most common treatment is what is called a Mohs Procedure. They cut out as much as they can see and then take a slice of skin to process in the office to see if there is any cancer. If there is, back onto the chair and they cut out more and then take another slice. This goes until either the area cut becomes too large or a slice shows no sign of cancer. Typically only one surgery is needed. There's no need for chemo. Just a large bandage for a while.

There is, however, a lot of followup. For the next few years I'll go to the dermatologists office twice a year to get checked out. With one instance the chances for another skin cancer (well, any cancer) increases so that means heightened vigilance.

The cancer is at the top of my head in the center of my monk's cap (male pattern baldness). About two years ago I saw a different dermatologist and had the dry, red patch frozen off. She didn't think it was anything and all roads (for her) led to freezing the area so I just went with that. Well, it returned so this time I found a specialist in skin cancers and demanded a biopsy (this doctor was also fairly confident that it was pre-cancerous and we went with that treatment plan, which for her meant cauterizing the edges). It's the biopsy that came back positive.

As a kid we didn't have sunscreen and we were constantly out of doors. In the Summer that meant a good deal of sun burn. Even as an adult I find it weird to put on sunscreen (and I often forget to, even when I have it). During this last vacation I didn't wear it while we were in Glacier Bay, and I got burnt again. I have been wearing hats, however. Ever since I had a piece of my ear frozen about four years ago (by the previous doctor). And now I guess I'll need to develop a habit of wearing hats.

Now you all know. I have cancer. Baby's first cancer is basal cell, which is a lot better than it could have been.

Fuck cancer.

I wrote that two weeks ago, the night I found out. And then never posted it. I don't know. Maybe I remember my Grandfather's cancer, how we talked about it in whispers. I think about, "what if people I work with find out?" And "what if people I know find out?" And mostly, "why the fuck am I so depressed and focused on this? It's not life threatening, it's highly curable."

And then the little voice says, "You have cancer."

I'm too young (not really, not anymore). I'm not published, yet. I should write more. The night thing is going back to normal. Focus on story. Get it done.

"You have cancer. Right now, you have cancer."

Jesus, Buchheit, get it together. People around you have real medical issues (you're going to have to deal with). You need to write these stories and publish them (both outwardly announced projects and secret squirrel projects). You have reviews coming up. You need to stop something happening at the night thing (or at least make management aware).

"You have cancer. Right now, you have cancer growing on your head."

Fight, fight, fight, you bastard. You've expected this all your adult life. Considering just what you're really facing, this is nothing. It's early. They'll get it all. And when it comes back, you'll get it all again. It's not like you'll need a colostomy or a drain, month of radiation or lose what's left off your hair to chemo.

What's this Sargasso of the soul? Come on. You can't self-destruct and it's not worth it. You've got at least twenty more years, stop wasting time.

"You have cancer. Right now, you have cancer growing on your head. You're body is trying to kill you."

So, yeah, wind out of the sails right at the moment. I'm sure it'll get better. At some point my inner asshole will take over and then "Damn the torpedoes!" But the vats of piss and vinegar and dry. All I have left is snark. It'll take some wall or some one to try and stop me, then my back will get up. But right now I'm just paddling in circles.

I keep telling myself, "It'll get better." I know it'll get better. But that other voice is pretty insistent.


Elizabeth said...

I'm glad that if you have to have cancer, it's one that is easily detected and treated.

Steve Buchheit said...

Yeah, it could have been much worse. So I think for my first cancer (at least that has proven positive as cancer) I lucked out.