Biopsy Bingo

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My PSA for the month: Wear your sunscreen!

To date, I have only ever had basal cell carcinoma (BCC) skin cancers. As skin cancer goes, this is the best kind. It isn’t deadly, but does have the potential to be disfiguring if left untreated. So far I’ve been lucky, the worst of my disfigurement is a 4-inch scar on my back. A battle scar. A conversation starter (Wear your sunscreen!). It could have been worse – I’ve had two removed from my lower eyelid, but luckily I found them early and had a great Mohs surgeon. No visible scars under my eye – whew.

This started in my early 30s. I’m now in my 40s and it has become somewhat of a normality. I see my dermatologist at least twice a year and he regularly freezes off offending spots. Now and then there is a biopsy for something suspicious. In total, I’ve had six BCCs and several atypical moles. So far, so good. You’d think I’d be completely blasé about it by now, and I usually am when it comes to biopsies for BCC. But when the Derm does a biopsy on a mole, I live for a week or so with that nagging feeling of impending melanoma doom. Biopsy Bingo – do I have the winning number this time? Or should I call it the losing number?

I had a checkup last week. He froze a spot on my ear, as I expected he would. What I did not expect was for him to decide to biopsy a mole on my calf. A mole we’d talked about before. One that he previously didn’t see a problem with, but now decided he didn’t like. Humph. That was a week ago this morning. I am guessing that it’s fine, because if it were bad they would’ve called me right away. Right?

I hate weeks like this. I tend to brood and go a little crazy. Waiting for a BCC result doesn’t bother me anymore. Getting an early detection, positive BCC biopsy result is like finding out you need a root canal. It will be a short term hassle and a tad painful, but not a huge deal. In fact, I would argue that a root canal is worse than Mohs for an early detected (smallish) BCC. That has been my experience anyway. However, waiting for the result of an abnormal mole biopsy is another thing. An abnormal mole could be melanoma (Bingo!). It’s like holding a lit match that you cannot drop and waiting with trepidation to see if the flame goes out before it gets to your fingers. If you’re lucky, it will. So far my matches have burned themselves out. But deep down I know that one of these days I’ll get burned. And so I sit here waiting to see if I this is the week I will feel a singe.

Coincidentally, May is Melanoma Awareness Month. There are plenty of articles online waiting to scare the shit out of me. Plenty of skin cancer blogs for me to ponder over when I’m bored and waiting for the call. Melanoma Girl, a blogger I have followed for several years now, passed away a few weeks ago. Although she ultimately succumbed to ovarian cancer, she had melanoma first and ran an amazing awareness campaign. SPF = Sexy Pale Female. It was brilliant. She was only 45.

For my own sanity, I won’t wait much longer. If I don’t hear from the Derm today, I’ll call first thing tomorrow. Even though I KNOW they would have already called if it were bad news, I can’t spend another weekend with that little nagging worry. I mean, it’s supposed to be 104˚ here in Phoenix! Perfect for lying out by the pool and getting a little sun…from under my umbrella. 🙂

Don’t forget…wear your sunscreen! Be proud of your SPF!

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Bra Dwellers

I was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office waiting for my daughter, reading, and minding my own business. A mountain of an elderly woman squeezed herself into the chair on my left. Her caretaker (?) daughter (?) took the chair on my right. They began a conversation across my lap. Next thing I knew, they were passing an oversized handbag across me. And then an inhaler. And then the handbag again. I closed my iPad.

Mountain Woman took a long drag off her inhaler, while Caretaker-Daughter asked me about my iPad. After a quick Apple endorsement, the conversation dwindled. Caretaker-Daughter leaned around me and asked Mountain Woman if Xavier had gone back to sleep.

I looked around. What had I missed? Was there a kid somewhere? What the…?

Mountain Woman pulled the neckline of her blouse away from her chest and looked down at her enormous bosom. She nodded, confirming that Xavier had indeed gone back to sleep.

My jaw fell. Clearly baffled, I looked back and forth from woman to woman.

“Wanna see?” Mountain Woman inquired.

Um, well…of course I do. Or do I? Do I have to peek into your shirt? Are other people watching this? “Sure,” I said cautiously.

Mountain Woman reached between her twin peaks and extracted a furry creature. She held it out to me. “Want to pet it?”

Uh…

“It’s a Sugar Glider.” Exclaimed Caretaker-Daughter. “It goes everywhere with her.”

I have to take a second here and remind the reader that we were in a doctor’s office. Although I will be the first to admit that I kiss my dog on the lips, I found myself questioning whether or not this was sanitary.

The little mouse-guy sat on Mountain Woman’s out stretched palm and peered at me with huge, admittedly sweet eyes. Not wanting to hurt his feelings, I rubbed the top of his tiny head with my finger and wondered how clean he could possibly be. I love animals, but this rodent had emerged from a stranger’s bra. What other sorts of things were going on in there?

As if to answer my question, Xavier turned around and did his business on Mountain Woman’s hand. Then he scampered up her arm and nestled back down into her cleavage.

“Oopsie,” said Caretaker-Daughter, “let me get a Kleenex.”

And maybe hand sanitizer? My daughter emerged from the exam area and beckoned she was ready to go. “Well, it’s been fun,” I murmured to the women with a quick wave.

After explaining the exchange to my teenage daughter (whose first reaction was: “Why didn’t you ask her to let ME pet it?”), I pulled out my iPad and researched the Sugar Glider. First of all, I learned they are marsupials, not rodents. And they don’t do their business in places where they sleep, which are usually cages or people’s pockets. I assume this may apply to bras. They are cute and apparently make great pets.

I have mixed emotions. Are bra dwelling marsupials unsanitary? Cute as they are, would I want one living in my shirt? My daughter said she’d take one, but was worried that her chest wasn’t big enough to comfortably host it, which would mean she’d have to constantly wear a hoodie with pockets and that went against her stylish fashion sense. Thank goodness.

Having been made aware of the existence of bra dwelling marsupials, I now find myself compelled to look at all heavyset women and wonder what they might have living in their brassieres.

EBWW 2016

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop (EBWW) in Dayton, Ohio. It was fantastic. The only way I can sum up the experience in less than 500 words is to compile a list. These are the top nine bits of insight that I took away from the workshop and the one unfortunate thing I did not come away with.

9.  Writers are approachable. The ones at this conference were sweet, funny, and personable. In fact, if you ran into a rather notable one in the elevator and started stammering, she may have complemented your toenail polish just to calm you down. Writers can be gracious like that.

8.  Just write. Get it on the page, even if it is crap. It can be beautified afterwards. Usually. And if not, that is ok too. Practice is good.

7.  Memoir writing isn’t therapy. Don’t use it as revenge. Be kind to yourself and others. Erma would want it that way.

6.  Take classes and continue to go to conferences. There is always more to learn.

5.  Join and stay involved with writing and critique groups.

4.  When you win an Erma centerpiece, it is a sign that you MUST write. Erma would say so.

3.  All writers, successful or not, believe at one time or another and repeatedly, that they are imposters. I am in good company.

2. Write. Quit making excuses and do it. You can write. So do it. At least a little bit, every day. All the presenters were very adamant about this. Pushy, really.

1. It is imperative to have at least one friend with no agenda. I was very fortunate to have found a fabulous Agendaless Forever Friend (AFF) in Dayton. She doesn’t particularly like dogs, but her great taste in shoes more than makes up for it.

The one thing I did not get from this conference: The Erma Flu! Not sure how I was lucky enough to avoid it, especially considering my new AFF went home with a horrible case of it, as did so many of the others we met. This brings to mind one last thing:

  1. Don’t play Duck, Duck, Goose with the Flu. Travel with hand sanitizer. I think Erma would agree.

#2016EBWW

Thinking back on the Piercing of the Ears

I grew up during the late 70s, early 80s in Southern California. At the beginning of my teen years we moved to Orange County. My family in no way fit the bill as normal in The O.C., but it was years before I realized just how different life was for me, as compared to most of my friends. For starters, my dad’s name is Darwin. Not Bill or Mike or John or Richard. Growing up with Darwin was never dull and I will write about it often. This is my recollection of how I convinced him to let me get my ears pierced.

“Dad, I have something to ask you.”

“I had a feeling.”

I took a deep breath “Can I get my ears pierced? Please??”

“Why would you want to do that?”

“Because it looks nice. I like earrings, and it would be fun to have some.”

Darwin looked at me, waiting for a more compelling reason.

“Dad, I’m the only girl I know who doesn’t have her ears pierced. I see babies with their ears pierced, and I know a lot of girls my age who have two holes in each ear.”

“Were their noses pierced, too? And their hair dyed green? Tattoos?”

“Dad, no. I just want my ears pierced, that’s all. Pleeaassee. Otherwise, I’ll be the only girl in the entire eighth grade that doesn’t have earrings. People are going to think I’m a dork.”

“Are you?” Darwin asked.

“Am I what?”

“A dork?”

“No, Dad. Stop it. You’re so hard to talk to sometimes.”

“If God wanted you to have holes in your ear lobes, you would’ve been born with holes in your ear lobes.”

“Dad, really? We don’t even go to church. It’s not fair to act like you think God cares one way or the other if my ears are pierced. I think God wouldn’t mind, especially if it means I fit in.”

After an excruciatingly long pause and unbroken eye contact, Darwin said, “I’m going to say yes, but with one condition.”

“Yea! Thank you, thank you. I can’t wait. When can I go?”

“I said there was a condition.”

“I know. I heard. That’s fine, what is it? Thank you, thank you.” I hugged him.

“I want you to take Sister with you.”

“Okay! I don’t care if she watches. That way, when it’s her turn, she’ll know to what to expect.”

“No, that isn’t what I mean. I want you to have Mom take you both to get your ears pierced. Together. At the same time.”

I was shocked. “What? Why? She’s only nine.”

“Because, I don’t want to have this conversation all over again with her in a couple of years. Go make yourselves, and God, happy and get all the ears pierced at once.”

“You’re kidding right? I had to wait until I was thirteen, but she doesn’t? Dad, that’s not fair. She should have to wait until she’s thirteen, just like me.”

“Life isn’t always fair, Kid. The sooner you get that through your thick skull, the sooner you’ll quit being disappointed about it. Life. Isn’t. Fair.”

“But…”

“All of the ears or none of them. It’s your choice, I’m done talking about this.”

 

And so all of the ears were pierced. I never did pierce my nose, or get any tattoos, or dye my hair green, but in college I pierced my ears several more times. Just because I could. Like a dork.

Awkward Conversation 

I called FedEx in regards to a lost package.

Me: It says the package was delivered, but it wasn’t. A different one came.

Nice FedEx Guy: So you got a package, but not the right package.

Me: Correct.

FedEx Guy: I need to ask what was in the package.

Me: Which one?

FedEx Guy: The missing one.

Me: A weighted hula hoop.

Silence

Me: I know, it’s not the end of the world, but…

FedEx Guy: …but you paid for it.

Me: Exactly!

 FedEx Guy: So you did not get the hula hoop? 

Me: No, just the whale tail.

Silence.

Me: I swear this isn’t as weird as it sounds.

FedEx Guy: I’m sure it isn’t, ma’am.