How many skin cancers are on your face?
Maybe you slathered on cocoa butter or baby oil and baked beneath the sun in your teen-aged years to get that Coppertone tan, even if you were a fair white person with no chance of getting any color but red.
We are paying for it now, fifty years later.
I had one day at a California beach when I was 19 that inflicted a peeling burn, used up a jar of Noxema, and set up annual meetings with my dermatologist since my mid-50s. I hate the skin scan. Stripping and letting someone view me with a magnifying glass is not my idea of a good time. Romance it ain’t.
Ten years ago the dermatologist removed a Stage One melanoma from my arm and a pre-cancerous lesion from my chest, right in the V of V-necked shirts. I bought a large supply of scarves and wore only long-sleeved shirts.
Now, I have a suspect spot on my face. My friends with basal cell cancers respond knowingly about freezing and Mohs surgeries. Mohs surgery is that surgery where you hang out in the dermatologist’s clinic all day so they can scrape off another layer of skin and do a lab analysis.
The kind of cancer I’m being screened for shows up most frequently in older women, between the ages of 65 and 75, and is most often identified on the cheek. Bingo. It has a 97% success rate with excision only so that news is good.
They said the scooping scar on my arm would fill in. They lied. The nurse admired the doctor’s neat stitches. It’s a big scar, but it blends in with my crepey skin now.
I thought briefly about a tattoo if I have a new scar, but unless you are a prison gang member, tattoos on the face aren’t a way to hide anything, they proclaim something.
Oh, I have other scars.
We all do. There are the ones you can see, the ones I know about, and the ones that are emotional. I used to trace the long scar on my loved one’s thigh, a reminder of his young adult car accident. I viewed it as part of him, a scar not everyone saw, a survivor’s scar.
I have a C-section scar that proclaims a birth. Some childhood scars have faded over time, like the scar from falling off my bike. The scars tell our stories and are private road maps on the body, sometimes on the heart.
I felt bad for a while after the biopsy, because I don’t know if I’ll have a scar, or how big it will be. But I am grateful for modern medicine, and what will be an inconvenience, and I don’t care as much as I would have twenty years ago. Vanity is still around, but it’s not as big a factor.
Besides, face masks are now socially acceptable in public places. I could get wardrobe-matching face masks, like Nancy Pelosi had, or repurpose some of those scarves.
I can look forward to more scars. More marks on the body to proclaim more years on the planet.
I am becoming my own Google Maps directory, or maybe I’m Waze, with live updates on conditions as they change.
What is your private roadmap?