Tag Archives: squamous cell carcinoma

Farrah’s Story

I just heard that Part 2 of Farrah’s Story is in the works.

For those who didn’t watch the 2-hour documentary on NBC last Sunday night, it chronicled Farrah Fawcett’s two-year battle with cancer. She said that the purpose of filming and screening her horrendously painful treatments was to educate, but what did we learn?

Not much. We learned that Farrah is a fighter, to an astonishing degree.  The cringe factor in her treatments was extreme.

But we didn’t learn much else. We only learned the type of cancer almost as an aside (squamous cell carcinoma). We didn’t learn anything about squamous, how it grows or spreads. We didn’t learn how she discovered this tumor. We didn’t learn anything about her treatment options or why she chose the ones she did. Instead, we learned about her iconic hair, and how the doctors tried to perserve it. Good grief.

So, Ryan, if you’re not out to exploit the pain and suffering of the woman you love, use this platform to do some serious education. We all know that chemo makes people puke. That’s not the type of learning we’re after. We want to know the medical stuff of treatment. We want to know what trials are being done. There’s not a one of us who hasn’t been personally affected by cancer, and we’re after answers. Show us her scans. Have a doctor explain them. Show us alternative treatments and experimental treatments and how they work, and why they didn’t.

We all know and love Farrah, but her story has so much more potential to save lives and educate people than what we endured by watching her incredible suffering on Sunday night.

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Filed under Cancer, Dying, Honesty, Memoir, Spirituality

Skin cancers

Since I’ve opened this particular can of worms, instead of merely ranting, perhaps I could pass along some valuable information.

Melanoma is deadly. 75,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma this year, and 7,500 will die. The rest will be mightily disfigured. Normally, melanoma begins in a mole, which grows, changes, bleeds, itches, or just looks funky. Know your skin. Go annually to a dermotologist for an all-over skin check, and I do mean all-over. Scalp, butt, crotch, armpits, the whole nine yards. Take photos of anything suspicious, so you can monitor it for slow changes. Bring any of those changes to your doctor’s attention.

Know the ABCDs of Melanoma.

A: Asymetrical. Cancer is not organized, so while most moles are relatively round, cancer grows in scattered patterns. If a mole has changed so that one half of it is a different shape than the other half, that’s suspicious. Get it checked out.

B. Borders. Because cancer grows in a disorganized way, the borders of a melanoma will be notched, not smooth and round like most moles.

C. Color. Melanoma can be all colors, from blue to pink, brown, black and even skin-colored (amelanotic).

And D. Diameter. Any mole over 1/4″ in diameter (the size of a pencil eraser)ought to be looked at and monitored.

I will add to this E. Elevation. My melanoma was a mole that grew from flat to tall.

But melanoma is not the only skin cancer. There are also squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas. All of them need to be diagnosed and removed as early as possible. These are not as life-threatening as melanoma, but they should be treated as soon as they are noted.

The bottom line is: know your skin. Pay attention to changes. Don’t tan. Stay out of the direct sun. Wear sunscreen and cover up.

Read more about it at American Cancer Society.

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Gratitude – and a Rant

I know I have pledged to keep this blog about gratitude for the month of November, and my gratitude knows no bounds, literally. I have a wonderful husband, family, job, dog, house, friends… every detail of my life (except one) is quite wonderful, and I am exceedingly appreciative.

The one exception is my skin. And I’m going to rant about this because I just had another biopsy (the third just this year) because I ruined my skin by sun worshipping in Hawaii for seventeen years.

The first time I had a squamous cell carcinoma cut off my chest, the dermotologist said, “Oh, yes, you’ve ruined your skin. These things will be popping up like mushrooms for the rest of your life.” He was right. I’ve had literally dozens taken off, and had a very serious bout with melanoma that will continue to haunt me. I caught it early, but as the oncologist said, “We don’t consider anyone cured of melanoma until they die of something else.”

All because I loved being tan.

Why do I bring this up now? Because I have just had what we all think is a basal cell carcinoma biopsied from the middle-finger knuckle on my left hand. Basal cell is not that big a deal; it grows and the scars are ugly when it’s removed (I might need a skin graft–my second), but it’s not life-threatening. All because I liked having that “healthy glow” from a suntan.

When they cut one off my face, I almost fainted a half hour later in a department store and had to sit on a big canister of popcorn in a display and put my head between my knees. Imagine having someone cut on your face because twenty years earlier you wanted to wear a strapless dress and not have a tan line.

My gym offers a deal when you buy multiple tanning sessions at a time. I am here to tell you, living proof with scars from my face to my ankles and a perpetual cloud hanging over my happiness, tanning is expensive.

You can’t afford it.

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Filed under Cancer, regrets