Cancer Comes Knocking

I may have cancer again. I should find out by next week.

I had what was apparently a serious type of skin cancer when I was a young teen. I must have been fourteen or fifteen, somewhere around there. Here’s the weird thing: my parents shielded me from this fact until I was well into adulthood. I literally did not know about it until I was in my late twenties.

It was this dark spot in my ear, and it was growing. I used to hide it with the skin-colored sticky part of a bandaid because it was embarrassing. I just thought it was a mole.

My parent’s friends and family kept pressing my parents to have it checked but my dad was in denial until one point, where I guess it was our family doctor, confronted him. He told my dad I needed to have my ear amputated and to go through radioactive chemotherapy.

From what I gather, my dad said, “Fuck that,” and instead took me to a specialist in San Francisco. They removed it, leaving a big hole in my ear, and replaced the tissue with skin grafts from my back. The biopsy confirmed it was indeed cancerous. I never did receive the chemo, because my dad didn’t believe in it.

This is what my parents told me: “They have no idea what it was. It was so weird that they sent the mole to the Smithsonian.”

For years I believed this, and used to joke that it was probably a tracking device that aliens implanted in me when I was a youngster. Then one day, after my parents had split up and my mom was living up in the mountains, I was visiting with her with my then wife Becky and our little baby daughter, and I said something about the mole and how it had been sent to the Smithsonian.

My mom laughed and said, “Oh no. No. That was cancer. It was juvenile melanoma.”

“WHAT?!”

“Oh yeah,” she said, “you had cancer. You probably got it from being in the desert sun so much when you were a kid.”

Needless to say, I was stunned.

I tend to forget about this, so maybe they really did do me a favor. When I’m around cancer survivors I keep forgetting I am also one. Then when it dawns on me, and I finally do say, “Yes, me too,” I don’t really feel legit, because I didn’t go through all the crap that most cancer survivors go through.

And so fast forward another 30 years, and here I am waiting to get results back from a blood test. Here’s something I feel oddly guilty about: I’m not worried.

We’ll see how I’m feeling come Monday afternoon.

Update: Spiral Into Oblivion