a 100% chance of something. that's pretty solid. you can count on that. a 100% chance of rain. a 100% chance that the sun will rise and set each day.
i went for my yearly visit to the dermatologist in august and pointed out all the spots that concerned me. only one concerned her. she froze it off and i got a clean bill of health. i was good to go. one month later, while shaving my legs, i noticed a spot that had never even been there, and so i did what she had told me to do and just made a mental note to keep an eye on it. this wasn't difficult to do. it changed weekly. then daily. which made me mental.
i got on the google and went down the checklist of symptoms, looked at all the gruesome spotty pictures. check, check, check and omg, check. and for weeks, i would call my doctor and beg to be seen asap. i would explain how it was at first changing weekly, then daily; and they would explain they had an opening two months down the road. i thought i could be dead two months down the road. (i am a worst case scenario girl, i can be very dramatic). then i started calling daily to ask if there were any cancellations. i was always told about the two month wait.
but then, through the magic of a friend who is married to a doctor, who does a freakishly good job of pretending to be a nurse - i get a coveted appointment with a different dermatologist. so i go and see him. and he comes right in and looks at the spot that has convinced me i have melanoma and assures me that's not the case. and now i have the peace of mind i wanted all along and i can breathe a sigh of relief.
but. as he was talking to me and explaining what sort of spot it was and that it wasn't alarming to him but how i did the right thing because the alarming spots and the perfectly normal spots will all do the same alarming things; he looked at me with such scrutiny and intensity as he talked; i knew that my face was a road map of my love affair with the sun and held all the dirty little secrets of my sunny sins and indiscretions.
i knew that he knew i had lounged out in my back yard as a teenager with baby oil on my face and a double record album covered in tin foil. i knew he knew my high school friend and i laid out on one of those foil blankets while on vacation to maximize our sun exposure and go home with a good tan. i knew he knew about that really bad sunburn i got on my legs in my 20's. that shameful tanning bed phase. he knew i spent my childhood summers on a beach, by a pool, and winters were spent skiing where on a sunny day you could get a rockin' tan with the added bonus of the reflection off the snow. i had the feeling my face was speaking volumes and all i could see was a double record album covered in tin foil.
and that's when he said it:
you have a 100% chance of getting skin cancer. you will get it within the next 10 years.
after all of my google research i was practically convinced that i was going in to the doctor to be told i have skin cancer. well, thankfully; i don't have it. today. he told me how it would happen and what i needed to look out for. and he never said if. he said when. and i kept thinking: a 100% chance? really? really? why not 98% ? 80? can i get a second opinion? don't you want to do one of those snazzy infrared picture things of my face? or is my face that bad that you can tell with the naked eye? good god. if someone told me i had a 100% chance of breast cancer, i'd get my boobs lopped off. no problem. if someone told me i had a 100% chance of uterine or ovarian cancer - hello hysterectomy. but skin cancer? what do i do? well. i know what to do. i go in to the doctor and get each offensive spot burned off and hope i caught it on time. i have to say the skeptic new yorker in me that my father raised couldn't help but wonder how much money he would get every time i went in to get something burned off.
i'm a smart girl. really. i am. i wear sunscreen. in the summer. when i am sitting by the pool. and shamefully, that's about it. i know you are supposed to wear it all the time. in winter, on rainy days, on cloudy days. every day, all the time. i'll start that now, but 40 years worth of sun damage is done, and while 100% sounds really alarmist, i am actually strangely calm about it. i guess its good to know in that crystal ball sort of way. i know what to look out for and i know it can get taken care of if i catch it on time. i am now on a diligent, religious spot-watch for the next 10 years.
i'll keep that appointment that i have for two months down the road with my regular doctor and get that second opinion. see if she sees the same shameful road map on my face that todays' doctor saw. but still. a 100% chance? shit. that's pretty solid. i gotta go slap on some sunscreen. and wear knee socks.