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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

I Feel Bad for My Skin: A Sort-of Skin Cancer Story

I recently learned that I will need surgery to remove excess skin around a mole that tested as moderately abnormal.

That’s a mouthful.

It’d be easier to say I have skin cancer.

Except I don’t. I was told it was moderately abnormal. So potential skin cancer.

It’s at times like this that I wonder if modern medicine has gone too far. Do we really have to address abnormal if it’s not cancer? Can we not just watch and wait. Is excising my skin truly necessary?

My mother died from ovarian cancer. My grandfather died from two types of blood cancer. My grandmother is currently dying from a blood cancer. My father had prostate cancer.

Cancer seems to be in the blood (literally and figuratively).

So I’ll acquiesce to the medical model.

But I do feel bad for my skin.

Two weeks ago I had the mole removed.

It was a flat mole, almost like brown alcohol ink had been dropped on my skin.

It was on my boob, about an inch above my nipple. No one saw it, other than the time I yanked down my shirt to ask my sister, a nurse, if it was normal.

When I went to the dermatologist for a skin exam, she recommended we remove it.

She was amazing. She had me numb the area with an ice pack and used a vibrator while she gave me shots. It was the least painful medical procedure I’ve had in a long time. Made me want to lop off all of the other moles on my body.

As the small circle has healed, I’ve been impressed with my body’s immune response. Watching a scab slowly form.

It came off yesterday, all on its own. And underneath it, fresh pink skin. The body is amazing.

And I feel bad, all of its hard work will now just be cut away. I’m told they will cut a wider area and go deeper. I’m not sure how big. I’m hoping a quarter. The doctor I liked so much will remove it. A plastic surgeon will come in to sew it. It sounds very professional. And slightly terrifying. How big is this thing that I will need a plastic surgeon to sew it?

I had a strong emotional response when I learned I would need surgery. It doesn’t seem fair to call it surgery if you’re awake.

Sometimes I wish they would just knock me out.

Same with teeth work. For the love of God put me to sleep.

But I will be with my body, present, as they cut into it for it’s own sake. It seems weird. And barbaric.

My mother had entire organs removed. Lymph nodes radiated. Cells nuked with chemotherapy. I require none of that.

An abstract image of swaths of pink, red, and black.
"Acid Treatment" Acrylic Painting by Jackie Schuld depicting her acid treatment for cervical cancer

This is my second time having abnormal biopsy results. The first was for cervical cancer. I asked my friend if he thinks I’m destined to eventually die by cancer. That I’m just a cancerous ball waiting to happen. Or that I'll slowly just have chunks lopped or burned off me.

He mentioned it’s just part of my journey. To know my reality and therefor be vigilant and catch things as they come - like this skin cancer that is not skin cancer.

That may be true.

But I still feel bad for my skin. I hope it knows I know it’s trying its hardest. It didn’t betray me. I’m sorry for whats to come.

I thought the same for my cervix, which was bathed in three acid treatments across three weeks. I felt bad for it too. For what was to come.

I hope I am working with my body for its good. I cannot fully know. That’s what’s so scary about medicine. You listen to the advice given and you hope it’s accurate.


Follow-up: I have since been told that they cleared all abnormal tissue from the area and will only need to return for my annual skin check.


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