365 Days

Two weeks ago, I had Moh’s surgery on my back to remove the squamous cell carcinoma that’s been lurking around like a bad cold. I knew it was there and even tried to have it removed last year, but the scraping procedure the dermatologist recommended didn’t come close to getting it all. She’s also the one who said it was just a keratosis or a patch of dry skin: nothing to worry about. Which is what dermatologists always tell me, even though I have CHH and cancer thinks we’re BFFs.

I tend to let them sit because that’s what I do with skin cancers; we have a laissez-faire relationship. I know what they look like, I know that they go away, come back, bleed, become dry and scaly, and then disappear again. They’re like Casper, my friendly little ghosts. If I’ve got too much work going on, travel to look forward to, shoes I’d rather put money toward than medical bills, or if I’ve reached a point where I just can’t deal with it anymore, I ignore them. After having thirty-some skin cancers removed, I know what to watch for, and I know when I can’t wait any longer. I should have become a dermatologist.

However this one got the better of me. Not only had it moved up a stage, but once removed, left behind a three by three inch crater on my upper back. The part of my back I’d show off in a strapless dress if I ever wore such things. But on the bright side–because if you give things long enough, there is always one–the scar is beautiful; long, thin, and kind of mysterious looking in a What in the world happened to you? sort of way.

October is one of my favorite months, and I’m not even a fan of pumpkin spice. But with the cooler weather, lower humidity, and an excuse to start wearing plaid scarves, I love this time of year. Which makes it the perfect time to institute something I’ve been contemplating for a long time.

I’ve dealt with cancer since I was eighteen. I know my friends get tired of hearing about it and that it’s incredibly hard on my family. It’s hard to have surgery on a Friday and return to work on a Monday, answering moody author emails and smiling for colleagues like everything is normal when you can’t sit, move your arms or turn your head because some cancerous part of you was just removed.

I promised myself that once I reached the coveted five-year remission mark for my lymphoma, I’d take a break. And so, despite the protestations of my mother, oncologist, and everyone else, I’m instituting a cancer-free year starting this month. And as it won’t stay away of its on violation, the only way I know to have a truly free year—no surgeries, no swollen stitches, no sleepless nights, no waiting for scan results—is to simply pretend my body is cancer-free for one whole year.

And so for 365 glorious days, it won’t be a part of my life. I’m simply not giving it the option. I can’t wait.

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