raw


When the skin cancer specialist heard that the genetic test was negative, he laughed and said “The plot thickens!”

Then he examined my face, and ordered more biopsies.

One of the more alarming aspects of my skin cancer is the fact that the tumours are unusual. No general practitioner I’ve ever met could accurately diagnose a lesion, and very few dermatologists have been willing to treat me.

Looking at my own face, I couldn’t see what the doctor wanted to remove.

I could only see the scars.

But that is irrelevant, and the appointment was arranged.

What does a biopsy feel like? Nothing at all.

This is the routine: I lay flat on my back, head held still, eyes closed against the light. I listen to the sound of my flesh being gouged away and stitched back together.

Next, the doctor says some stuff I instantly forget. Then the nurses try to talk to me, offer tissue, a mirror, kindness.

But I always just want to escape, and inevitably have my feet on the floor before they’ve finished affixing bandages.

That is how it always works, and precisely what happened today.

The difference is: I walked outside, accepted a ride in my very own amazing car, stared out the window at a city I love. I went for a walk in my favourite neighbourhood, ate some good food, had some excellent coffee. I walked out of the clinic into the life I chose, the life I made.

For the rest of the day I avoided mirrors, joked with my family, ignored the bandages on my face.

Until the end of the evening, when it was necessary to change the dressings, and I saw the raw red jagged stitches crumpling my cheek.

Then I cried, but not because of the pain. Not because of the new scar, or any of the hundreds of scars marring my body. Not because I’m worried about the results; I already know what the lab will say. I have cancer.

Instead I cried for the little girl who never knew a single moment free of pain and uncertainty.

I cried for the little girl who never, ever cried – because she was so busy imagining a new life far away.


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