April 4, 2012 is going to go down in history as one of the top ten worst days I have had in my lifetime. In order to understand how heavy this is, you need a table for comparison. I mean, sure, people profess that this or that day has been the worst that they have had in their life all the time. Especially when their age is somewhere between ten and twenty, and their intelligence quotient is closer to 90 than 120. So I am going to tell you a couple of stories here to give you some precise context and meaning.
Slightly past midway through the tenth year of my life, I started getting sick. I mean really, really sick. Constant bouts of the ‘flu, to the point where I was at one point having minor seizures and being injected with heavy duty drugs. And then I started to thirst so badly that I emptied out a refrigerator (one of those double-door jobs) overnight and lost more weight in two weeks than most of those morons who go to Weight Watchers lose in two years. After two weeks, when I was finally so weak that I could not make it through a day of school, my mother took me to the local general practitioner and asked, as a mother does, what the hell was wrong. And the answer that came back made her cry so hard that mascara was literally all over her face. I was diagnosed with diabetes, and spent the two weeks after that taking the first steps to adjust to what was going to be my life after that point. That was, and has remained for some time, the absolute darkest day of my life.
Nearly fifteen years later, after years of having a sore in the side of my face that simply would not heal no matter what I did, I finally went to see a dermatologist at the urging of a diabetes specialist. This was after finally getting so sick of being told that this sore was a “pimple” that I had “picked” by my moron asshole male parent. Among other things. By this time, the skin around that part of my face had begun to bubble and resemble burned plastic. These surface cells were shaved off for a biopsy and sent to a pathologist who confirmed that it was a basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer that results from too much exposure to solar radiation. I knew that I was in trouble, but it was not until I saw they had cut a hole in my face into which I could fit two or three of my knuckles that I realised that I was in the midst of another darkest time of my life.
Last night at approximately 2300 hours, my desktop computer began one of its bouts of constantly alerting me that a USB device had been disconnected in spite of how plugged-in it was and still remains as I type this. I had just upgraded the antiviral software on my computer, unable to stand getting warnings about my subscription being out of date anymore. So I rebooted the computer again, and got nothing but a white screen for my effort. So far, it seems the prognosis is that I should just take the hard drive out of the desktop, get it duplicated into a disc image, and use that to transfer the files to a new computer. Only problem is I do not have sufficient funds to do this without begging, borrowing, and/or stealing. But if you cannot fault my desktop computer for breaking down, you can fault it for timing that to coincide with the news I received this afternoon.
For months leading up to this day, I had been noticing that there was a lump in the side of my face about the size of one of my fingerprint pads. And as luck and a bad script would have it, it is in the exact same cheek that had to be hole-punched and rotation-flapped about ten years ago. So I went to the doctor, who sent me to get some tests done on the site. CT scans, ultrasounds, and fine needle aspirations have determined that whatever is growing in that area is a cancer, but they are not certain of the type. So, on the pretext that I was going to get a biopsy of the site done, I was referred to the local hospital for that. But when I saw the specialist, what he told me was more than just a little bit unsettling.
It seems that rather than even bother to do a biopsy, the specialist I saw today decided to refer me to a hospital further into the city where the plan is apparently to put me under general anesthesia and do some exploratory surgery, navigating the minefield of nerves and scar tissue in that cheek and hopefully remove the cancer. Which entails the removal of what they call the parotid gland. Quite frankly, the idea of even being in the care of a hospital anywhere in Queensland makes me want to run screaming. If you do not understand why, please read this entry and make sure you fully understand it before going further.
The first time I was told that I had a cancer in my face and would need to have flesh cut out, I was still living in the Parramatta area. During consultations to determine and execute a treatment plan for the cancer in my cheek, I got to see just how insane nurses could be driven by the conditions they work in. The nurses in the oncology department at Westmead hospital, bless them, had a cheer in the midst of patients who make slurping sounds due to the absence of vital facial parts that can only be explained by mania, cocaine, or psychosis. Possibly combinations thereof. But in spite of how I make that sound, one thing that is very important to understand is that they were competent. They could see how scared I was, and whilst they did not do anything to alleviate that, they did not exactly go out of their way to make it any worse. To say that Queenslanders cannot even get that right is a gross understatement.
And then there is the psychological factor involved. If I told you that in some form I have been having nightmares every day since the removal of that first basal cell carcinoma about it happening again, I would be making a bit of an understatement. Every time I go outdoors during daylight hours, the thought of waking up to see cancer cells laughing at me about the agony they intend to cause me is foremost in my mind. Every mole, lesion, or blemish is a laughing cancer. Every sensation of stinging in the skin is the crawl of a cancer. Every semi-solid lump I feel anywhere in my body is a tumor. To say that I am haunted by what I experienced at roughly half the age I am told I should have experienced it is like saying that I have a pathological hatred of Queenslanders.
Oh yeah, did I mention that every time I look anywhere on my body and see a mole with fuzzy, ill-defined edges, I just about shit myself? No, well, consider that a mention. How would you like to feel that afraid of marks on your own skin on top of having to deal with difficulties caring for your diabetes and a fear that the suede denim secret police are coming for you? Sound like fun?
I am sure you will have noticed the photos by now. These are so you can look at them and know I am not exaggerating or lying. This is what a person’s face looks like after their moron male parent has dismissed their skin cancer as a “pimple” that they will not stop “picking” and a surgeon has determined too late that it is, surprise surprise, a cancer. This is what happens when an issue is not properly investigated and/or solved. The image next to this paragraph shows hair regrowth around the site of the temporary skin graft that was put in place to keep the inside of my face unexposed. Can you imagine for a second what it is like to be afraid to do what every twenty-something male does as a matter of course for fear of doing even further damage to the structure of one’s face?
Needless to say, if you have a sore anywhere on your body that is refusing to heal no matter how well you take care of it, get your arse to a doctor and say “skin cancer”, post-haste. Double that pace if you put dressings on the sore and the scab you expect to form there overnight keeps coming out as snot-like liquid when you remove the dressing (this happened to me).
Sure, the computer thing is exquisitely bad timing. But since I had already troubled the general practitioner to cut two potential cancers from my chest earlier in the day, being told to look forward to more hours of surgery under general anesthesia by a specialist is basically piss-flavoured icing on a cake made of shit. Cancer knows how to be cruel, I will give it that. If it had even the slightest sense of decency, it would strike somewhere truly vital (the brain would be good), and give me a mere six months to live. Not take my face away chunk by chunk.
One day, I hope that a solution to skin cancer that leaves the patient whole and unscarred after the removal can be found. But in the meantime, please accept this as my resignation from life. If, on top of all of the depravations I experience, this is all I have to look forward to over the next thirty years, I would rather die.
I thank those who have taken the time to read this.
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