Freckles are awesome

Today, I go to the UCSF dermatology department to check out this itchy spot on my left breast, the one that’s been there for more than two months, the one the oncology NP wants me to check out, just to be safe.

All week leading up to this appointment, I feel an overwhelming sense of foreboding and anxiety. I find myself so freaked that I fall off the “no drinks during the week” wagon and have a cognac nightcap once or twice just to stop the spiraling panic so that I can sink into sleep’s oblivion. Earlier in the week, I think that I’m just stressing about the usual things: career, kids, the fact that there’s never an excess of money.

Then last night, I get honest. I am scared, scared, SCARED of metastasis. I’m just feeling that life is getting back to normal, just beginning to feel strong again, just finding a new work rhythm. I’m terrified that this little spot, this probably insignificant little spot may be a skin melanoma something that will suck me back into the exhausting, scary halls of Cancerland.

Late last night, talking to my husband Pete about it, the fear feels huge. It is a cold thing. Perhaps because I’ve allowed myself to relax in the last few month, I feel this fear more sharply than I felt it while in active treatment. Pete hugs me and tells me. “It’s OK, go get a small cognac, or you’ll never get to sleep.” Drat that all those sleeping pills I had during chemo are gone.

I oversleep and cycle like a maniac to the dermatologist’s office. He’s very tall, and handsome. He looks at my spot and feels it. Then he puts on magnifying glasses and looks at it more closely. “Don’t worry,” he says. “It’s a lentigo.”

Apparently, that’s a fancy name for a big freckle. It can get irritated and stay around for a while. I can opt to have it frozen off with liquid nitrogen or I can do nothing.

Thanks, I say, I’ve had enough unpleasant medical procedures for a lifetime. I’ll skip the liquid nitrogen. It’s not like I’m going to be posing for Playboy with my lumpectomy-ed left breast. The freckle can stay as long as it’s not cancer.

As I cycle home, the sun seems brighter, the spring flowers more beautiful, the bird song more melodic. Big exhale.

About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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5 Responses to Freckles are awesome

  1. Oh, I’m so glad. Life post cancer is very scary, indeed.

  2. allison green says:

    You and I seem to have been on the same cancer cycle. I missed reading your blogs. I know the panic feeling…I still have those sleeping pill, btw. They are awesome. My husband wants me to wean from them, but I’m not ready yet.
    Luckily all is well.

  3. Sarah Goodyear says:

    Yay! Such great news!

  4. Susan says:

    I am so happy for you.!

    Keep writing!

  5. cat says:

    Oh, Heather, I’m so sorry for your panic. It seems so hard (and perhaps impossible) not to go to that awful, scared place when something new appears out of nowhere. I’ve experienced it twice–the first time I woke up with an itchy, red rash across my breast that soon went up to my shoulder. I was certain it was IBC (based on pics on the internet, of course). My wonderful breast surgeon, who you know, saw me the same day (told me it was not IBC), got me in to see a dermatologist the same day, and it turned out it was shingles. But it was sheer panic until I got to her office. I am so glad you only have a freckle!
    (P.S. I still take an anti-anxiety med most every night to get to sleep. Didn’t like sleeping pills, but this seems to work for now.)

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