Two hands hold a photo of a person with actinic keratosis on the chest area.

A Letter of Warning to the Precancer on My Chest

Last updated: January 2022

Listen up. Your days are numbered.

Listen up, actinic keratosis

I’ve got my eye on you. You won’t get past me like some of your friends have. All the signs are there, and I am on top of things this time. You’ve tried to hide–fading into the background once in a while just to make me think you’re harmless. I know better. If my mistakes have taught me anything, they’ve taught me not to trust the likes of you.

Causing me pain

You’ve been brooding under the surface for a while, years maybe. I only knew you were there because of the pain. That tiny speck on my chest seemed to scream out in fury when the water hit my chest. You’re small but mighty, and your sting packs a punch. Your friends were the same way, always hurting me. One after another, they came. Year after year, they made me miserable. If I had let them stay, my scars would be deeper and my pain more intense. They had to go, and so do you.

You're bleeding, too

Hurting is one thing, but bleeding is another. I won’t stand for it. Watching you break open and bleed in the shower nightly is not something I will tolerate. I am stronger than I used to be, and I am much smarter. From the moment you showed up, I have been diligent. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about you, and the thoughts are not nice ones, I assure you. When you made me bleed, that’s when I knew. That was the last straw.

I'm calling in backup

I want you to know I have made a call. Arrangements have been made and your time is almost up. I am not alone in this. I have people on my side, good ones, capable ones. They won’t have you hanging around anymore than I will. It won’t be fun, but it will be worth it. One of two things will happen. There will either be a biopsy, or I will use topical chemotherapy to eradicate you and all the danger that lies beneath the surface. It’s not looking good for you.

This happens way too often

I know what you are, you’re a precancer; actinic keratosis is what you like to be called. The last eight years of my life have been riddled with you and all the treatments you require. It’s getting old, this dance we do. You show up, I watch you from the corner of my eye for a while, you unleash the beast, and I make sure you’re escorted unceremoniously out and probably by way of a shave or punch biopsy. Yeah, I know it will hurt. Truth be told, it’s temporary and worth every minute. There's a world of difference in the little sting you deliver and the pinch of a needle numbing my skin. Your pain leads to more, and the pain of the needle means you are on your last legs.

Your time is up

Your buddies were hard to figure out at first, but my dermatologist took the time to explain it all to me. She showed me how to tell what you were planning–taught me how to spot you. I know I have a lot of freckles and moles, so I have an overabundance of stellar hiding places. This time, though, you aren’t getting by me. The dance is done.

If given the chance, what would you say to the suspicious spots you find on your body?

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