My Daily Dilemma: Another Skin Cancer Recurrence?
Last updated: April 2023
In June 2018, I had an unusual growth on my lower lip that was eventually diagnosed as squamous cell carcinoma. I was referred to a plastic surgeon in hopes of limiting the damage to my face, and he performed a shave excision surgery. Very shortly thereafter, the skin cancer came back three more times on my lower lip, and it was removed each additional time in a shave excision surgery.
Caution with shave excision surgery
The plastic surgeon was an older, very experienced doctor, and he expressed to me that he was concerned about where we were heading with the surgeries on my lower lip. He said, “I feel like a mouse taking little chunks out of your face. My fear is that I will have to take a big chunk.”
The plastic surgeon also expressed to me that he had asked his assistant to get the information about more extensive surgical benefits for my face because it seemed we were headed in that direction. I was horrified, to say the least, but I also knew that he was being completely candid with me. It was an extremely stressful time in my life, and I had a lot of sleepless nights.
Do not want any more scars
I do not want to have any kind of surgery, but I certainly do not want to have more surgery and another scar on my face. The scar I have on my chest from a skin issue and surgery in March 2022 is large and upsetting to me, but unless someone sees me in a swimsuit or a low-cut blouse, they will likely never notice my scar. The scar is fairly recent, but I have never had anyone ask me about the scar on my chest.
On the other hand, the scar on my face is very visible for the world to see on a daily basis, and there is really no hiding it. I have even had people ask me, more than once, what happened to my lips. I do not mind telling them, as I have nothing to hide. At the same time, I must admit that the questions others ask about my lips serves as a reminder to me that people notice something is not quite right, and they are right about that, my bottom lip is now imperfect and will forever be that way after having undergone four surgeries.
Lip scar a reminder and a worry
I am now more than four years removed from the four shave excision surgeries on my bottom lip, but the situation in my mind is by no means forgotten or any less real. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Each day, I cautiously look in the mirror each morning and throughout the day. And when I do, I ask myself, “Does the scar on my bottom lip look exactly the same as it looked yesterday? Has it grown, or does it somehow look a little different? Does it look larger, and if so, does that mean the skin cancer has come back yet again? Or could it be that the scar tissue has gotten bigger or reshaped somehow?” Last, I question whether everything is just fine, and I am merely envisioning an issue that does not exist.
Worries about a recurrence
This thought process, the constant concern of recurrence, is the madness that goes on in my head most days. For sure, some days are better than others. There are some days that I am able to look in the mirror at my bottom lip and dismiss my concerns rather quickly. Most days, however, I linger over the mirror because I am not quite sure where things stand. I am learning to cope, and I live in hopes that each day is a little better than the one before. At the end of the day, however, all I can really do is put one foot in front of the other and hope that I do not have another skin cancer recurrence.
Can you identify with a fear of recurrence? If so, how do you manage it? Are you able to effectively manage it, or does it occasionally manage you?
Do you sunscreen in the fall?