Behind the Lens
Last updated: November 2022
Growing up, I always wanted to be a professional photographer. When I was 15 years old, my dad gave me an old 35mm Mamiya camera. I had a genuine passion for taking pictures. I spent a good share of my teenage years capturing things around me, whether it was school activities or nature or more abstract photos.
When I had kids, no surprise, I filled photo albums with pictures. I was always behind the lens, rarely in front. I liked it that way.
My cancer journey begins
So how does my desire to be a professional photographer related to cancer? In 2016, they diagnosed me with two types of cancers back-to-back. My cancer journey started with a rare blood cancer called polycythemia vera or PV. A couple of months later, I added invasive ductal carcinoma or breast cancer to the mix. Between the continuously red face from the excess red blood cells caused by the PV and lack of hair from the breast cancer chemo, being photographed was the last thing I wanted.
As time went on and my hair grew back. I became more accepting of my appearance and even agreed to be a model in a cancer show, where I felt like a celebrity with cameras flashing all around as I strutted down the runway. However, I still preferred to be on the other side of the camera.
Skin cancer, seriously?
Skin cancer showed its ugly head in 2019. My first thought was, seriously? Like already having two cancers wasn’t enough. My first Mohs procedure was to remove a small basal cell from right under my nostril. It healed up and wasn’t noticeable after it healed a few months later.
Skin cancer, again
In 2021, a dermatologist biopsied another spot on my right cheek. This time it was melanoma in situ. The incision from the Mohs procedure was almost 5 inches long. It stretched from the side of my eye, almost all the way down to my chin. To cover the almost quarter-size hole from removing the cancerous spot, they pulled my skin across my face and sewed it up. It absolutely horrified me when I took off the bandage a couple of days later. I truly looked hideous, and my appearance devastated me. I tried to stay away from cameras for a good part of a year.
Yet another scar
Since 2021, I’ve had several biopsies and Mohs procedures and have added even more scars to my poor face. I now have one on my nose, one above my lip and one on the other cheek. I have spent the past year in a constant state of biopsy or Mohs recovery. My face is now a clutter of scars… ugh.
However, recently something strange happened. I can’t really remember the exact moment, but I realized when I smile it hides the scars (mostly). Therefore, I no longer run from the camera or have an aversion to having my picture taken. Although I’d still rather be the one behind the lens, instead of hiding from the camera, now I embrace it.
How often do you worry about skin cancer coming back?
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