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When Good News Isn’t Great News

Typically, receiving good news can make us feel great. Ecstatic, even. Like all is right in our world. But there are other times that receiving good news doesn’t always make me feel all that good.

Another excision

Like yesterday, for instance. Three days ago, I had an excisional surgery to remove a small area of basal cell skin cancer from my chest. My dermatologist did the surgery in her office over my lunch hour. An excisional surgery is a relatively fast procedure, and I was in and out of her office in just over half an hour and then went back to work. My doctor told me she should receive the results in a week or so and would call me.

Not great news

Last night, my phone rang and I saw that it was Dr. K. She said, “We’ve got the results back,” and then she paused. And my heart sank. She told me that we have clear margins, but they are narrow margins. I realized at that point that I was holding my breath. Dr. Keller reassured me that this doesn’t mean that we have to go back in and do another surgery to cut out more tissue, and it doesn’t mean I’m going to get skin cancer in the same place again, but that does mean we need to keep an eye on it.

What does it mean?

As a background for anyone unfamiliar with excisional surgery, it’s a common procedure to treat skin cancer. It basically means that a dermatologist surgically removes a suspicious area and the area around it. The area around it is called a “margin,” and the derm removes it to make sure all the potentially cancerous cells are gone. Then it’s sent to a pathologist who makes sure the “margins” are clear, or free from cancer. This basically means that enough was cut out to get all the cancer.

In my case, this time the margins are clear of cancer cells, but apparently not by a whole lot.

I just didn’t expect it

I’ve had more than a few excisions to remove skin cancer over the past 24 years, and if my memory serves me correctly I have had one other instance of a report of “narrow margins” (and thankfully had no recurrence of skin cancer), but it’s been so long ago that happened that I wasn’t expecting to hear it.

So, I will keep an eye on this area. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s keeping an eye on my skin. In fact, I’m pretty sure I subconsciously do a skin check every time I look in a mirror. Almost all of my skin cancers have been on my face and chest, and I frequently check for any new, unusual places.

I’m just tired of this

I am thankful that no additional surgery is necessary (honestly, I can’t imagine getting a freshly excised area cut open again), but daggonit, I’m tired of this. I’m tired of having skin cancer. I’m tired of getting stitches. I’m tired of wondering when I’m going to have a new area pop up. And I’m tired (literally) because I can’t find a comfortable sleeping position due to the area where my excision is, and I wake up every time I turn over because it hurts. I know I should be happy with the good news that all the skin cancer is gone, but right now I’m having difficulty rejoicing.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • SusanByShore
    7 days ago

    I totally understand.
    I lost both parents to malignant melanoma and have Atypical Nevus Syndrome which results in chronic BCC, SCC. It’s the price paid for genetics, blue eyes, redhead & fair skin with many freckles & moles.
    I have body checks with my dermatologist every 3 months but typically have between 3-9 biopsies or cryosurgery due to constant changes in moles. Usually the biopsies aren’t even healed before I see the surgeon for Mohs. On 3 occasions I’ve had the curettage & electrodesiccation procedure. I swear I’ll never do that again. Healing was prolonged & awful as is resulting scarring.
    The worst thing to date has been Effudex. I’ve done this twice on my face & once on my hands. Resulting blisters, painful sore & inflammatory process is horrific & lasts 6 weeks.
    Most friends can’t understand the need for this. I’m not defined by my skin cancer but as mentioned in the article, sleep is difficult, pain is frequen. Beach time means sitting fully clothed in a tent while all my friends are sun bathing. several feet away.
    And the stress of repeated cancers along with the knowledge that I will develop melanoma based on genetics- it’s just a question of when.
    I pray that someday they’ll find something that eradicates the need for frequent surgeries & ultimately skin cancers but don’t expect that in my lifetime. In the meantime, we have to stay strong.

  • Judy Cloud moderator author
    6 days ago

    @susanbyshore Oh Susan, I can’t imagine all that you have gone through. Reading messages such as yours really, really makes me hate skin cancer. I am so sorry for the loss of your parents. You, dear Susan, are a warrior. You keep fighting, and we will keep pulling for you. ❤️ Judy, Moderator

  • wseverin
    2 weeks ago

    Judy, I know the drill. Working in the sun most of my life. Sebaceous carcinoma, first one, then another, then two more, then another……such is life now for me and many others.
    Good luck and God speed!

  • Judy Cloud moderator author
    2 weeks ago

    @wseverin I wish none of us knew this life. Thanks for your kind words! Judy, Moderator

  • sunworshiper1
    2 weeks ago

    I wish we were always able to have Moh’s surgery, so we would not have to go through another incision after the initial surgery.
    Because I spent so much time barefoot on ski boats I’ve had numerous skin surgeries on my feet over the past twelve years. Each time it takes the wound apx six months to heal. The biopsies always require additional surgery and luckily at this point they do typically perform Moh’s on me. Wearing shoes is very painful and depending upon the location might not even be an option. I am very lucky that I am able to work in stocking feet.
    I wish you speedy healing. You are not alone.

  • Judy Cloud moderator author
    2 weeks ago

    @sunworshiper1 Oh wow – I can’t imagine having numerous surgeries on my feet. I know that surgical areas on my legs tend to heal slower than other areas, and I’m guessing the feet are even slower. Hoping you won’t need any more. Take good care of you! Judy, Moderator

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