The Little Things Can Drive You Crazy

I have a tiny little spot in my left ear.

First it itched, then it flaked. I applied a combination of Efudex and calcipotriene cream. An even tiniest speck remained.

My dermatologist said it was too small for her to biopsy, so she’s sending me to a Mohs surgeon for her to do it. It could be a pimple, but it could be a basal cell. Since I had a basal cell carcinoma in my other ear, she wants to make sure. They can’t be too careful with me.

Getting a "pimple" checked out

I had a good laugh with a friend over this. I told her I might be going all the way to Boston – 90 miles from my home – to get a pimple looked at.

My friend, who is in marketing, looked at it from that kind of perspective.

“You’re a marketing success story. They don’t want to mess it up,” she said.

“Yeah,” I answered. “After four bone marrow transplants, it would be too bad if something in my ear did me in.”

By product of sun exposure

As I have written in previous posts, my primary cancer was AML, acute myeloid leukemia. The skin problems are a byproduct of my sun exposure and an immune system weakened by those transplants plus the prednisone I take. The prednisone is to combat graft vs. host disease, a condition that happens when donor cells attack the recipient’s.

All but one of my skin cancers have been squamous cells. Only the one in my right ear was a basal cell.

Forgetting to protect our ears from the skin

When I am outside lathering on sunscreen around my tennis friends, I now point out that it never occurred to me to put sunscreen in my outer ear. Or on any part of my ear, either. But skin is skin, and it’s all susceptible.

The fear of skin cancers popping up in unexpected places often pops up at unwelcome times.

Picking at the little bump

For example, last night when I was in a yoga class, we were supposed to be lying calmly on the floor. I ran my hand through my hair and found a little bump. First I thought maybe it was a tick. I tried to dislodge it. Nope, not a tick. Phew. But wait, maybe an actinic keratosis, maybe a squamous cell cancer. I dug my fingernail under it.

“Stop picking, stop yakking,” I said to myself.

The teacher, as if reading my mind, said that if your mind is wandering, focus on your breath.

Worrying about recurrence

I took my hand out of my head and put it on my lower belly, as she had said to do. That is the location of the sacral chakra, associated with water. (Chakras are energy centers in the body.)

It was fitting on a rainy night. She said it’s about going with the flow, about flexibility.

It’s hard to do when we are always worrying about little things popping up here, there, and everywhere, but that’s what we have to try to do.

Breathe, and go with the flow.

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