A New Squamous Cell Carcinoma -- Still Shocked after All These Years

I knew better than to believe it was true, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I had begun to make it my reality.

Believing my skin cancer journey might be ending

After a few years of biopsies that all came back as harmless and benign, I started to think my skin cancer journey might be slowly drawing to a close. Now, I am not stupid--I know that’s not the way it works, especially when I abused my skin the way I did in my teens and 20s. But somehow, someway, I talked myself into believing I wouldn’t endure another surgery. I knew better…

Diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma

Last week, I saw a new dermatologist. I have been diligent about self-checks, regular visits, and use all prescribed treatments including Efudex. It’s been at least seven years since my last basal cell carcinoma, and every biopsy since has yielded nothing of concern. That’s why I was beyond shocked when my dermatologist’s office called this week to tell me one of the three biopsies showed squamous cell carcinoma in situ and they were scheduling Mohs surgery.

It finally appeared

I don’t attribute this to seeing a new doctor, nor do I blame my old dermatologist for missing it. I do, however, believe it was this spot’s time to shine. Sun damage has far-reaching consequences, and this spot finally worked its way to the surface.

I didn't even know the spots were there

I will be completely honest with you. I don’t even know what the spot looked like. Like the three basal cells I had removed years ago, I never knew they were there. Maybe that’s why I shouldn’t be so surprised. There are so many small, oddball flecks on my sun-damaged skin, it’s difficult to discern dry skin from potentially dangerous anomalies. Two of the three biopsies taken were spots I never noticed in my self-checks. This alone is proof of how important it can be to see your dermatologist regularly. Even the most proactive among us can miss a suspicious lesion. And miss it I did.

Old feelings resurfacing

This is my first squamous cell carcinoma. I say “first” because there are bound to be more in my future. I know better. From everything I have read and from the experiences of friends, I know that squamous cell can metastasize. That weighs heavily on my mind. When I was diagnosed with melanoma, I wasn’t as informed as I am now. In the almost 14 years since that excision, I have learned a lot about the types of skin cancer. Squamous cell has me on edge. I dread Mohs. Even more so, I dread the recovery. Keeping the incision dry during showers is frustrating. I have a high tolerance for pain, but Mohs recovery is never easy.

Finding ways to cope

My shock at this new diagnosis is beginning to wear off. Shock has given way to exasperation. I knew there was a high probability of more Mohs surgeries, but I had pushed the thought to the back of my mind. I am left to find ways to deal with what I am facing. In the last week, I have turned to friends who have had squamous cell, refreshed my memory on how to cope with scars, and taken stock of my aftercare supplies.

I wasn’t ready for this diagnosis, but you can bet your bottom dollar I will be ready to face this recovery. I know better.

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