woman looking in a mirror at a red spot with a warning signal going off in her head

Squamous Cell "Radar" Right On

Some people think you can’t park in New York, which of course is not true, because somebody needs to do it. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the city, but I happen to have a good parking radar. That means I can sense when there is an open spot or a spot opening up, and I proudly navigate in there. It’s even better when the spot is “good for tomorrow,” meaning that if the alternate side of the street parking is in my favor, I can get two days out of it.

How does this relate to predicting a squamous cell cancer diagnosis?

Well, I also have a squamous cell cancer radar. Not because I grew up with squamous cell cancers, but because I know the signs, having had so many that I lost count. I didn’t always know that a flaky spot, or one that won’t heal, is a sign of squamous cell carcinoma. But I caught on after I got a few. I thought at first they were dry skin spots, but then I realized that they weren’t. The flakes on the skin cancers are a little bigger, and if you pull at them or scratch them, they can bleed.

Squamous cell signs

I was pretty sure I had one at the top of my cheekbone, near my ear, where my sideburn is. At first, I wasn’t suspicious when I was writing or pondering (I can’t remember which) and rubbed my left hand along that area and drew blood, I knew it. I forgot about it but then I did it again and the same thing happened. Then I realized I had a raised spot that wasn’t healing. A spot that won’t heal can be a sign of skin cancer. I also noticed a raised area at the back of my head, at the bottom of my hairline. I didn’t scratch it, so it didn’t bleed. But when I rubbed my hand along the area, I felt that it was also flaky.

Difficulty getting into the dermatologist

I couldn’t get an appointment with my regular dermatologist so I made an appointment with another in the same group. I don’t know why it is so hard to get an appointment with some dermatologists. As a side note, I had no success when I tried to get a dermatology appointment closer to my home, in the western part of Massachusetts, after my first stem cell transplant. They said I would have to wait six months. I said I was recovering from cancer treatment and was at higher risk, and they basically said "too bad".

That’s when I decided to take my business to the Boston area, 90 miles from my home, where I got my leukemia treatment. As a high-risk patient, it was probably better to go to this medical hub anyway.

Will my squamous cell prediction come true?

The dermatologist who I saw for the spots on my face and my neck ended up doing four scrape biopsies. I thought I had one spot near my ear but there were actually three in a cluster. She also biopsied the one at the back of my head. As I'm writing this, a week later, I don’t know the results. I will be surprised if I don’t need another Mohs surgery. I lined up some substitutes for my weekly tennis game, just in case, because I’m supposed to wait two weeks before playing.

I’m going to get anxious, but not all worked up, if I have to get the surgery. I’m going to get really annoyed about missing tennis.

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