Two Year Update
Last updated: April 2023
In February 2021, I saw a dermatologist for the first time in my life to evaluate a lump that had been growing for over 7 years at the site of a small childhood scar.
After waiting a week for the biopsy results, I was informed that the diagnosis was dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, a rare form of skin cancer that affects 1 in 1 million people.
This kind of skin cancer is not preventable using sunscreen, like many other forms of skin cancers, and I was told that there was nothing I could have done differently to avoid getting it.
This kind of skin cancer required a wide resection under local anesthesia, after which I needed an additional wide resection under general anesthesia to remove the cancer from the margins as seen in the pathological report.
The anniversary of my diagnosis
It has officially been 2 years since I was diagnosed with DFSP, and I have my 6-month check up with my dermatologist and surgical oncologist coming up later this month. All of the 6-month checks have been successful, and they have not found evidence of malignancy since the surgeries.
Still, I always have a bit of anxiety as the appointments get closer. I am required to get blood drawn this week to measure my BUN and Creatinine levels to get my abdominal CT-scan with IV and oral contrast next week. The CT-scan will be interpreted by a radiologist, and then the interpretation and actual CT images will be sent to my surgical oncologist.
I have my appointments scheduled with my doctors for the following week. While I know exactly what to expect, my anxiety is still super high. My dermatologist will examine every inch of skin on my body in my birthday suit to look for new or strange appearing “moles” and lumps. My oncologist will discuss the CT scan with me, as well as examine my long surgical scar on my right lower abdomen by palpating the scar tissue to feel for any irregularities.
Will I need more surgery?
Part of my anxiety stems from the fact that I am now a single woman and mother after my divorce was finalized in October 2022. If the DFSP skin cancer is found during one of these 6-month check ups, I will need to undergo another surgery.
Who will help me during my post-operation recovery? I remember needing help emptying my JP drain post-op. I remember not being able to shower without help for the first week post-op. I remember not being able to walk up and down stairs without help for the first 2 weeks post-op.
Who will help me pay my bills if I need to take off work for more than a month without the short-term disability I had from my previous job?
Who will help me get my elementary school-aged daughters back and forth to school and cook for them if I am recovering from abdominal surgery?
So many what-ifs
What if surgery does not get it all and I require radiation or chemotherapy? How will I be able to fit these sessions into my already busy life?
I know that I have an amazing support system, and if this happens, I will be able to lean on my village and my co-parenting partner.
However, all these worries still plague my mind. DFSP is a kind of skin cancer usually recurs, so these worries are actually reasonable. I have been in therapy for generalized anxiety disorder for almost 5 years, and I have learned that in order to end this thought spiral, I must change the thoughts when they occur.
Therefore, I will tell myself that right now, in this moment, I do not have DFSP anymore. I will not have to deal with recurrence right now. I will be able to still work and provide for my children. I will remain healthy. I will not require another surgery right now. It will all work out. All is well.
Do you sunscreen in the fall?