I’ve always had occasional bouts of adult acne. Thus, I attached no special significance to what looked like a whitehead. It was in an unusual place: the soft area on the skin underneath the lower eyelid. But I did not make much of that. I squeezed gently on it. The squeezing hurt. It hurt sharply, much more than a pimple usually did when squeezed.

Pop! A stream of yellow goop spurted out. I put astringent on a cotton ball and applied it to the area.

Then I thought no more of it, expecting it to heal.

But it did not heal.

A scab formed but seemed to grow instead of shrink. I rubbed on it with Vaseline. It would not rub off.

I made an appointment with a dermatologist who did a biopsy.

“There is a cancer,” I was informed.

I was stunned. And scared.

However, I was soon assured that the type of cancer was unlikely to be fatal. It was a skin cancer but not a melanoma. It was a skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Approximately 2,500 people die from it every year in the United States but mine was caught early and in a place that is unlikely to lead to death.

It was removed in an outpatient surgery. The doctor told me I should consider myself cancer-free and that the chief concern at this point is to avoid disfigurement.

Any kind of severe stress can trigger an increase in the symptoms associated with my disability. The cancer diagnosis did. The expense associated with treatment also adversely affected my already precarious financial situation so I am even more deeply in debt than I was before it.

However, I have my life. Bar something unforeseen, I should make it to turn 52 on August 10.

I also have a renewed appreciation for life.


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