Wake-Up Call

May 17, 2019 – Paducah, Kentucky  Vicki and I are hanging out in the sitting room of a historic old home in the Lower Town Arts District section of downtown Paducah. We’re in Paducah for an early birthday celebration (mine) and for the Lower Town Arts and Music Festival, which happens to be the same weekend.

This historic house was built in the 1852 and was once the home of David Yeiser: pharmacist, early Paducah’s mayor, and civic leader. The home is a Greek Revival structure with shallow hip roof in traditional green coloring. The Yeiser house has undergone extensive renovation and is now an event and arts space known as the Smedley-Yeiser.

A room with a view.

Anyway, while hanging out and sipping on a regional craft beer, I get a phone call from my skin doctor’s office. Not completely unexpected – I was at the dermatologist earlier in the week and she took a small biopsy of a spot in the middle of my back. (I’ll get into the location in a moment.) At the time, a nurse said it would be several days before they received the results. So, the call seemed a little early.

The caller is one of the nurses, who goes into a convoluted explanation that while the initial biopsy was negative for malignancy – the sample had residual scar tissue with a melanocytic nevus – the pathology lab wants a larger margin to ensure that nothing cancerous or pre-cancerous was missed.

It’s been about two years since I’ve had any moles or melanomas removed from my skin. Like my oncology visits, my skin doctor visits have become less frequent. The nurse’s call is more than just a status report. It is a definite wake-up call.

The phrase wake-up call can mean “a thing that causes people to become fully alert to an unsatisfactory situation.” (Google Dictionary)

Or, more aptly, a room with a brew.

Before July 2013, my skin cancer worries were all on the surface. Since my Stage IV diagnosis, I’ve had three other melanomas diagnosed and removed. Now, unfortunately, I have to fight battles on two fronts: internally (inside my body) and externally (on my skin).

Definitely an unsatisfactory situation.

Another concern about the biopsy and recommended larger margin is the location on my back. It’s right at the bottom of the scar tissue from my 2011 surgery. In fact, the area is a skin graft taken from my right thigh. How deep will my doctor have to make the next incision? My imagination starts running in over-drive. Torture, mutilation, loss of muscle and just plain old bleeding to death all come to mind.

This sucks!

I’m suddenly drained and a bit angry after the call. It’s another reminder that the journey is never a smooth one.

– – –

I recover from the shock of the nurse’s call – alcohol and good food always help – and Vicki and I enjoy the rest of our weekend. We’re staying in a gorgeous loft in an old warehouse at one end of downtown Paducah. The Ohio River is right outside our living room windows.

The full online definition of wake-up call is “a thing that causes people to become fully alert to an unsatisfactory situation and to take action to remedy it.” (Google Dictionary)

It’s the last part most of us forget – at least initially – after receiving a wake-up call. If there’s a problem, deal with it. If you don’t like something, change it. If it doesn’t work, fix it.

I can’t change or fix my cancer, but I can continue to take steps to ensure it doesn’t get worse, or, in the case of my skin, ensure that I don’t get future abnormal “spots.” Prevention. Precaution. Vigilance. Those are the actions I can take to remedy an unsatisfactory situation.

A very unsatisfactory situation.

Thanks, as always, for listening.

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