Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bob Marley and Practical Paranoia

Bob Marley died from malignant melanoma at the age of 36. The cancer started under his right big toenail and spread throughout his body.

You might be wondering why I am thinking about a reggae singer who died from skin cancer in 1981.

I admit it: I still have some anxiety issues that I am trying to overcome. Who wouldn't after what I went through? But that has nothing to do with why Bob Marley should matter to me, and to you too.
When reading my blog, it is safe for you to conclude that you will never be afflicted with my same disease. Only 800 of the U.S.'s 307 million people will be diagnosed with it this year. Statistically speaking, you are safe. However, skin cancer strikes 2 million people in our country each year. Statisically speaking, you are not as safe.

Likely, you are still blaming my interest in Bob Marley on a bout of anxiety. You are partly right. My focus on the two moles located near the back of my head began during a weak moment Sunday night that kept me awake until two o'clock, researching skin cancer and trying to contort my body in front of the mirror so that I could examine the spots via a small hand mirror. Before my hair fell out, I had never noticed these marks. I have no way of knowing if they are new, and thus more likely to be malignant, or if I've had them all my life.

Monday morning during my treatment, I pulled off my hat and showed the spots to my oncologist. Her office scheduled an appointment for me with a dermatologist. I met with that doctor yesterday. Both she and my oncologist think they are most likely benign, but given their specific qualities and unknown history, she advised that a biopsy be done. Tomorrow morning, after my arsenic treatment, I will subject myself to a few more needles, this time in the head.

Am I paranoid to be worrying about this now? Do I think I have melanoma? No and no. I am doing the prudent thing to take care of myself. I've had body scans since I was a teenager (which in recent years should have more thoroughly included my scalp), and a few biopsies as well.
You will not get acute promyelocytic leukemia, but the facts and links below are relevant for everyone. According to the Skin Cancer Facts sheet, "The survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early, before the tumor has penetrated the skin is about 99 percent. The survival rate falls to 15 percent for those with advanced disease."

Skin Cancer Facts

Warning Signs


I am trying to follow Bob Marley's advice to "Simmer Down." That doesn't mean I shouldn't "Stir It Up" once in a while and act on practical paranoia. After all, the "Sun is Shining."