Ask me this week what the two most beautiful words in the English language are. You might think: "You win" or "Love you" or "You rock." Nope. This week, for me, the two most beautiful words in the English language are: "All clear!"
On Thursday morning, I had surgery to remove a small b.c.c. - basal cell carcinoma, otherwise known as skin cancer, from my nose. Everything went well, and my recovery is going just fine. But when the dermatology clinic called me late Thursday afternoon and said "All clear!" -- meaning I would not have to go back for more surgery because the surgeon got all the cancer, they were to me the two most beautiful words in the English language.
This whole adventure started in March, when I went in to have a small skin problem looked at; the doctor thought it was benign, but took a biopsy to be sure. Several weeks later, the report came back from UCSF that in fact it was a skin cancer, a b.c.c. I described much of this adventure in my May 13 Spirited Woman post called Skin Deep. But now I'm telling the updated story.
As it turns out, this year more than a million Americans will receive a diagnosis from their doctor that they have a b.c.c. It's the most common skin cancer, thankfully less dangerous than a diagnosis of melanoma.
Once you receive this diagnosis, you must make a decision. You must have the b.c.c. "roots" removed as soon as possible, before this slow-growing cancer starts to spread, with predictably disastrous results. I heard about an expensive salve that's used in Australia, and about aids to "natural healing," but the procedure that made most sense to me is called Mohs Microsurgery. It has a 99 percent cure rate, minimal scarring, and rave reviews from former patients -- including at least five friends. (I say jokingly that it's almost as if you're not in the "in crowd" at this stage of the game unless you've done Mohs.)
My recovery is going very, very well. The surgeon says she anticipates that what she calls this "small" surgery will have excellent results and no negative repercussions. I am grateful that our local dermatology clinic offers this procedure, that my young surgeon was trained at fine schools (Harvard and Johns Hopkins), and that I caught the skin cancer in time. Now I must have a doctor do a full body lookover every six months for any potential skin problems. I never thought that was important before; now I do.
I feel this surgery has definitely given me a "new lease on life," and I intend to go full-tilt into my professional and personal life from here on out -- so bring on the editing and writing projects, the laughter and the friendships and the satisfying marriage , the travel (mostly to Europe -- back to Italy, France and England, and a first trip to Greece, Spain and Portugal), the live jazz and the art galleries and the plays, the delicious food and glorious wine, the flirtations with handsome and interesting men.
I've gotten the official "All clear!"