An Update on My Whereabouts – Longish, but Hopefully Beneficial for Some


In case you’re wondering where I’ve been lately, and even if you hadn’t noticed my somewhat spotty postings, I figured it was time for an update. Seems like ever since Irma smashed our garage and cars about 14 months ago, life around here has been full of what I’ll call “annoying interruptions.” I’ve seen what disaster looks like, thanks to events like Hurricane Michael’s rampage through the Florida panhandle and the truly horrific wildfires in California, so I’m smart enough to know we haven’t had anything close to a disaster here. But we have had a lot of interruptions, causing delays in everything from replanting our crushed garden to publishing my last novella, and a few of the interruptions have been health related.

Some of you know I have had a LONG history of skin cancer issues–and I have the scars to prove it, even on my face, where I’ve had four. This started when I was in my late 30’s, so I’m pretty familiar with the dangers, the treatments, and the surgeries. Most of mine have been basal cell carcinomas, the least likely to spread and the easiest to remove IF you catch them in time. (They can become very large & potentially disfiguring if you don’t.) Three months ago, I had my first (more dangerous) squamous cell cancer on my arm, which was removed successfully. At the same time, a melanoma (the most dangerous form) was found on my back, and that was successfully removed, as well.)

My most recent issue involved a sore on my ear that didn’t look at all like any other skin cancer I’d ever seen, and which I thought was an insect bite at first. After a few weeks, I realized it wasn’t healing, and had my dermatologist take a look. Turned out to be another basal cell. If it had been on my arm, it would have been an easy-peasy bit of trimming, and done. But it was located on my outer ear, in an area where there is very little skin or tissue to work with, without the risk of disfigurement.

Yesterday, I had MOHS technique surgery done on this one. This is used when it is important to take as little tissue away as possible, while still removing all of the cancer. They do it in small increments, removing what they hope will be the entire cancer, temporarily bandaging the wound, and sending you to a surgical waiting room while they do a biopsy to see if they got it all. I had been forewarned that they would not know how much tissue I might lose, up to and including my entire ear. (Basal cells grow slowly, but they can have “arms and legs” extending outward under the skin, and there’s no way to know until the surgeon starts the procedure.)

Needless to say, I was nervous, but I had convinced myself that even if I lost my entire ear, it was not going to keep me from going forward with my life (and my writing & blogging), doing exactly what I wanted to do–ear or no ear, dammit! But I confess, I was scared when I entered the operating room. Especially after the doctor explained to me that if they did end up removing part or all of my ear, they would be setting me up with a plastic surgeon right away. 😯

The good news is, I am in quite a bit of pain today, but when I look in the mirror, I still see an ear on each side of my head! 😀 Woohoo. They did have to “go in” twice before getting it all, but the second biopsy came back totally clear. Yesterday was rough after the local anesthetic wore off, and I still can’t wear my glasses, but barring any infection, a few more days of taking it easy here at home–plus appropriate wound care & rebandaging–should be all I need to worry about until I have my follow up visit in 2 weeks.

Now, you may ask why I’m here at the computer telling you all of this instead of resting in the comfy chair as instructed, and the answer is simple. Too many people are STILL oblivious to the very real dangers of skin cancers, have no idea how to recognize a potential one, and even if they are worried about one, will put off seeing a doctor far too long for safety. Skin cancers can and do kill people regularly.  Here are the statistics:

Basal Cell Carcinoma : The most common,  & least likely to metastasize
4.3 MILLION new cases in the U.S. per year, estimated annual deaths: 3,000

Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Second most common, higher percentage of deaths
1 MILLION new cases in the U.S. per year, estimated annual death toll: 15,000

Melanoma: Can spread very quickly, with deadly results 178,500+ expected NEW cases in U.S.  in 2018, estimated death toll: 9,320

Number One Cause of Skin Cancer: SUN exposure (On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns.)

I was raised in Florida WAY before sunblock was even thought of. Folks actually believed tans were healthy, and encouraged sunbathing! All my my skin cancers and my dozens of precancers were caused by sunburns I got during my youth. (I now wear Total Eclipse sunblock to go to our mailbox!)

PLEASE, folks. Deliberate sun exposure ages your skin and is dangerous, if not deadly. And it is almost always entirely within your control to prevent.

NOTE: This has been a public service announcement, which I hope has encouraged you to rethink your sun exposure risks. But I’m done now. Honest. (Probably.) 🙂 ❤

56 thoughts on “An Update on My Whereabouts – Longish, but Hopefully Beneficial for Some

  1. Thanks for this. I am so glad you are home, intact and still your wonderful self. I thought perhaps you were going for the Vincent Van Gough look. A great warning about too much sun exposure. I live in a sunny part of the world but am very careful. Fortunately, I don’t burn, but always wear protection and limit my time in the direct sun. Take care, my friend and rest up. xo

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Darlene, and good for you for being conscientious about sun exposure. Very glad to hear it. As for Van Gogh, all I can say is, Mark has been walking around the house for a week now, humming Starry, Starry Night. 😀 😀 😀 But I’ve had my day as a painter. I’d have to become famous as the one-eared writer. Might be an interesting hook. But nah. I’d have to use Velcro patches to hold my hearing aid on, and that would be just plain tacky. 😀

      *me, taking care, here* (Not gonna give my doctor any reason to scold me.) 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • Aw, thanks, Judith. I am now officially done with anything except a few responses here and there. Resting, and trying to read, though without my glasses, I have to set my Kindle at Newspaper Headline Size.

      Honestly, I just hate to think of anyone going through all the procedures I’ve had (starting at age 38) when we know so much more today. There’s no reason not to be careful about this, and no tan is worth it, believe me.

      Thanks so much for the healing vibes! This is going to turn out fine, I’m sure. (Though had you asked me yesterday, I would not have been certain at all. This and the melanoma on my back have been the only two times I was truly scared about the outcome.) But I once heard someone say “All’s well that ends well,” so I’m going with that. 😉 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Lyn, and a special thanks for letting me know you loved To Love Somebody. Oh, those three guys make me laugh–and cry–in equal measure. (How bad am I that I chortle and snivel over my own work????) 😀 I plan to start on TE3 as soon as I wrap up WRR4, if all goes well. SO glad to hear that you enjoyed To Love Somebody, I’m already feeling inspired. But no. Must continue to take it easy a few more days before getting back to work. 🙂 ❤

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  2. Oh, Marcia, I had no idea you were going through this! Cancer is like that huge dragon in Sleeping Beauty-it just won’t die!
    I know they’ve made huge inroads into the care of this disease, but it still frustrates me. I lost my grandpa and a cousin to bone cancer, my cousin had developed it while pregnant 😦
    Wishing you healing thoughts and prayers, my friend. Take care of that ear!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thankfully, skin cancer doesn’t have to be as dire as so many other kinds, especially if you are vigilant about it, and I am. Thanks so much for the thoughts and prayers, though. I will take every single one you wish to send. And I’m so sorry for your losses. As a whole cancer is such a hateful, frightening word! It is, indeed, frustrating and and often painful! Those inroads need to pick up speed! And compared to your grandpa and cousin, my ear issue is far less grim. Even without saving my ear, I’d still be able to do what I love, and I’d still be here to enjoy my family and friends. So nice of you to stop by and send wishes, though. I really appreciate it, because it was scary not knowing exactly what would happen. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my! Glad the surgery went well and your ear is still attached to your head!! Keep taking good care of yourself.

    And thanks for the sunburn/skin cancer warning; I know too many people who don’t take all that seriously enough. I grew up in Maryland and I don’t burn easily, so I was never one to wear sunscreen unless we went to the beach. Now I slather it on religiously since moving to Florida! And I go to the dermatologist regularly for a look-see.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good for you, Kass. You are doing exactly what you should to stay safe from this particular problem. That’s heartening to hear, and I only wish everyone would do the same. Thanks for your kind words and I promise to keep on taking care of myself. I’m lax about some things, but this isn’t one of them. (And I do keep trying to do better with the others, too.) Glad you are on the ball, too, where this is concerned. 🙂 ❤

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  4. Thank God you are doing well and back home. Thank you for stressing the importance of using sunscreen. We used a ton in Aruba during our three weeks there. You are in my prayers that you will stay well. ❤️😘🤗

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much, Janice! I’ll be fine this time, and hopefully my other ear will survive, as well. Funny thing about my basal cells. They have all been in pairs, a year or so apart. One on each side of my forehead, one on each side of my nose, and one on each of my shoulderblades. So now, I will be forewarned and watching my left ear VERY closely. Glad to know you took precautions against sunburn in Aruba! Keep it up, and hopefully you’ll never have to deal with this problem. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh my goodness, Marcia… you’ve certainly been through a lot. Wonderful to hear the good news. I wish you continued good health.
    My dad has had several procedures for the same reason. Two surgeries/removals above his eye, one on his nose, and most recently his ear as well. It’s always scary. They catch it early and that changes the outcome. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. Stay well. Cheering you on! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Natalie. Nice to be cheered on, for sure! I’m sorry for your dad’s issues, and yes, catching them early is critical. Better still to avoid them altogether. However, many, many of them are the result of damage from years (even decades) earlier. I have been using sunblock regularly since I was in my 20’s, before the first cancer showed up, and my doctors have all said it was from my childhood. (I’m very fair and would literally get blisters across my nose and shoulders every time we went to the beach.) Arrgh. I can guarantee you, my children were taught sun protection from Day One. 🙂 Thanks again for taking a moment to comment. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for the warning, Marcia. I’m pleased to hear they got it all out. And I wish you a quick and easy recovery, as much as possible. My mother has had three basal cell carcinomas treated recently, one removed, the other two treated with a cream (a very tiresome process, cream for six weeks, and quite nasty. It will several months before we know for sure if that has avoided the operation, but at least it should not require major surgery and neither one of those are too visible). We were never big into sunbathing but my mother and I had very white skin and burned quickly despite protection (and yes, when I was young people used to bake rather than protect themselves).
    Sending healing vibes your way and remember to rest. ♥

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much, Olga. I wish your mother much luck. I’ve had several pre-cancerous areas treated with a cream called Efudex, and it only kills unhealthy cells. But it turns those pretty awful looking during the process. Once mine have been ID’d as actual carcinomas, they’ve all been removed right away. But either way is unpleasant, and it’s altogether so much nicer to never have it happen! Hope you never have to deal with it, and hope your mother is soon healed and beyond it! 🙂 ❤

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    • I’m glad I still have ’em, too, Marje. The better to hold my glasses up! (When it stops hurting so much.) Thanks, and sometimes I’m compelled to tell folks just how dangerous lying in the sun can be. It’s simply not worth it. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, now I understand what’s been making your life so tricky – and so glad it’s been dealt with, with reasonable ease. I got lots of sunburn back when I was a small child (60s, so no awareness of skin cancer risks), and a fair few into adulthood as an outdoor worker. Must say I’m always the first to slather on the lotion these days, just hoping my misspent youth doesn’t catch up with me one day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you think sunbathers were foolish in the 60’s, you should have been beaching it in the 40’s and 50’s! OMG! 😯

      I’m glad to hear that you use sunblock regularly now, Debby, and that you didn’t live in a sub-tropical climate like Florida back when you were younger. Here, even a walk from the door to the car does damage if you aren’t protected, and it all adds up. So we’re going to cross our fingers that your skin-friendlier climate was kinder to you back in the day, and you don’t have all those damaged cells lurking about beneath the surface, ready to threaten you today. Personally, I’ve been hoping to avoid penalties for my misspent youth for years, and not all of them would be from sun exposure, either! 😯 😀

      All told, this latest one was the scariest of 5 for this summer and fall. Glad it’s gone, too, and keeping an eagle eye out for signs of any others. You keep slathering on that sunblock and stay safe, yourself! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for the update, Marcia, and I’m so pleased the surgery has gone well. A friend of mine went through a similar process just above her upper lip. They had to shave off about 12 layers before it came back clear. She said it took hours and hours. I can remember when we knew nothing about the risks – well, we hadn’t destroyed the ozone layer when I was young – and used to cook ourselves. I can only remember being sunburned once but I do use sun protection nowadays. Glad you still have two ears! Hope you feel better and pain free soon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Mary! I’m happy to say the pain is decreasing steadily. 🙂 And also, I’ve been told that every one of my cancers and precancers can be traced back to my childhood and teenage years. That was over 50 years ago, so I’m pretty sure the sun was mighty damaging even back then.

      My first time with MOHS, the process took all afternoon, so I can identify with your friend. That’s one of the reasons I was so worried about my ear. There, after about 2 layers, you are basically all the way through the tissue and out the other side. So, I was incredibly lucky (and grateful) that the 2nd time got it.

      I’m glad you didn’t have every summer of your life ruined by sunburns like I used to get. And I’m even gladder that you use sun protection now. Stay safe!!! It’s no fun getting bits and pieces lopped off, and I would never want you to have to go through it!! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Becky! I appreciate your kind words! I don’t know how long my life will be, but I do know I’ll be doing my best to enjoy every minute I’m given! Hopefully, I’ll be writing up to the very last minute! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. So sorry you’ve had to go through all of this, Marcia. You must have had a really worrying time and none of us knew. And still you kept supporting us. It’s also typical of you to spend your recovery time letting us know so that we can check ourselves and make sure others follow the guidelines. Hope the pain’s not too bad and that you make a quick recovery. :>

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much, Trish. The pain is easing steadily, and I’m hoping for a comfortable day tomorrow. At least, I’d like to be able to wear my glasses for a few hours. I hate going around in a fog! Truly, this turned out so much better than I was braced for, I’m trying to focus on that. Of course, I’ve had my moments when I wanted to throw something because my ear was throbbing so bad, but it’s coming along more quickly than I anticipated. I’m going to be just fine this time. It did seem like a good chance to tell people what can happen and remind them to take protect themselves unless my experiences sound like fun to them. 😀 Now you remember, too, Trish. Wear that sunblock, even if the rain washes it all off! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  10. For some reason, my “Like” button doesn’t work when I’m on my Mac, but I wanted to let you know I would have “liked” this post if I could. I have three family members who have suffered from skin cancer, including one who has experienced Melanoma.

    The sun seems to be so much stronger the last few years, and yet there is so much conflicting information about sun block and SPF (i.e, does anything over 30 really make any difference?).

    I had several bad burns when I was a kid, and still worry about the consequences today. I’m glad everything turned out as well as it could for you, Marcia. Fingers crossed the pain goes away and you get plenty of recuperating done over Thanksgiving. Happy Turkey Day!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much, Mae! I’m sorry members of your family have had to deal with skin cancer. It’s an often painful annoyance at best and a killer at worst, with a whole gamut of issues in between those extremes.

      I’ve seen quite a few dermatologists and cancer specialists over the years and have been told by every one of them that the skin cancers I’m dealing with today were formed by cells damaged when I was a child, between 50 and 60 years ago. So, whether the sun is stronger today isn’t a really factor for these cancers. Of course, any new sun damage could cause problems in another 20 – 30 years, if I’m still alive and kicking. And for those who are still out baking in it, it will be a factor for them in the future, too, though possibly not as far distant from the days of actual damage as mine were.

      HOPEFULLY (and I’m sending you lots of well wishes and prayers, here) your childhood sunburns will not have caused damage to the extent mine did. Some folks are less susceptible to it than others, for sure, and you might be one of those lucky folks.

      As for SPF factors, I use the highest I can find, just in case. If the extra high number doesn’t add anything, oh well. If it helps you decide, though, my dermatologist carries a line with a 50 factor. I use his most often. The important thing is, USE one. It will help block those damaging rays. And here’s an old trick: stay in the shade whenever possible. Not only will the sun fail to reach you, you’ll be cooler! 😀 Seriously, sunblock is critical, but it doesn’t do as good a job as avoiding those rays altogether will.

      Stay safe, my friend, and hopefully, none of your childhood exposure will show up to plague you! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I do use sunscreen—all of the time. But I also have a pool, which means I spend a lot of time in the sun during the summer months, floating around on a raft and reading. I generally start with 50 SPF and then go down to 30 SPF. By the end of the season I sometimes will use a 15. It sounds like I at least need to stick with 30.

        Thanks for the info, Marcia. I hoping those early burns don’t come back to haunt me!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Here’s the bad news. You don’t even have to have a bad burn for the sun to damage your skin cells. (A tan is actually melanin doing everything it can to block those rays, and it’s not a perfect protection.) So even a slow tanning can do it. My dermatologist says SHADE is the only true answer and your sunblock should come as close to that as possible. Yeah, I know. Not what you want to hear, but I’d honestly suggest you never use less than a 30 (especially on your face) if you don’t want to risk trouble later. And I do hope those earlier, even more dangerous burns don’t come back to haunt you. It’s no fun. Good luck!! May you never have any trouble at all! 🙂 ❤

          Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t comment earlier, as any mention of cancer these days still fills me with dread. I am three years clear now, but the fear never quite goes away. I hope your poor ear stops hurting and you never find any more, Marcia…

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  11. I am sorry sorry to read about your skin cancer issues. I also grew up in a era when nobody worried about the dangers of the sun. I have had skin damage on my nose and side of my face which needed treatment due to changing cells. My husband had a malignant melanoma removed from his arm last year and had to have a skin graft. Fortunately it was stage 1 so no chemo required. Stay healthy Marcia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Robbie. I’m sorry you’ve had troubles from sun damage and that your husband went through a melanoma scare. (It was a word that struck terror into my heart, believe me.) I’m so glad it’s been taken care of. Stay vigilant.

      My very first skin cancer was a basal cell, but it showed up back in the days before MOHS treatment was available, so they had to “eyeball” it when it was first removed. They didn’t get it all, and when it came back, they took out a much larger area on my forehead and did a skin graft, too. But it never filled up from beneath with new tissue, so I now have an inch and a half long, inch-wide football-shaped dent in my forehead. That was the year I decided bangs were for me. 😀

      My melanoma was very small and was removed completely with nice, clear margins, so no chemo for me, either. THANKFULLY!! Here’s hoping we are all done with this stuff now! 🙂 ❤

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    • Aw, thanks so much! I try to look at what I have and what I can still do, rather than what I’ve lost and what age has impacted. Losing an ear was definitely something I didn’t want to have happen, but once I thought it through, I realized it wasn’t going to impact my ability to enjoy my family, my writing, and my life in general. Happily, it turned out better than I thought.

      I do hope things are about to get a bit smoother, though. I’m kinda tired of all this drama. (I should write a book, huh?) 😀

      You stay happy and healthy, too! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh Marsh, I’m so glad you’re okay. And sadly, I’m all too versed in all the varieties of cancer cells as my husband has had his share like you. In fact, He just had a surgery 2 weeks ago, what the derm thought was a basal cell came back 3 times after removing so she sent him to the surgeon and what an ordeal. On his forehead over his eye, a 3 inch scar, but those first few days were awful and twice started bleeding. Scary stuff. As long as he’s been my husband he’s slathered in sunscreen and no outside without a hat, but what people don’t realize is that for older folks especially (he’s 80), much of this stuff is from old damage in younger years. Sounds like you’re a cat like my hub on 9 lives, lol! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Deb. I’m just very happy to still have my ear! And yes, over the course of 35+ years of dealing with these things, every single doctor has told me mine are all from damage done when I was a kid, so about 50 years ago. 😦

      I feel for your husband. I have a scar almost that long over my right eyebrow, and a 1″ high by 2.5″ long DENT over my left. Between the two of them, I have to work a lot of magic with an eyebrow pencil, believe me. (One surgery pulled my right eyebrow way up, and the other pushed my left eyebrow way down. I looked like Sean Connery’s homely sister! *snort*)

      Almost all skin cancers take a long time to appear, so decades can pass with people doing nothing to protect themselves, and then, boom. Ugly, painful surgery, sometimes merely painful, and sometimes life-threatening. But today, I celebrated Thanksgiving with a heart filled with gratitude for the fact that THIS particular cancer is gone! And my ear ISN’T. Yay! (And of course, I was also grateful for many other things this year, too numerous to mention.)

      Wishing your husband well going forward. It’s no fun, for sure, and with any luck, maybe he won’t develop any more of them! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you Marsh. Yes, this is serious business. I take him to the derm twice a year to be checked. And never once does he get away without something being froze off or cut out for pathology. My gawd! So important for everyone to get checked. The present is not forgiving of sins of the past! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

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