David's Blog | I Am Lucky
David's Blog
There is only one success--to be able to spend your life in your own way.-Christopher Morley
I Am Lucky
By David
Posted January 24, 2013

It was sometime around 7pm on Friday December 21st, 2012 when I got the news. Our family had just sat down for our traditional Friday night dinner, and the phone rang. I walked over to the kitchen and answered the call, though I'm not sure why I did, considering that usually I would not have interrupted dinner with the family.

I could see the call was from a blocked number, which is unusual.

"This is David," I said in a somewhat formal tone, not knowing if it was a business or personal call.

"Hi," said the voice and introduced himself. It was my dermatologist whom I had just recently visited for the first time in a year, for a routine examination during which he tested two small spots on my skin. The first spot was on my shoulder, and second on my wrist.

"I'm afraid I have some not-so-good news," said the doctor. "The spot on your wrist we tested came back as melanoma."

Yes - I am a lucky man because sometimes having a near miss is even better than winning the Lotto
Yes - I am a lucky man because sometimes having a near miss is even better than winning the Lotto

I held my breath for a moment, while I walked away from the kitchen and into a nearby room where my children would not hear the conversation.

"Sorry to give you this news on a Friday night, but I thought it best to tell you as soon as I got the results. If you have any questions, I'm here to answer them," continued the doctor.

My mind was racing at the speed of light. I know what melanoma is. It is a skin cancer for which there is no cure, if it is caught too late. But I couldn't bring myself to ask whether it was too late for me. I had just turned 47 at the time, in good physical shape, and the possibility of it being "too late" seemed unimaginable.

"Okay," I said finally, exhaling deeply. "What do we need to do to get rid of it?"

"Well," said the doctor, "I'm going to refer you to a plastic surgeon, since it is on your wrist. Otherwise I would remove it myself."

For some reason, I found the concept of being referred to a plastic surgeon to be comforting. I figured that if there were cosmetic considerations, it's good news. If it was "too late" for me, then there would be no discussion of cosmetic aspects.

"What's involved with the surgery?" I asked.

My dermatologist explained that the procedure would take less than 30 minutes in-office, no hospital and no general anesthesia would be required. I would be home possibly about an hour after the procedure began.

"And that's it?" I asked. "Then it will be all over?"

"Yes," said the doctor. "You're lucky we caught it at an early stage before it spread, so it can be removed easily."

On the one hand, I was relieved that the words "removed easily" were used and that it was caught early. On the other hand, I didn't feel all that lucky. "Lucky" would be to never have to deal with this type of thing in the first place.

I exhaled again deeply, mulling over everything I heard.

"Does this scare you?" asked the doctor.

"Nope," I said. "Having a small spot on my wrist removed by a plastic surgeon doesn't scare me. Having to go through chemotherapy would scare me. Having to say goodbye to my family would scare me. Thank God it's not that. At least not this time."

"I understand," said the doctor pleasantly. I thanked him for letting me know and we wished each other a Happy New Year and hung up the phone.

I returned to the dinner table, where my wife and kids were sitting. My daughter, the ten-year-old Sweet Sweetheart, was crying. Apparently, I wasn't quick enough to control my facial expression when I picked up the phone before leaving the room.

"Don't cry, Sweetheart," I said. "Everything's going to be fine. I just have to have this tiny spot removed from my wrist." I rolled up my sleeve and we looked at the spot. If you could imagine how small the circumference of an eraser on the tip of a pencil is, then this spot was even smaller. It was no different than the other various freckles and sun spots on my arms.

"Believe me, I won't miss having one spot more or less on my arms," I said, as the Sweet Sweetheart cheered up a little and smiled through her tears. But I could tell that she knew I was trying to minimize a bad situation.

"Please don't ever leave me," she said and hugged me tightly.

"I promise I'll be around for a long, long time," I said. "This spot is really nothing."

By Monday I met with the surgeon, who surprised me by telling me that he, too, had the very same procedure done recently. In his case, he needed to have the procedure done twice, as the first time was not completely successful. Still, he assured me that we were both incredibly lucky, and that "we won the lotto," by catching the melanoma at an early stage, so it can be easily removed within minutes.

"Yep," I agreed. "We got lucky." But again, I thought to myself that the surgeon and I would have been a heck of a lot luckier if neither of us had to deal with this situation in the first place.

Within a few days, it was all over. As the doctors had predicted, the procedure was very quick and, even with some traffic on the 101 Freeway, I was at home about 1 1/2 hours after the procedure had started. It was no big deal. Basically, quick and painless, and I was now free to continue living my life happily ever after.

Two days later, I was sitting in a barber shop in Thousand Oaks. My haircutter was just getting started, when she asked me how things were going for me since my last haircut.

At first I hesitated, wondering whether or not to mention my having the spot removed from my wrist. It's no big deal, but I considered whether it was of a more personal nature than I cared to share with her.

I told my haircutter that things were good in general, but then I decided to mention what happened and she stared at me while I spoke.

By now, I had known this haircutter for more than a year. She's a kind-hearted, hard-working mother of two, around my age, maybe a year or two younger. When I get my hair cut, we usually share a few funny anecdotes about parenting.

I finished telling my story, and her eyes filled with tears, so I looked at her curiously.

"I haven't told anyone here yet, and I haven't told my kids," she said quietly. "But I'll be leaving this job in June to have a mastectomy."

Now it was my turn to stare at her. My surgeon being the first person, she was the second person outside of my family to whom I had mentioned my procedure. And the second person who told me in turn that they, too, had battled cancer.

Suddenly, after hearing that my haircutter was facing such an extreme procedure, I felt almost foolish bringing up my own story. I also felt her pain of having received the bad news from her physician and the terrible emotions she must have been feeling since she found out.

But after thinking it over, I realized something else. I guess that I am lucky. Very lucky, indeed, compared to the experience of the other two people with whom I had shared my story.

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