I’m sorry I’ve been more or less MIA these last couple of days, especially with so much exciting sh*t going on, but I have a note from my doctor. I’ve been having a little tussle with skin cancer on the middle of my left shoulder blade, and it’s not fun. Therefore this warning.

The sick thing is I’ve had this f*cker for more than 20 years! Teri says I already had it the first time I took my shirt off in front of her. Which means that my own kids must have seen it any time we were at the beach, or the pool at a hotel. It’s not like it was microscopic. It was about the size of a quarter with the edges pinched in.

With the damn thing sitting about 5″ down my left clavicle, it’s not like I could see it. And nobody paid attention because the little spud never actually did anything! It didn’t hurt if I sat down, not even on a hard back chair, it didn’t hurt if touched, or when I pulled my shirt on or off. It was just another mole or wart. Which I couldn’t even see.

Then a few months ago it changed. If it snagged on my t-shirt, it stung, and a steady trickle of blood down my back. Same thing if the water in the shower hit on it. But it still didn’t hurt, so rub a little Neosporin on it, the pressure of the band aid stopped the bleeding anyway.

And about three Saturdays ago, all hell broke loose. I woke up at 9:30 am, sat up, and my side of the bed looked like I had been the guest of honor in a snuff flick. I was a paramedic for three years 40 years ago, and I was grossed out. Trip to the ER. An hour and a half in the waiting room, the doctor strolled into the examining room, said Hi, pulled the band aid halfway off and said, Better call a dermatologist, looks like skin cancer. And I should know, I’ve had it on my face twice. Then he put the band aid back on and strolled out.

Dame fortune finally smiled on me. When I called the dermatologist on Tuesday, they had a last minute cancellation and I was able to be seen on Thursday. Dr. Jimmy walked in, took one look, and said, Well, that little bugger has been getting a free ride long enough, let’s get it off of there. They used Novocain on my back, Dr. Jimmy sliced the lesion off at the skin line, then scraped some tissue for a biopsy. Then he used a surgical soldering iron to cauterize the surface, and home I went, being told it would be about two weeks for the biopsy report to come back. It stung, but no worse than skinning your knee sliding into 2nd base.

Two weeks later I got the phone call. The wimpiest, most common form of skin cancer, which fortunately didn’t spread. And this Wednesday I went in to deal with it.

No Bueno. More Novocain, and lots of it. Dr. Jimmy made a four inch incision, and scraped and scooped both sides, as well as the bottom. Then his assistant clamped the wound closed while he put 12 stitches in it. I go back in a month to get the stitches removed, more Novocain, and a needle with sharp round edges goes in to take another sample for biopsy. This time when the Novocain wore off, it damn near took a Bud Light IV to get through the next three days.

Look, you guys know me by now. I’m not out for pity here, it is what it is, and hell, it could have been one helluva lot worse. But being basically a shut in, you all are more than just a bunch of anonymous readers, you’re my virtual family. And you’re obviously a lot smarter than me, which is why you gleefully correct me when I screw up.

So please, I beg you, pay heed to my warning. Even if it doesn’t hurt, or seep, or bleed, we should all have a pretty good idea of what a goddamn wart or a mole looks like. So no matter what, even if it just doesn’t feel right, or doesn’t look right, get to a dermatologist. If you’re wrong, your visit buys you peace of mind. But if you’re right, the earlier you catch it, the smaller it is. And the less of the scooping and scraping I had to go through will be your cross to bear. If you’ve never listened to me before, and you never do again, please listen to me this time! And as Jose Diaz Balart says every day, I thank you for the privilege of your time.  

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  1. Hope to hear you have a good final prognosis and you can put this chapter behind you.……I hope that was the very last of your discomfort and all is well in the future.

  2. That’s a bummer, Murf. I’ve got a funny red bump for lack of a better description, on my left arm. Been there for many years. Never changes from what I can tell. I’ve wondered if it’s some kind of benign thing or God forbid skin cancer. Now I’m going to get to a dermatologist.

    So sorry for your pain, my friend. Be well. We wuvs us some Murfster around here. WAHHHH!!!

    • Get to the dermatologist Ursula, NOW! Let me know if you need the name and number of my dermatologist…They’re at Stephanie and Warm Springs, so a short hop for you…

  3. Some of my friends at church, pharmacy, have had pieces of their faces cut off because of skin cancer. So, I am very aware of it. I hope they got all of yours and this is the time you have to be cut on.

    • Good, I’m glad…That’s why I wrote this in the first place…It’s ONE thing to see a PSA on television, another thing altogether when someone you KNOW tells the tale…

  4. Mine got a ride on my skull and now I get a lot of Hole in Your head jokes at my expense. 🙂 Glad they got it, be safe out there and glad you’re back.

  5. all good, always got you, however
    it raised questions with me construction worker
    every day , yeah I worry alot
    the thing is, it’s done
    it’s old Steve, has to deal
    young Steve, just trying to get by
    How we roll.. I guess..

  6. Wimpy? So are you saying it’s a basal cell carcinoma? They don’t metastacize, but they can kill by extension if the doc isn’t vigorous about getting it all. Possibly scraping isn’t the way to go at it. Each piece needs to be cut out, and when they do the biopsy on it they check to make sure all cut edges have margins free of cancer. If any of the margins show cancer, the doc has to cut another piece out, and the biopsy process repeats. They have to do this until the pieces cut out have entirely clear margins.

    I hope they will see all clear margins this time. Keep after it, and change docs if he’s only scraping. I don’t see how the histology can identify whether margins are clear if they are only getting scrapings.

  7. Murphy, I’ve spent most of my 79 years here in Phoenix during a time that we didn’t wear sunscreen or hats. Sunglasses were only for movie stars. So I’ve had cataracts and four surgeries for Basal Cell cancer on my face. Now I wear sunglasses, caps, and sunscreen religiously and visit my Dermatologist twice a year! Wishing you a rapid healing and good news from the doctor.

    • Sharla, they put stents in my eyes for my glaucoma at the same time they got rid of the cataracts in both eyes, so I feel your pain…And my mother, bless her soul, was smart enough to put coppertone on my dumb ass all through my childhood, so I at least some protection… Peace…

  8. I worked outside every day, I’m Native American
    so I’m OK,
    not so much, my sister has had to growths removed.
    I’m OK, but damn, look everyone I’m 60
    in the Spring, nobody lives forever,
    skin cancer is real.
    I’m glad your good Murph
    me, I’m more
    I really don’t think a physical thing 😕
    will do me,
    I’ll probably die
    in a meadow
    when it rains

    cue Alice in Chains

  9. Very important article Murf. If skin cancer does metastasize, it is VERY deadly. Everyone, please see a dermatologist once a year for a quick body scan.
    Murph, you might ask your dermatologist if a Mohs procedure should be done.

      • Mr. Murphy, I am sorry you are having to go through this. My mother had skin cancer on her leg and they had to cut more out three times, so I know what you are going through. My dad had some spots on his head that had to be removed, but never anything big deal. Same with me and my brother. We see the dermatologist quite regular. They freeze some spots, but they cut a big hole in my chin last time I went. It took for ever to heal and it was hard to keep a bandage on it. When it did heal, it was hard to shave that spot which was about the size of a dime. I ended up growing a beard so now I look like Santa Clause or a homeless guy, depending on who you ask.

  10. Lovely of you to care enough about us, your faithful readers, to post this. We all know about the risks and the signs of cancer but we also KNOW it won’t happen to us. But it does: I had colon cancer 7 years ago, my life was saved by a brilliant surgeon and a wnderful health system and I no longer take for granted my personal immunity from harm. Bravo Mr Murphy!

  11. I’m glad you didn’t find yourself alone, with the sun on your face, walking in those fabled fields of the Roman afterlife! I’m also glad they didn’t remove any fingers! Hang in there and keep shining your light in this darkness!

  12. My dad is from East Texas, in his 80s, and never wore sunscreen. He’s had skin cancer twice. I didn’t see this till after I got back from the doc where I’d specifically asked him to check me over for anything suspicious. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  13. Murf, I had what I thought was a large mole on the side of my nose. Turns out it was basal cell. MOHS surgery to remove it; and that was unpleasant. II hope they get it all as we’d like to keep you here.

  14. Late, as usual, however—-VERY glad you and Teri were able to get your problem dealt with as fast as you did! And, yes, it was nice to feel vindicated to my husband for making an appt. with a dermatologist two years ago when I felt a mole on his back was changing. My husband is a cancer patient (different type) and I didn’t need more to worry about. It turned out the mole was just a mole—-the vindication is that it’s one less thing to worry about!

  15. I feel your pain. I’ve had two melanomas removed (just in time,) and countless basal cell cancers removed, nose, cheeks, forehead, legs, arms, and chest. As you know, it’s no fun. I’m a redhead (or was) with freckles and too many sunburns before sunscreen was a thing. I, like you, warn everyone I know to use some sense and prevent the damn things in the firstplace.

  16. WOW, Murph, the perils of having Irish skin and disregarding the warnings in our youth to stay out of the sun. I have some experience too, though I have managed to catch most of my problems before they got out of hand. I guess i did learn a little, living near the ocean and getting severe burns and blisters taught me a bit of a harsh lesson. Take good care and do whatever the dermatologist says. You still have a lot of life to live and wisdom to dispense, so take care!

  17. other than avoiding sun, it is important to get plenty of folate in your diet. green vegetables and legumes, avocados all have it. folate is essential for correct DNA replication and sunlight depletes it, so eat those veggies!

  18. Ah, Murph, I’m so sorry you have to go through this misery and scary stuff. I’m having other health problems myself, which is why you have not seen an animal column from me for such a long time. I send you lovies and best wishes for a quick and full recovery.


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