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Friday, Aug. 1, 2014
The C wordPosted Thursday, April 14, 2011, at 11:09 PM
You know the exact spot. It's in front of Kroger in the westbound lane. It's a pothole that developed in the early winter and with each snowstorm it got bigger and bigger. The road crew tried to repair it and eventually just put a metal cover over it. Now that it's gotten warmer they have filled it but you can still see it and still feel it if you drive on top of it. It's still there and will be until they replace the entire road.
And it's taken on quite a symbolic meaning for me.
My nurse practitioner found spots on my back and sent me to a specialist, a dermatology surgeon. She looked at the spots and declared there was nothing to worry about and, since I was already there, decided to do a complete skin exam. I'll never forget her words. "Well, my friend, you have skin cancer."
Other people simply have a general practitioner dig out the spot and then tell you weeks later, after the biopsy, that you now have to wear funny hats. She took out a large chunk of it for a biopsy and scheduled surgery as soon as her calendar would allow. Two weeks later the biopsy revealed this to be basal cell carcinoma, the "best" kind of cancer to get usually. I've always been unique.
I was warned that I couldn't let the sun touch my skin. I've bought gallons of sunscreen lotion. I've found hats and more hats, shirts and a summer coat that are SPF 30 and SPF 50. Most are clothes from Eastern Europe where Chernobyl created a whole new market of people already exposed to too much radiation. I flew to Phoenix and had my lips burned from sunlight rays bouncing inside the plane. I walked in Phoenix with my "African Queen" clothing only to have my legs sunburned, UVA and UVB rays bouncing off of pavement and concrete.
I prepared for surgery knowing that I might lose my forehead if the cancer had grown horizontally under the skin. I was already prepared to look like a Klingon from the Star Trek franchise. Surgery lasted nearly three times as long as predicted. The good news was that the cancer hadn't grown horizontally. The bad news is that it grew vertically all the way down to my skull. So now I wait once again. I'm waiting for a hole to heal that's nearly an inch and a half in width. I'm waiting for a second biopsy because basal cell carcinoma doesn't usually grow this way. I've always been unique.
I'm not usually a person who reaches out for help, and I'm so thankful to the many who offered it anyway. I've shared publicly as much as I thought I could without sounding too fearful. I have been touched by other pastors in our community and the prayers that they have uplifted on my behalf. I'm jealous of all the people who have told me of their experiences where their general physicians sent them home without worries and without a crater in their head. I'm processing and reacting and realizing this could have been so much worse.
I see that pothole in front of Kroger and it's become an important symbol to me. It's patched up and fixed the best it can be. No longer will tires be cut on its edges. Thank you road crew! I reflect on the pothole on my forehead, patched up and fixed as best it can be. Everyone will see the scar. Some will be polite and avoid the subject.
Each time I notice someone noticing I'll be thankful. I'm thankful for a nurse practitioner who sent me. I'm thankful for a dermatology surgeon who said "Well, while you're here." I'm thankful it looks like I'll still get to live to be 104.
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P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.