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I had lived a relatively healthy life, until 2009.
It was roughly today - September 3, 2009 - when I had surgery to remove the most aggressive type of skin cancer that exists.
Nodular melanoma is particularly dangerous because it is easily and often missed, and takes as little as 6 months to start invading other parts of the body.
Typical life expectancy, from the moment the cancer appears, is 3-4 years.
I was only 28 when I remember seeing a mole appear on my arm, where one didn’t used to be. It was red, at first.
Then, in a matter of weeks, it turned pitch-black.
I remember having the idiotic thought that hey, that’s abnormal…but you know what, I bet it’ll just go away.
My wife fortunately thought differently, and scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist, and demanded that I go immediately.
That’s the only reason I’m alive to write this letter, or any of these letters.
On September 3, 2009, that nodular melanoma got cut out, with close but safe margins.
Otherwise, statistically, perhaps after a valiant later-stage effort to use chemotherapy to extend my life, I would’ve died in 2013, at the age of 33.
I wouldn’t have been in this picture below, as our son celebrated a birthday in 2014.
The story didn’t end there, though.
When I returned to the hospital for my first follow-up visit after surgery, my oncologist suggested a CT scan.
Insurance denied it.
My doctor then fought them for it. And got it.
It showed an all-new and completely unexpected discovery: a different tumor, this time in my leg.
I had never felt pain from this, despite this mass being large.
This is what’s called a secondary chondrosarcoma, caught right at the point where it was beginning to turn malignant.
If I didn’t get that CT scan, then what would’ve happened is that one day, probably right around now as I turn 40, my leg would’ve suddenly broke, with no warning.
And then, the doctors would’ve discovered a late-stage tumor, and by that point, there probably wouldn’t be much they could do about it.
As I sit here today, I’ve been cancer-free for a decade.
Having lost friends to cancer along the way, I’m grateful for every day I’m alive.
Cancer, strangely, became a gift: almost every single day, at some quiet point in the day, I think about how those friends of mine would’ve loved to have been alive today.
They would’ve given anything to have been alive today.
And, with any hope, that’s the gift I’m giving you right now.
Lying here in the darkness
I hear the sirens wail
Somebody going to emergency
Somebody's going to jail
You find somebody to love in this world
You better hang on tooth and nail
The wolf is always at the door
And in these days
When darkness falls early
And people rush home
To the ones they love
You better take a fool's advice
And take care of your own
One day they're here
Next day they're gone
In a New York minute … everything can change.
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