Posted by: Tara Aarness | January 4, 2010

SPF 5,000

The word ‘cancer’ can strike fear into even the fearless of hearts. At my last routine physical, on a typical Thursday, my doctor discovered something not so routine. Gowned in an open backed, blue and white, unflattering garment that even Kate Hudson couldn‘t pull off, I sat there on the papered exam table, desperately trying to focus on the words my doctor had just spoken.

This mole will have to be removed; it looks to be basal cell carcinoma.

Being of Scottish and Irish decent, it’s only natural that I should be concerned about my skin. The sun takes one look at me and I’m spending the next week slathering lotion on a severe burn. But hey, in return I get these cute freckles all over my shoulders, back and nose. No real harm, right? Right. That’s why I’m here right now.

1 million people each year are affected by basil cell carcinoma and it is the most common form of cancer. The majority of people at risk are those with a history of sun exposure and anyone who is fair skinned, blond or red hair, and have either blue, green, or grey eyes. Great. So my green eyes and brunette hair with natural red highlights is a bad thing now. What next? My glasses will catch the suns rays and burn my retina causing another form of cancer? Fortunately, as with any type of cancer, early detection is key. However, even if caught at a later stage, skin cancer isn’t as deadly as many of the other types.

With a reassuring smile, he tells me that I’ll need to make another appointment to have my mole removed and sends me on my way to contemplate the meaning of life. Normally, being an avid Douglas Adams fan, I’d throw in a joke about it being 42, but normal is still back in the exam room. Alone in my Jeep, I wonder how the hell to tell my husband, my family, my friends. Do I tell them or do I wait for test results to come back positive, if it indeed does? Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill?

Lunch with Cougar (not my husbands real name) seems to be a good idea, so I head down to the animal shelter where he works and I volunteer. Many familiar faces, some fury, some not, greet me as I make my way toward my salvation, my husbands embrace (once he’s off the clock, that is). My decision to tell only my family and a few select friends was a good one and I received the same response from each – it’ll be ok and no matter what, they’re there beside me, the entire way.

The following Monday, Cougar and I set out into the early morning sun to have my mole, and fear, removed. After reuniting with my stylish gown, I laid flat on my stomach, exposing my bare back and evil mole, anticipating an excruciating amount of pain.

My doctor came in and warned me that the lidocaine would ensure me comfort, however the injection itself would hurt. Gritting my teeth, I braced myself for the shot. And waited. And waited. Finally I asked when he would be administering it, and I was surprised to learn it had already been given. Supposedly the worst was over.

The next 15 minutes passed quickly and pain free. The only sense I had that something was being done was from the steady flow of commentary made by both my husband and doctor. He cauterized the crater, I mean tissue, and bandaged my back, declaring my procedure a success. My biopsy was processed and sent to the lab and we left, exercising patience for my results.

Later in the day, as the lidocaine wore off, I started to feel discomfort and the following morning, I woke wondering if my husbands ex wife had yet again stuck a knife in my back. But then I remembered it was just my doctor, my mole and took a couple of ibuprofen.

It’s officially a week later since my malicious mole reared it’s ugly head and three days since it’s removal, yet it feels like a life time. In the span of a week, I’ve learned to take life slower, something I’m certain my family won’t believe. Looking at and evaluating the daily events that make up each of our lives, I’m saddened by how much of time I’ve devoted to hating the little things instead of simply appreciating them. Life isn’t meant to be a series of events or chores to rush through, just so you can live for that one brief moment of happiness. It truly is about the little things, how we each deal with them and allow them to effect our lives. My mole is one of these little things, and cancer is certainly a very big thing, but for better or worse, I’m going to appreciate my life and I won’t procrastinate these little things in the future, either.


  1. I had a couple moles removed two years ago. One on my back and one on my breast. I asked the doctor about scarring and he replied “Well, there will be scars so I wouldn’t go swinging from poles for a living.” I was surprised but said “Well doc, I was talking about modeling but I like the way you think.” 😉
    The scars bugged me a lot but I will say over the last 6 months, they’ve gone down and look much much better. I just wish it didn’t take that long.

    • Thank you, Shutterboo, for sharing your experience with me. You’ve helped answer some questions about my scar that’s still red and itchy. Regardless of scars, though, I’m glad you took care of your moles!

  2. Hi Tara. Love your writing. Youve inspired me to get off my backside and start my own blog. I have been writing for years in journals and notebooks and basically anywhere Im allowed to write (and some not). Thanks for the inpiration. Your stories are fantastic. On another note I also have had a Skin cancer scare. As a faired skinned Aust/Irish lass Ive had several solar keratos’s removed. Very scary. Hope your recovery is swift and sweet.
    Thanks again.

    • Hi Gab,

      Wow, I’m very flattered! It’s absolutely wonderful that you’re writing and I look forward to reading your work. I’m very sorry that you’ve had to have several keratos’s removed; that sounds painful, as well as frightening! Keep checking, as you’ve done, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you’ll never have to have another removed.

      Thanks for reading my work and for your comment, as well!

  3. Glad you got it taken care of and are healing well.

    I’m just as glad you take the time to let those who arent as aware as some of us how important it is to take care of our skin and get checked frequently!

  4. Quite touching. Thanks for sharing. wish u the best you can hope for. Please be healed soonest.

  5. Thank you for sharing that story – I so hope that the scar will heal soon, and that you will need no further surgeries. In our country (South Africa), skin cancer is widespread, because the sun is so powerful down here. So your story is a timely reminder to go to the dermatologist for a check-up – I hate going to doctors, so I tend to put those appointments off year after year.

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