Saturday, July 01, 2006

Top Ten Questions For Cancer Boy

I woke up this morning in the most pain I've had since I started the Efudex treatment about three weeks ago. My face feels like some one has take a blow-torch to it. I have 460 thread count Eygptian cotton sheets, but rather than caressing my hide like silk, on my face they feel like 60 grit Garnet sandpaper. I have not been sleeping well this week. Worse yet, my lips have begun splitting and bleeding like I have been marooned at sea for a month. Which in way I kind of have been.

I beat my 6:00 AM alarm by a good thirty minutes and I lay in bed considering the pros and cons of doing the Canada Day 10K Race on the Seawall around Stanley Park. I'm a morning person, at least sort of I guess... I am not a lay in the bed kind of person, and I usually have a pot of coffee going in a few minutes. I like the idea of getting a head start on the day by either writing or running as the sun is just coming over the horizon. Goes back to growing up on a farm and all those early morning hockey practices, you know, the ones that start in the winter dark where the sun is just a distant memory.

I have done this Canada Day event for the last three years and it has become a favorite of mine. The crowds are great, the field is large and the race is well organized. But I couldn't get past the logistics of running today. It is a bright clear sunny hot day expected to reach 28 degrees (mid 80's) so that would mean a hat and loads of sunscreen on top of the Efudex and I wanted to race not pace so that would have meant rivers of sweat streaming into my already aching eye-balls. Plus, the lesions on my forehead are now so large and so widespread that even wearing a hat has become painful as the brim bites into raw flesh. I couldn't get over the dread of that and being in a crowd of a few thousand strangers.

These days my appearance draws more than its fair share of stares. And normally, I don't really give a damn about what other people think, but the current state of my face has people asking me questions with their eye-balls that I don't feel particularly compelled to answer. And I am still running into friends and acquaintances who haven't seen me in the treatment phase and the first thing that registers when they glimpse the new Vince is shock. As in pull back a few inches, get a better look, eyebrows dancing like mad caterpillars and mouth gaping open shock. Shortly thereafter followed by something insightful like, "What the fuck happened to your face!?!"

It's the moments in life like this that you cherish. Plus, I have reached the stage where I have exhausted my ability to tell the story with anything approaching charm or tact. The best part is after I prattle on for a few minutes and people refuse to belive what I just said. "Pre-cancerous skin lesions? No way! You're kidding! I don't believe you!"

My initial reaction to this was bemusement, which has quickly soured, let me tell you. What, you think I'm joking about this? What, you prefer fucking leprosy, you prat? Yes, I often feign medical conditions to get attention from people. Actually I was wrestling with a belt-sander and it got away from me. My dogs started eating my face in my sleep. I guess I shouldn't have forgotten to feed them. No, I have termites...

So without further fanfare, here are the Top Ten Questions that have come Cancer Boy's way in the past few weeks:

Oh, and by the way, thank you for the e-mails, the source for most of Cancer Boy's Top Ten Questions.

1. Does it hurt?

My first reaction is to say, 'Does it ever', but it's a little more complicated than that. It doesn't hurt like chronic back pain hurts, but it still hurts like Hell. And the more pronounced the lesions on my face have become, the more it hurts. It is different pain. Sometimes it feels like the world's worst sun-burn - no irony intended. The lesions around my eyes are particularly bad. It hurts to squint, it hurts to sweat. It hurts to put sunscreen on. Sometimes it feels as if there are creatures burrowing through my skin. That is just too creepy for words. At other times it is so itchy it drives you batty. My lips are cracked and bleeding. So, any emotion that involves eye movement and a smile is a real pain in the face.

2. Do you really have skin cancer?

I am not really sure what people are driving at with this one. HUH? I have Actinic Keratosis, or "pre-cancerous skin lesions". It's a skin condition that is a pre-cursor to cancer. It is caused by abnormal skin cells. It is the result of sun damage to the skin, usually by over-exposure to the sun's radiation. The sun is, after all, just a big nuclear furnace hanging in space and bombarding us with radiation. A tan is the skin's response to radiation damage. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

The condition is taken seriously enough to warrant medical treatment. Approximately ten percent of such lesions become full blown cancer, although I am not entirely sure why such a fine distinction is made in the life cycle of abnormal skin cells.

My face is now one mottled mass of erupting skin lesions. I'd just as soon irradicate ALL of the little bastards...

3. Don't you think calling yourself "Cancer Boy" is inappropriate?

Inappropriate to whom?

4. Do you think calling yourself "Cancer Boy" is funny?

Funny? It's fucking hilarious. Unless people are laughing at my jokes because they really think I'm dying, I've had them in stitches with "Cancer Boy". Plus, Seinfeld already used "Bubble Boy" and "Pre-Cancerous Skin Lesion Boy" doesn't REALLY roll off the tongue the way Cancer Boy does. Although Michelle and Patrick will tell you that I was able to milk "Pre-cancerous Skin Lesions" for laughs for the better part of a long weekend!

And frankly, the opposite of funny is too dark to dwell on. Cancer Boy makes me smile.

As for the rest of you, if you can't joke about it... tough.

5. Why are you writing about this? Isn't this supposed to be a running Blog?

Hey, it's my fucking Blog, I'll write about whatever I want to.

No, really. I will.

Who are you, the Blog Police?

Listen, writers write. All material is autobiographical to some degree. Everything a writer writes is filtered through their life experience and their world view. Anyone who tells you differently is either lying or full of shit.

And running while going through this is very therapeutic. As is writing about. It lends credence to the illusion that I am in control of my life.


6. Are you scared?

Not really. Concerned, yes. Worried, a little. But, Actinic Keratosis responds very well to treatment.

It is a wake-up call, however. But then again, I've been in my Woody Allen, middle-aged male fear of dying stage for a while. Hence, all the marathons. And the drinking... And chasing women... No wait, I always did that...

7. Did this surprise you?

In all honesty, no. I have known that I was in the high-risk group for skin cancers for years because of my lifestyle and my heritage.

When I pointed out what turned out to be a skin lesion to my doctor, it was because I suspected as much myself.

8. How long is the treatment?

45 days of applying Efudex, which is basically a topical form of chemotherapy that kills abnormal cells.

9. Will you have scars afterwards?

Christ, where do you people come up with these questions! That's a little morbid, don't you think!

But no, apparently not. In fact, many people who've had the treatment talk about it like they've had a do-it-yourself facelift.

10. Can you still get cancer?

Of course I can. Although this will roll me back a little bit.

In closing, I want to thank those who called and wrote to express their concern. Your compassion and caring has been duly noted in my will should I die.

For every person who has stared in curiousity there have been two people who looked on in sympathy.

I am still waiting for my first Cancer Sex, however.

My dying wish is... :)


Anonymous kelly said...

You know what Vince, no matter whats going on with your face right now, underneath it all is one of the sexiest men in Vancouver....

11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Sorry...can't help you with the cancer sex. But I do appreciate the candor and humour you have displayed regarding your condition.

Too bad you weren't at the run yesterday. I was tons of fun! BTW, one of the top finishers was Jamie Epp. Is he related to your friend Anthony?

8:51:00 AM  
Blogger Anthony Epp said...

Jamie Epp is no immediate relation... Then again, we're all mennonites so we're all probably related somehow.
Hopefully I have some of that kids genes though because I need a little pick-up in my speed workouts!
Vince, great post... People are always shocked at what they don't always understand, and I think it's important to show that you still have to LIVE with what's going on, not hide from it. You have a Running Back's (football) ability to drive your way through the challenge rather than sheepishly avoiding the hits and taking the safe route. Good on you!

Oh, and p.s. I can't help you out with the cancer sex.

8:35:00 AM  

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