Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

You know I'm a hypochondriac. What you don't know is that I only tend to believe I have a disease when I don't actually have one. The moment there really is a serious medical concern, I'm like, "Nah. I'm immune to that. I'm fiiiiiiiiine."

For example, I was sure I had leukemia in 2009, and in fact read half of a book on it so I could best understand how to cope with the inevitable diagnosis. Two months later I was taken ill while everyone around me was incapacitated from Swine Flu. When my friends insisted that I also had Swine Flu, I repeatedly assured them that I was immune to this.

It wasn't until my friend Annette picked me up off of the floor where she found me in the hallway of BYU Law School and took me to the doctor that the diagnosis was confirmed. What proceeded, then, was the most dramatic Christmas of my life, including fainting spells, a broken hand, emergency surgery, and law school finals while under the influence of drugs that doctors promised me were legal.

And so it was no surprise when I disregarded Brianne's screaming with a dismissing hand wave, despite the obvious merit in her concerns.

She stopped me when I walked by, and noticed this on my chin:

Here. It seems like you want a close up.

I know. It doesn't look like much. I agree. It didn't seem like a big deal. But Brianne disagreed. And to be fair, it looked a little worse in person.

Brianne: How long have you had that?

Eli: I don't know. A while.

Brianne: It's bleeding right now. It looks weird.

Eli: Meh. A little abnormal growth on the skin never hurt anyone.

Brianne: I think it's cancer.

This caught me off guard. Because Brianne is not a hypochondriac. In fact, Brianne regularly talks me off the ledge when I drop onto the ground near her desk and whimper that I have "giardia" or "black lung" or "yeast infection" or any other number of things I've claimed in the last week.

But I knew she had to be wrong about this. Yes, I'm Irish. Yes, I get sunburned walking through a well-lit room. Yes CNN has already pre-written my obituary, listing the cause of death as skin cancer.

But this was just a blemish. An odd one that wasn't going away as quickly as normal. But a blemish, nonetheless.

Eli: What are you doing?

Brianne: I'm making an appointment for you to see a dermatologist.

Eli: That is totally unnecessary--

Brianne: Yes, hello. My name is Brianne Fallis and my boss needs to see a dermatologist as soon as possible. Excuse me? Two weeks? No, that will not do. He needs to be seen today. I can send him at 1:30.

Eli: I can't go at 1:30! I have--

Brianne: Your work appointment is going to be rescheduled as soon as I get off this call. Now stop interrupting me! Ma'am, are you still there? Ok. Great. He will be there at 1:30. Goodbye.

Eli: Wow.

Brianne: What?

Eli: Can I give you a list of other service providers to call for me?

At 1:30, I showed up at the doctor's office, feeling sheepish, and convinced that I was visiting a specialist for a singular zit consultation.

Dr.: What brings you in today?

Eli: My fear of my assistant, mostly. But also this thing on my face. I feel silly even wasting your time with it.

Dr.: Let's have a looksy.

Eli: I'm sure it's nothing. I think she just wanted to get me out of the office because I've been getting on her nerves recently and--

Dr.: This looks like cancer to me.

Eli: Say what now?

Dr: Cancer.

Eli: Calcium?

Dr.: Cancer.

Eli: Candy?

Dr.: Cancer.

Eli: Chlamydia?

Dr.: Cancer.

Eli: Christmas?

Dr.: Cancer.

Eli: Charles In Charge?

Dr.: I feel like we are getting further away now.

Eli: This can't be cancer. I'm actually immune to cancer.

Dr.: Well, you aren't. And in fact, looking at your skin, you are probably more susceptible than most people.

The doctor told me that he needed to do some tests to confirm, and then he assured me that this appeared to be treatable and shouldn't be anything to be concerned about.

And weirdly I was not all that freaked out about it. In the last couple of months I've had some surprising health issues creep up that have made the end of 2016 a very rough time. I won't get into the details of that now, but suffice it to say, the drama is alive and well in my life at the moment.

And so, considering all of the context, having a doctor look me in the eyes and assert that he believed I had cancer barely caused any kind of reaction in me, even before the assurances that things would be ok.

The doctor told me that it was a good thing that I acted "promptly" and got this checked out, informing me that many people wait weeks or months before getting these types of things checked out. And sometimes they wait until it's too late or, at least, a much bigger deal than it would have been had they been more vigilant.

The test confirmed the doctor's original suspicion. They did various painful things to my face, which caused me to wear a band-aide on my chin for the next few days. I had a trial that night, but it was night court so the face bandage actually helped me fit in better than usual.

The next time I saw Brianne I invaded her personal space with a very uncomfortable hug.

She's been telling people she saved my life.

This isn't the first time.

Also, for all my fair-skinned Strangers out there, learn from my experience. Don't wait to get these things checked out. The Q of C has taken it upon itself to create this PSA for you:

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. I'm glad you got it taken care of. I am just like this too! The worrying about what I could possibly have is much worse than a doctor telling me I actually have something. At least at the doctor they can confirm exactly what you have and then you can treat it and move on whereas your mind can take you to much, much scarier places! Ugh! The life of the chronically anxious!

  2. Whaaaa? Glad Brianne saved your life by insisting on an appointment, pronto!

  3. I'm amazed at your humor in the face (hahahaha face) of danger! But seriously I'm glad you're ok, gosh don't scare me like that!!

  4. You and my boyfriend are pretty much the same person. He literally wakes me up in the middle of the night to discuss all of the diseases he might have, but when he breaks his arm or starts randomly vomiting blood, he insists that he's fine and doesn't need to see a doctor. Which is when I have to be the Brianne to his Eli.

  5. Good work by your Brianne! I made my husband go get a spot by his eye checked out that turned out to be basal cell carcinoma. Luckily, it was also very treatable. Please promise the Strangers that you will go get check ups regularly, meaning every six months or less, from here on out! What would we do without you?

  6. I could write a novel, the size of War and Peace, to describe the various weird-as-shit maladies that have claimed me over my very long life.

    It's gotten to the point that unless I arrive, holding my own arm as I bleed unapologeticaly onto the floor of the doctor's office, that I'm met with head scratches, mumbled "well, I haven't seen this since that book in med school", and various other must-go-look-this-up scenarios. The main reason I have kept my current primary care doc - other than I love her, and she's a total badass roller derby be-yotch - is that I NEVER surprise her. In fact, she can often listen to me for a few and say things like, "Oh, yeah, that's bubonic plague. No biggie, here's some antibiotics" when I go in thinking I have a nasty hang nail.

    ALL that said, skin cancer is a killer. No, really, it killed my great-grandfather back in the day. Ate most of his face after first looking just like that "blemish" only it was on his nose. It was gross to eat dinner with him, I can tell you that. My stepfather had numerous growths cut, gouged, frozen or burned off him over his lifetime. I've been lucky, I've never had that particular malady. It's probably because it's not weird enough for me to get it.

    Give that assistant of yours a raise, two MORE weeks' paid vacation, a dozen roses, the biggest box of EXPENSIVE chocolates you can find, and a puppy. NOW. She saved your life..for reals, Mr. McCann.

    1. I want a raise, the roses, vacation and the chocolates but I will pass on the puppy! I already have two people to raise and take care of. (My son who is 11 and Eli)

  7. Well atleast you didn't take off your clothes this time?

    1. Well, skin is all over you. So, this would have been the perfect time for nudity.

  8. I'm sending this to my son who I cannot get to go see a doctor lately about an odd mole on his arm. Maybe Brianne (and you) can save his life too.

  9. That is exactly me. I will gladly go to the doctor because I have a headache, went on WebMD, and now believe I have a brain tumor. But I refuse to go for real problems that require medical treatment. Like when I was in labor for two days and I was like, "I'm not in labor or having a baby right now. I'M FINE." And then my husband literally forced me into the car, drove me to the hospital, and I had the baby in the waiting room. So you know, you're not alone. Hey maybe this is a medical condition! Maybe we can get treated for it!

  10. On the plus side, you can now be forever known as Eli McCann, cancer survivor.

  11. Fighting my own battle with cancer discovered with very vague symptoms. Not fun.
    So glad you are doing well and will take this seriously now.
    I agree with awesomesauciness - you owe large expensive gifts to Brianne.

    1. Hugs to you, Becca. Let the Strangers know if there's anything we can do. At a minimum, Awesomesauciness gives some pretty effective pep talks when needed.

  12. When cloning starts, can Brianne be first? I think we all need one of her.

    1. Karen: You are too sweet. But not everyone loves the bossy, outspoken person I am :)

  13. I would like to lead the charge to give Brianne ALL THE THINGS. Vacations! Puppies! A visit from Leotrix! Ok maybe not that last one...

    1. Thank you to whoever you are. But there are a lot of other people in the world that actually need things. Start with them :)

    2. And she's selfless too! Perhaps not ALL THE THINGS - maybe sainthood would be better . . . .

      Oh - and did we mention that you have fabulous hair Brianne?

    3. Thank you Nicole. My mom taught me the bigger the hair the closer to God! You are so sweet.

  14. My ex-husband left 2 chinchillas at my house when he moved out several years ago. He had given them extremely pretentious names and I got in the habit of renaming them every month or so after he left...because I could. Eventually I settled on permanent names. The one that occasionally has seizures got named Shakes. The angry one that looked like Gary Busey's mugshot was named Face Cancer. In late spring this year Face Cancer started losing weight and fur on his face, but the vet wasn't sure what was wrong. After 2 weeks of this I found him twitching and barely breathing in the bottom of the cage and I had to have him put down. The moral of the story is, I'm never naming another pet an ironic name involving cancer again because I'm fairly sure he actually died of some sort of face cancer.

  15. Just what you needed at the end of a stressful year - cancer! I'm sorry you have to go through this, beloved Eli. Luckily it seems like you have a pretty great support network of family, friends, and amazing assistants. And of course your Strangers all around the country! Hopefully 2017 will be the year that you're footloose and face cancer-free!

  16. The tone of this is awfully casual, considering the context is "so it turns out I have a smidgen of cancer on my face"

  17. As a fair skinned freckled redhead also, your post kind of prompted me to get a derm appointment made ASAP. Why can't the sun be our friend?