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  • Alexandra Hillenbrand

When a Hypochondriac is Right/ I had Skin Cancer?

I am almost always convinced that I'm on the brink of death. Like most things relating to my delusions, I'm almost always wrong. When I was five, I got pricked by a thorn on the top of my head and was certain I was going to bleed out, violently sobbing "I'm not ready to die" as less than a drop of blood came out of my "wound". When I was ten, I got an MRI for the daily migraines I used to have that in hindsight were probably caused by the fact that I drank less than a cup of water a day, had undiagnosed anxiety, and talked so much that my jaw probably could have fallen off.

So, yeah, I've had my fair share of "this lump is a thousand percent a tumor" and "this pain in my arm must be a stroke" because that's exactly how my brain works. Completely rationally. After a 20 year rate of 100% failure, I got my first A+ in self-diagnosis (suck it mom and dad, I can succeed at something). I had somehow completely gotten it right, down to the classification and everything, I had Basal Cell Carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.

Let me back track and say, that this is the least dramatic type of skin cancer you can have. It doesn't metastasize, so all they have to do is cut that poor sucker out and make sure they take out all the cancerous cells and then you can walk out of there, at least that's what happened in my case. I don't even think I texted more than a few people to tell them that was my 'diagnosis'. What was I gonna do text everyone "I have cancer" and then follow it up with "but it will be gone in 3 days"? That felt like a cry for attention. Of course, I had to keep it classy, so I made sure to post subtle hints about it on my private story right before I was in surgery.

The fact that I couldn't have just worded it better in the first place but instead just assumed that everyone would think I was at the gynecologist speaks VOLUMES

Speaking of the surgery, you are COMPLETELY AWAKE THE ENTIRE TIME! No laughing gas, no anesthesia, NOTHING. That's super fun for a sometimes socially awkward, overly polite person who nervously laughs at everything. ESPECIALLY WHEN A PERSON IS CUTTING INTO MY FUCKING FOREHEAD. The doctor asked me if I liked any music and even though it was MY SURGERY I go, "I'm not picky, play whatever you want". Play whatever you want? I might as well have had a sign that said, I don't mind if you leave a little basal in there. So, the doctor played the kind of classical music that crescendos during a horror film. Every part of my brain was itching and screaming, WHY COULDN'T YOU HAVE JUST SAID TAYLOR SWIFT.

They left me alone with the pre op numbing shit they put on your basal (we are on a first name basis), and let me just tell you I looked at it and almost threw up all over the floor. I had my phone with me so naturally I took several selfies as I nearly passed out at the swelling, yellow lump that was once my forehead. I will spare you all the sight of it because it's not something you can unsee.

Do you know what else was really fun about this skin cancer? That I had it excised a few days before I started my junior fall semester. I had these unsightly stitches on my forehead and had to wear a comedically gigantic bandaid on my forehead. What do you think the first thing a person asks you when you have a stupid fucking bandaid the center of your face, "What happened?". I DID NOT HAVE THE SOCIAL SKILLS FOR THAT. I wasn't about to tell people I had fucking skin cancer in the case that they got all weird, so instead I played it "cool". I told everyone, without fail, "I just had to get something removed". GET SOMETHING REMOVED? I'm sorry, BUT SINCE WHEN IS THAT LESS UNCOMFORTABLE than just telling someone the truth. Without fail, every time there was immediate dead, awkward silence.

Eventually I got those stitches out, and I almost always forget that even happened to me. Except for every time I go outside and apply my SPF 100 with tender love and care to my face. And when I would wear hats to darties. Or bring my own umbrella to the beach.

I still have a scar where that little basal used to be. I wish I could have taken her home with me. Oh how fun that would be, my little basal and me. That came too naturally, I couldn't stop myself.

You would assume that to give a hypochondriac a correct self-diagnosis is similar to the analogy of the children's book To Give a Mouse a cookie. I think it made me somehow less anxious though, like I could discern between what was reality and what was a delusion. Because all of those times I have been wrong about a fatal illness, I knew in the back of my mind it was connected to my anxiety. In turn, the few times I had been right I actually used legitimate research and knew I was right. So, maybe there's something in all of us hypochondriacs that can use our self-awareness to know when we're being a bit delulu. Hey, as it turns out, I'm not as crazy as some might say.

Blonde, junior year me with that bandaid who also looks like someone just hit her with a truck but that's completely unrelated.

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