You never think it's going to happen to you, "Your biopsy came back and it's positive for skin cancer." Everything else the nurse said to me remains a blur.
I was in studio B, here at KMOX, in the last half hour of our three hour show, St. Louis Talks, when I saw a call coming in on my phone. It was uncharacteristic for me to answer any call during the show but for some reason, this time I did.
Right away, she identified herself with the dermatology office. I left the studio in a hurry to find a place to talk. I honestly don't remember what she said.
What kind of cancer was it? What do I do now? Was it going to spread? Radiation? Surgery? It was on my face so I was also worried about scarring.
But believe it or not, this longtime news anchor, reporter and talk show host didn't ask one question. I got off the phone as fast as I could as if that was going to make it all a dream. I told my producer what I'd just learned and I left.
I got in my car in the parking garage and called my husband. As I cried, he told me we would do whatever we needed to do in order to fix it and heal.
Months earlier, I thought I had a pimple. No pimple is ever in a decent spot on your face is it? This one was on my right nostril and kept growing for months, becoming more painful. No cleanser or astringent or squeezing would reduce it or eliminate it. I tried to get an appointment with a dermatologist but no one could get me in any earlier than two months.
I was set to receive a "Living Legend" honor from the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists in early November and I knew there would be a stage, a speech and lots of pictures so I went to UrgiCare. They suggested I see a dermatologist.
Miraculously, I got in the next day. A quick exam and the nurse said I needed a biopsy. That happened within days.
The growth was cut off and sent away. They called several times with the results but I didn't respond. I honestly thought they would tell me it was a wart and prescribe some medicine or ointment.
That was not the case. I called my sister as well because over ten years ago, she too was diagnosed with skin cancer. Ours are different types and are in different places on our body. She had basal cell and I have squamous cell. Both are described as the less serious skin cancers.
Dr. Lynn Cornelious, Chief of Dermatology at Washington University School of Medicine and Siteman Cancer in St. Louis says while it's true that the skin pigment, melanin, is protective and absorbs more ultraviolet light, it is not failproof.
"Persons of color can experience the more serious Melanoma on their palms, under their fingernails and on the soles of their feet." She says if you notice a bump on your skin that is new, isn't healing and may be scaly or bleeding, you really, really need to get it checked out.
I am having surgery to remove the cancer. I pray that they get it all and that scarring is minimal. Still, I'm shocked that sisters who are also black women both have skin cancer! I do hope that by sharing my story, I can convince black people to wear sunscreen and for all of us to stop waiting and avoiding what may be difficult news.
Because whatever the news is, we can move through it.