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A moment later, he came back into the store and offered me a hundred dollars for the security tape from tonight. At least, more strange noises than usual. At first, I assumed it was just the racoons.
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But now I know the truth. Now I know that Marlboro has been living here for the last two days. He just walked out of the supply closet wearing a bathrobe, nodded to me as he grabbed a stick of meat jerky, and went into the bathroom. It had not even occurred to me that Marlboro never left. It finally happened. I suppose it was only a matter of time. I know I should feel regret, or shame, or any of the other emotions that normal people feel after something like this happens, but all I feel is embarrassed.
I came to a couple hours ago with a shovel in my hand. I had been digging again, and this time I had made some serious progress. The hole was at least seven feet deep, the steep walls made of loose, red clay. It took me a while to realize that I was staring up into an inky black night peppered with uncountable stars.
When some of the bigger celestials started to move, I realized that those stars were actually just the soulless red eyes of the mutant raccoons staring down at me over the edge of the hole. Probably looking for food, those shameless beggars. Like a solid, wet, thwack. Now imagine the watermelon gurgling and falling over like a sack of potatoes. Oh man, this metaphor has really gotten away from me…. When I climbed out of the hole, I saw the shovel standing upright: the business end firmly lodged inside the open chest wound of a still-twitching Kieffer. The Kieffer was dead before I got to his side.
In a final act of defiance, he had turned both of his middle fingers up to me. When I went into the gas station, I was surprised to find that Marlboro had taken it upon himself to work the cash register while I was gone. He was ringing up one of our regulars, Charles, a great big fat man that always buys soap and boiled peanuts.
I nabbed a tarp off the shelf and took it outside. Kieffer is heavy. Like, really heavy. I understand that a human body is basically just a meaty fleshy water balloon full of guts and excrement, but nothing could prepare me for how leaky and gross and heavy a dead man can be. It was only by some miracle that I managed to drag Kieffer through the back door and into the freezer without being seen. It took all of my strength to pull the mass behind the boxes and onto the stack with the other three. As I stood there letting my breath come back and adrenaline wear off I took stock of my situation.
There were four Kieffers in that freezer with me. Where the hell did the other two come from? The freezer door opened and Marlboro entered, dragging a dead Kieffer by the legs. He stopped and made eye contact with me. Marlboro and I decided to open a bottle of Strega Liquore and have a few drinks. He explained that he had accidently killed Kieffer a couple times. I totally understood. The guy was just so easy to kill. At one point, Diego came into the freezer to grab a box of cookie dough.
Someone just called my name from the top of the precipice. I think it was Diego. I wonder what happened to Tom. Wait, who the hell have I been talking to this entire time? I promise, that if I survive long enough to recharge my battery I will come back and tell the rest. Until then, I guess this story is to be continued. Hey everybody! Proud to be the newest member of the team. The owners were so impressed with how I managed to stay inside the store for several days without leaving or going insane that they offered me a full time position while the regular clerk is out recovering from his leg injury.
He gave me the password to his laptop and detailed instructions to transcribe his journal entries from last week. In exchange, he agreed to keep me on as a full-time assistant after he gets back. I get to to learn what to expect on the job through first-hand documentation, and he gets to continue his weird little blog thing. Clearly, a mistake was made and I was overlooked. If any of my old brothers and sisters are out there and see this post, please, please, contact me!
Tell the seniors they forgot me! I miss you! I love you! Before I get started, some guys in suits came by and suggested that if this blog were going to continue, that I make a PSA. Anyway, back to the journals. The man in the trench coat was standing out back when I went to take out the garbage tonight.
He was standing at the tree line just beyond the dumpsters, staring as he ever did. Tonight, I stared back. The hinge of his jaw began halfway up his face, where his nose should have been, the edges pulled back to either ear in a skeletal grin. His tiny, milky-white eyes were beads behind the oily black hairline that hung down straight in bangs all the way to his cheek jowl.
His impossibly-wide mouth bisected the head between greasy hair and wet flesh. Drool, I would assume…. We stood there, fifteen feet apart, staring at one another for what might have been ten seconds or ten minutes until finally the man in the trench coat turned away. Holy shit! Did you guys read that?! This is some crazy shit! Sorry, Jerry again. This is some weird stuff. I mean, I remember him telling me a couple weeks ago to go outside and talk to a man in a trenchcoat. What the hell?
Back to the transcriptions. She had never seen so many in one place before, not even in her dreams. Before she left, she told me that I would see her again. Was that supposed to be a warning or a flirtation? The package from yesterday afternoon still sits on the counter where I left it.
The rectangular parcel is wrapped like a Christmas present with red and yellow stripes and feels heavy. That the contents of this little parcel will irrevocably change the course of my life in a way that may have seemed impossible before. Marlboro is passed out in a hammock in the supply closet. I think he finished that bottle on his own. The hand plants are growing faster than I had anticipated. They are now past the elbows, almost to the shoulders. I saw that the crop had caught a curious coyote that got too close. It was not pretty. I also noticed that Rocco is still alive. I caught him sitting on the roof, tossing food to the crop of hand plants.
If this gets out of control, I may have to torch this crop just like the others. It sends shivers down my spine whenever I hear the way they scream. Diego came in for his morning shift looking pretty terrible. The bad dreams had been keeping him from getting a restful night. He asked about the gift-wrapped package sitting on the counter.
He asked if I was going to open it, and I told him that I had a bad feeling and pretty much decided to never ever open it. I decided to open the package. This could be a game changer. The box also contains a signal repeater and some other gizmos.
I know this is crazy, but I think I may actually be able to access the internet from the gas station now. I left a comment on your page. But it right now seems like a lot of half stories thrown together. I bet you really could get a lot of upvotes and attention. It gets kind of confusing right now. Maybe start with when you got there and work your way up to now I bet that would be super awesome.
Hope all is going well for you! Another one of my readers tracked me down. Thank you, whoever you are, for the laptop. I turned on the wifi card and noticed that for some reason there are dozens of secured networks around the gas station, most of which have four or five bars. A man came into the store to buy a gas can a couple hours ago. I never got his name, but he was a big guy, tan skin and a thick beard. Marlboro agreed to watch the counter while Diego and I followed the bearded man down the hill and around the curve, close to the spot where Diego saw that thing in the woods.
I began to wonder why we had walked this whole way, when our own vehicle would be quite useful in case of a dead battery or random bear attack. I killed the engine, then when I tried to turn it over again, nadda. I could see at this point that the hood was open. The man was driving a big black SUV similar to the one Kieffer owned, but newer and shinier. I thought it maybe just needed some gas, so I went up to the station. Then when I got back, I saw this. The trunk of the tree had swallowed a decent portion of the engine, and from the looks of it the car had been parked there for years.
The bearded man pulled up a secret compartment from beneath the floorboard and retrieved a large automatic rifle. The guy checked the clip and clicked something on the gun that could have been the safety. But it sounded super cool. Diego put a hand on my shoulder and slowly backed away from the man with the gun, pulling me with him. Then when I go looking for the one thing BAM it attacks. Like a siren. This could get dangerous. The man pointed his gun and marched into the woods while Diego and I made our way back to the gas station.
A long time ago, I noticed what looked like strange mushrooms growing in a patch near the dumpster behind the gas station. When I took a closer look, I could have sworn that they looked just like baby fingers poking out of the ground. As the weather got warmer, I kept an eye on the crops. They started getting longer and looking more and more distinguishably similar to human fingers. I swear they even started growing fingernails. Sometimes, I would see them bend at the digits to squash a bug that wandered too close. Eventually, the mushrooms started sprouting leaves, and the finger sections continued to stretch out, creating what could only be described as hands.
Human hands. They would ball up into fists during the daytime and open up in the moonlight. I dug one of them up one day when we were really slow at work, and I called Farmer Junior to ask for his professional opinion. To the untrained eye, the hand plant looked just like a regular human hand. Teenager maybe. At the wrist it turned into a gnarled root that smelled like sassafras, and throughout the plant tiny leaves were sprouting. Farmer Junior stood in the gas station looking it over for a while before asking me if we had any more of those things. I lied and told him no.
I asked the owners what they wanted me to do. They thought it over for a couple days and then told me to keep them. I think they expected to be able to make some money off of them somehow, but eventually everyone forgot they were there. Everyone but me. And Farmer Junior, of course. I was thinking about the bearded man when I first heard the sound of a baby crying somewhere outside. I was alone in the store and my first instinct was not the heroic one that most people may have had: to run outside and see where the poor baby was. My first instinct was more callous and rational and in the form of a question: how the hell did a baby get way out here without me hearing it coming?
The sound of the cries, which I could deduce were coming from the tree line, were getting louder and louder and more and more desperate. If I was going to investigate the potential forest baby, I was going to have to do it alone. I remembered the bearded man hearing the siren call of the thing he called an Anglerfish. I grabbed a flashlight and went out back. It seems that the hand plants had extended slightly further than the little patch outside the gas station.
Those plants that I had been watching and burning whenever they got too aggressive were not as controlled as I had previously believed. Because out here, just a few steps into the woods, was a hand plant that I had missed, that I had never trimmed or culled or burned, that was left free to grow as large and wild as it possibly could. Out here was a handplant that had grown so large it had fallen over.
It had grown past the shoulder. It had grown its own head, and torso, and crotch and legs. Out here was a full human body covered in tiny leaves, huddled on the ground and attached to the soil by thick talons of brown roots. And the weirdest part of all? The body was one that I recognized. Maybe I just wanted to make sure that he was real, as if touching him would prove that one way or the other.
When I did, his eyes opened and he cracked a smile. He could not move, the roots had him firmly stuck in place, but this kieffer plant could talk. And talk he did. There is something under the gas station. Something big and powerful. Something plotting. I felt extra terrible setting the fully developed kieffer plant on fire after I burned the rest of the crop of handplants, but honestly what choice did I have? When I got back to the gas station, Spencer was waiting for me.
He knew I knew. And I knew he knew I knew. I was halfway expecting what came next, but not expecting him to enjoy himself quite so much. Spencer locked the front doors, then proceeded to beat the crap out of me. Although, I did mess his knuckles up pretty good with my face, so I have that going for me. Spencer dragged me across the gas station to the hallway past the bathrooms, past the walk-in cooler, to that big strange door that I had only just noticed a couple weeks ago.
There was a sound from the other side and then Spencer yelled. The door cracked open and Spencer dragged me into a room I had never seen before. It looked like an old office. There was a desk next to a wall of monitors with security feeds from all over the store and the perimeter. Security feeds from cameras I never knew existed. In the middle of the room was a large hole that looked like it had been created with a team of jackhammers. My boss put Kieffer out there and hired me to watch him. My boss is much bigger than some idiot politician. I think my leg is broken. Just as I expected, Spencer has the same network as Kieffer, which means he somehow has service.
Somebody just dropped the laptop into this hole with me. Maybe it was Spencer? Maybe I am. Whoever it was, I think I might have heard the sound of boot spurs clicking against tile as he walked away. Well, I had gone into town to see a movie. Yes, I went and watched Thor: Ragnorock. It was awesome! I was the one that found Jack. You can thank the mandatory bomb-building classes at the Mathmatist program for that. No big deal, just me being my typical heroic self. More on that later. The cast has several signatures and messages, which is very strange because I have no memory of anyone signing it.
But that could just be a result of the pain meds. I would check the tape logs to see who I let get so close to my delicate area, but the owners had every camera in the place removed. I guess there was something about finding that secret room full of security camera feeds to bring personal privacy into the public discussion.
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I feel like the act of removing all the security cameras was a bit of an overreaction. Especially with Spencer still out there. The police took a statement and confiscated the remains of the bomb. As for Kieffer, things get a little more interesting. The police were unable to find any evidence that he ever even existed.
MORE STORIES FROM AUTHOR Jack Townsend
The only thing even linking him to this town was a grainy picture in an old yearbook photo. The sheriff has been sending a new deputy, Arnold, out to check on me once or twice a day. Arnold was the one that dropped me off at work today.
On the way to work, we passed the SUV of the man with the beard. The one staked in place on the side of the road by the tree growing up through its engine. I asked him about the owner of the vehicle, and Arnold said that they think he got lost in the woods just like those hikers last fall. After Arnold dropped me off today, I went about my regular shift-starting duties.
I logged all the invoices that had piled up while I was out, then I emptied the trash cans. The sun was starting to go down when I hobbled out to the dumpster, balancing garbage bags against my crutches and probably looking like a baby deer learning to walk. You know, if that deer were drunk and two-legged and carrying several bags of garbage.
The scorched earth near the dumpster was the same as I had left it: blackened down to the subsoil. Somewhere just past the start of the trees was another patch of smoldered remains, one that I neglected to mention in the police report, one that might look to the casual observer like the remains of a human body. Before I turned to go back in, I noticed something odd on the side of the dumpster. But then I realized that it was moving, breathing, crawling slowly and eating the gooey drippings off the rust of the dumpster.
The thing looked like a giant tomato caterpillar, about eight inches long, and as the sun went down I swear I could see the thing give off its own light source. A yellow, because like all people, I hate the yellow starburst. The critter bioluminesced a little brighter as it ate the taffy and I gave it a gentle pet. In fact, it seemed to be covered in tiny clear hairs. Marlboro has taken up smoking again. Today was a pretty normal well not normal, but average day at the gas station. We had some strange people visit. We had some normal people visit, too. I took a gamble with the last package and it turned out to be something great.
But that was before Spencer tried to kill me, and once again my gut is telling me not to open it. I got a phone call today at the store a few hours after sundown. It was pretty late, hard to say when exactly. This was somewhere in that temporal wasteland between dusk and dawn. In the drawer to your right is a pencil and paper. Get them, and write this down. These are the rules to your survival. Do not drink the tap water.
It was the old widow Mrs. After her husband died, Mrs. Agatha Sistrunk had taken to buying and collecting sports cars and oversized trucks and racing them around the outskirts of town at all hours of the night. Her most recent purchase was a brand-new Ford F with a painting of the Hulk in all of his green smashing glory along the side.
In person, she was a sweet old lady, no taller than four and half feet. Sistrunk needs me to top her off. Do you hear me?! Old Agatha was happy to see that I was back at work. Apparently, Marlboro made her nervous. When I got around back to toss her trash, I noticed something incredible. The glow worm from this morning had formed itself into an enormous cocoon against the back of the dumpster. Existential hope? Is this what optimism feels like? Like this was some kind of sign. Just when the caterpillar thought his world had come to an end, he became a butterfly.
My world has felt like it was coming to an end for a while too, little buddy. I decided that whatever hatched from the cocoon, be it butterfly or moth or monster, I was going to name it Starburst. I hobbled myself back to the gas station and tossed one last look over my shoulder at the dumpster to see that one of the racoons was stuffing the cocoon into its mouth. It devoured the whole thing in a couple bites before making eye contact with me and dashing off into the woods. Diego came into the store for his late shift and asked how I was feeling.
I told him that the pain was tolerable. He nodded, like that was the kind of answer he was looking for, and I went back to reading my book. A few minutes later, the man with the beard came into the gas station. Did I mention that the man was holding a pistol when he walked in? The thought crossed my mind for the briefest moment that I wonder what happened to his big gun? He quickly found the locks on the doors, used them, then covered the short distance to my register, gun extended and aimed at my face. The Melanoma Research Alliance is also an incredible source of support and information for survivors, like me.
People need to hear loud and clear that melanoma is not just skin cancer —it is an aggressive, unpredictable, and dangerous cancer—and it can affect any one of us. Those of us blessed enough to survive this diagnosis must tell our stories, so that others grasp the seriousness of this disease. In August of , I walked into the ER with a spiking fever - and didn't leave for over two weeks. I had a recurrence of an early-stage melanoma that was removed twelve years prior, and this time, the prognosis was much more dire.
Tumors were in both lungs, my liver, spleen, and abdomen — all from the original cancer that stayed dormant for so long. The future looked awfully bleak, but I was lucky to have a strong support system that helped guide me toward the cutting edge treatment offered by clinical trials. Four surgeries and two trials later, my tumors are a third of their original size and continue to shrink. The first oncologist in told us he would be surprised if I were here in two years.
That may have been statistically correct, but there was no way I was taking that as a pre-ordained sentence. We had just had a baby boy the month before, to go along with his then-two-year-old sister. Receiving that prognosis at face value and taking existing standard of care and their accompanying dismal survival rates was flat-out unacceptable. I had a family who needed me to be in their lives for a long time to come; two children to guide through adolescence and a loving wife who needs a partner in that journey.
Resignation to a short remaining life span was just NOT happening. Fortunately, I got melanoma at the "best" time, if there is such a thing. My clinical trials have both been immunotherapy-based, and would not have been options had my diagnosis occurred a few years earlier. Breakthrough therapies have extended my life so far, and with the support of the Melanoma Research Alliance and other benefactors, the melanoma research community will continue to make enormous leaps in treatment options, disease regression, and ultimately lives saved.
I have been blessed on many occasions during this battle, starting from the initial diagnosis in that was caught early and mostly by accident. Being able to voice my ups and downs — which every cancer patient has — via a national blog is an outlet for my emotional journey, but also helps connect with those patients walking a similar path. Giving back and inspiring others to stay positive, focused, and determined as they face their own cancer battles adds another layer of purpose to my personal crusade of beating melanoma.
I felt fine. It was a small dark dot. Almost like the tip of a black Sharpie marker. A few months later, I noticed it again. It was a larger dark dot that now had a brownish rim around it. The dark center had a faded brown rim with uneven edges that almost looked smeared. At this point, it was the size of a pencil eraser. That gut feeling is what ended up saving my life. I knew enough about skin cancer to know that it was a red flag to have a mole that is changing, which is the only reason I ended up addressing the mole with my doctor. I waited for my yearly appointment with the gynecologist to roll around and asked her if she thought it was something to worry about.
Her reaction was intense. She told me to find a dermatologist that day and tell them my doctor says I need to be seen immediately. She knew the mole needed to be biopsied immediately. Not knowing what I was facing, the wait didn't even faze me. Looking back, I would have demanded to be seen sooner or found another doctor. When I was finally seen, I was surprised to have three moles removed for biopsy.
Aside from the mole I had noticed, there were two more pre-cancerous moles living on me. One was on my back, the second on my other breast. The suspicious mole that brought me there to begin with ended up being melanoma. I waited weeks to hear the results, still not really afraid or worried. I had no idea how serious my life was about to get. He told me that a team of experts reviewed my case and diagnosed me with melanoma. He had consulted many professionals because he was surprised by his findings. I was 24 and in perfect health. I never spent much time outdoors. I had used a tanning bed a few times in my life, but never regularly.
The doctor said I required another surgery immediately. My eyes filled with tears, but to be completely honest He said my oncologist would be calling in the morning to schedule the surgery because they feared that the cancer may have already begun to spread to my lymph nodes. That word is what made me realize this was serious. The surgery was painful. Telling this story now loses some intensity because it lacks the time spent worrying in between appointments. The waiting was the worst part. All you can do is wonder.
Is it that bad? Am I catching it in time? Will I have a chance to fight it? While recovering at home and waiting for the results from this surgery, I daydreamed about my future with my then boyfriend, now husband. My mom was also wonderfully supportive through all of this especially the waiting and often reminded me not to worry until there was something to worry about.
I was blessed with a chance to tell you what I went through because, thankfully, we caught it just in time. I essentially caught this myself. Melanoma is the fastest spreading skin cancer, and the deadliest. It spreads so fast that waiting to get something checked out can cost you your life.
Spending The Night In the Haunted House
Since my initial surgeries, I have had a few scares. I also found this myself. It was another frightening reminder that this is going to be a never ending battle with the sun and with my own paranoia and fear of not catching it in time, next time. My current struggle is with trying to find a balance between awareness and living in a constant state of fear.
One thing I try to stress to my friends and family is that you have to be your own finder. Your doctor doesn't see you enough to notice small moles that may change. You could save your own life. I do a monthly skin check to take note of what moles already exist and what they look like. Taking pictures helps. If you start to worry something is changing, measure it.
Melanoma has also changed everything about the way I spend time outdoors.
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I use sunscreen like a regular moisturizer. I wear sunglasses daily. I wear hats regularly. I cover up. In , I felt the healthiest I had ever been. Five months after crossing the finish line, I was diagnosed with melanoma. It was the start of a new marathon I never hoped to enter: The fight against cancer. Friends and family helped me discover my melanoma and urged me to see a specialist. During a family vacation in Florida, my sister-in-law Ellen noticed a weird red dot on my chest that had become raised and told me I should see a doctor. When I returned home to Ohio after the trip, a business associate echoed her advice, so I visited the doctor and had the spot removed and biopsied.
Right after returning from a ski trip out West and still feeling great, I received the diagnosis of malignant melanoma. I started making my treatment plan and underwent surgery. My sister, Sally, who lived in DC, happened to talk with Dr. Hoping their medical center was in league with their basketball program, I flew down to their facility and met with Dr. Seigler, Professor of Surgery and Immunology. The meeting changed the course of my treatment—and my life.
I started on an immunotherapy regime administered by Dr. MRA plays an important role in the melanoma ecosystem, making connections that individual patients cannot. MRA ties all of the best melanoma research together using a disciplined, scientifically-focused methodology. Sometimes, I get calls from newly-diagnosed melanoma patients seeking hope and the reassurance that this cancer can be overcome. I also tell them to think of their battle with melanoma like running a marathon: The focus and discipline it takes to get through a marathon are helpful in the fight against cancer.
Melanoma should be the last thing on the mind of a twenty year-old college junior, especially toward the end of the fall semester. But it was the only thing on my mind…. My dermatologist removed the mole and sent it away for biopsy. I now have a scar halfway across my back. Candidly, I never really knew what melanoma was. As I researched this deadly, vicious and aggressive disease, I began to get panic attacks from hearing the stories. I was alarmed by the many young adults dying from melanoma every year. This cancer is simply killing at an alarming frequency in the young adult age demographic.
I have not known of anyone in the aforementioned bracket who has died from any cancer other than melanoma. I was lucky that my situation was just a dust-up with melanoma, but others are not so lucky. That is why I dedicate almost all of my philanthropic endeavors to melanoma research and melanoma-related organizations. It may sound corny, but I feel that I was given a glimpse into the horror that is melanoma for a reason.
Why, one may ask? This truly wonderful organization has been at the forefront and contributed significantly to the recent advancements in the melanoma space. With the generous support of founders Debra and Leon Black, the MRA donates all publicly-raised funds directly to research.
In addition to funding research work, MRA is also a strong advocate for sun safety. My wife, my son, and I are all fair skinned. It was also only six weeks before I was moving to London. My father insisted I get the spot in question looked at before I departed. My doctor agreed that it needed to come off, but figured that would be the end of it. Two weeks before I would be getting on a plane I got a call that my biopsy came back and I had melanoma.
The doctor referred me to a subcutaneous oncologist who had to remove more of the tissue around the area to get a clean margin. What was smaller than the head of pencil eraser is now a four-inch thick scar and a reminder that early detection is crucial. In London I went for body scans in six-month increments, which is what National Health Service deems appropriate, compared with the three-month checks my dermatologist had recommended. It turned out to be melanoma also. Once again, I was back under the knife to get a clean margin and another 3.
I still go every three to four months for check-ups. Awareness and early detection are essential. And someday, I hope there may be a cure. To this day, I despise putting on sunscreen. I still do! John; an occasional tanning bed stint before a college sorority formal.
I wore sunscreen here and there as, I generally tanned well given my olive skin. I was sure to wear [only] spf 15 on my Caribbean snorkeling trips and maybe reapplied it once a day. And who wears sunscreen at the tanning salon? Since I graduated from college, I have had over 25 suspicious moles removed. It was only a matter of time before one would come back positive for melanoma. During my pregnancy with my second child, I noticed a significant increase in the number and size of the moles all over my body. I went for my biannual check-in with my dermatologist and got a call that one of the biopsies that he had taken needed further attention.
Maybe it was how I chose to take the news. The margins were taken immediately with no further procedures needed. It is only since the melanoma that the seriousness of it all has taken hold. My body is a mess. I want nothing more than a tan to help mask the scars and divots on my skin, but I have a family to think of and I want to be around as long as I can.
Starting with my children. It is my duty to slather them with sunscreen, kicking and screaming, until they have children of their own. Next is you…. I had just turned 30 years old when I found a strange little pink lump on the left side of my neck. I made an appointment with my dermatologist to have it checked. I have always had bi-annual skin checks, but this looked and felt different. After a couple months I had started to grow concerned — the lump was larger and was hurting a lot. They agreed to do so, and the lump was removed and sent for biopsy. A few days later, I received a call from one of the dermatologists in the practice who told me that the pathologist needed several opinions because it was an unusual case.
I was told that my pathology report now indicated the following diagnosis: a malignant spindle cell neoplasm with a differential of desmoplastic neurotropic malignant melanoma greater than 4mm or a malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor, which extends to the lateral and deep margins. This, I was told, was a very rare type of malignant melanoma — one that is actually not caused by the sun, one that shows up deep in the tissue and grows rapidly but locally, and one that does not portray as a regular ABCD Melanoma. I was in shock… I had never been told I might possibly have cancer.
But first things first, I knew I had to find the best oncological surgeon I could and have it removed. I immediately found a great surgeon and oncologist at NYU Medical Center, and they proceeded to set me up for surgery. I had the surgery, then was told 5 days later that they had not gotten clear margins, and they would have to go back in ASAP. I was devastated — especially since so much skin and tissue had already been cut out of my neck — what would a 3 rd surgery do??? And would they get all then cancer this time?
I found another incredible NYU doctor who was both an oncological and plastic surgeon, and he worked wonders. He not only removed the remaining cancer, he combined the previous scars into one, and tucked it all into my neck and behind my ear so it would not be as visible. After a long recovery, many weeks of painful and traumatic radiation, and several months of an experimental vaccine treatment which gave me degree fevers and made me sicker than I had ever been in my whole life … I was ready to start life again.
A year after I had been diagnosed, I began seeing my oncologist less frequently, and having scans every 6 months. If you reach that point, you are as good as golden. Instead, I was told my Stage 2D melanoma had metastasized to my lung, and I now had 4 th stage melanoma. I was in shock and heartbroken. I immediately found a lung surgeon, who went in and removed the cancerous nodule. He was able to get it all out by surgery, and afterwards I was considered to be NED no evidence of disease. I had a very tough recovery from the lung surgery, and my husband and I had to drastically change our life plan we were ready to have kids, but that would not be in the cards right now.
I would have to be scanned every 3 months, then after a year or so, every 6 months, and this would go on forever. I was a 4 th stage cancer survivor — a rare phenomenon, so it seemed. I am now one and a half years cancer free… my life has not gone on as I had thought it would - but it HAS gone on. My husband and I do not yet have children, but hopefully we will soon through modern science and IVF. But I do have faith and hope that I can go at least another 5 years cancer-free — and hopefully more!!
I have a very supportive, kind and loving husband, as well as a great family, who all stand by me through it all. I cannot imagine doing this alone. Each day is a new day, and those of us who have been through this unimaginable ordeal must always remember this and believe in the amazing leaps in science and the wonderful doctors who fight for us always.
I can only hope that the wonderful people at MRA and other Research Foundations come up with a cure before the cancer comes back to haunt me again. Those of us who have battled all stages of melanoma are blessed to have MRA on our side. This means once a year, I put on a paper hospital gown, and my dermatologist dons magnifying goggles and examines every mole I have.
For most people, having a mole removed causes little stress, but for me, it creates a paranoid frenzy in my brain that lasts for days. The nurse calls you within a few days if the results are bad but waits about two weeks if the results are good. Then a voicemail to call them back for the results.
Here we go again. Wide excision number three. The plastic surgeon who has performed my last two surgeries is, unfortunately, quite blunt. In , I had a melanoma in the earliest stage removed from my left thigh, when I had a 3-inch-wide excision that made walking difficult for days.
And in , I added this 1. It comes when I hear a year-old colleague brag about how often he is in the tanning bed. It comes when a tan friend insists on using something with SPF 4 and lies out in the sun for hours — and then tells you about it. Melanoma and abnormal moles are a lonely road. This is the part I have a hard time with. Is it because they think those affected are just having a mole removed and they go on with their day?
Because it makes them uncomfortable to think about staying out of the sun? Because you can catch it early? It does. One American dies every hour from melanoma. I think my son has my skin color — and it terrifies me. Is he going to hate me for how I make him stay out of the sun? In , some college friends and I got together for the first time since our sophomore year.
Yes, her statement was insensitive, but this kind of thinking seems to be everywhere about melanoma. I smelled the sickeningly metallic combination of Betadine and blood mixed together. While he sewed me up, he braced one hand on my back and used some force to pull the stitches taut, at least 10 times. I lost count. I just wanted it to be over.
And this is the third one in seven years. I feel like I'm usually strong, but right now, I am just over it - the exams, the biopsies, the fear, the surgeries, the scars. Give less advice. In November , an optometrist noticed a "freckle" in my eye during a routine eye exam. He referred me to a retina specialist for a more thorough examination. During my first visit to the retina specialist, the doctors and technicians ran a series of tests. They asked me to come back to see their tumor specialist. At this point I didn't know it was possible to have cancer in the eye and was sure there was no reason to be alarmed.
I returned to see their tumor specialist less than a week later. At the end of the appointment, the tumor specialist told me, "We think this is melanoma, and we think we might be able to treat this without ruining your vision. I wanted a second opinion, so a few weeks later, I received another thorough examination with the Shields, a husband and wife team at the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. The tumor was very small but did have many characteristics of melanoma.
I decided that I would opt for their recommended course of treatment, radiation plaque therapy. Three days later I was admitted to the hospital to have the radiation plaque sewn onto the back of my eye. I was in the hospital for four days while the radiation killed the tumor. On the fourth day, the plaque was removed and I was able to return home to recover. The Shields also recommended a biopsy of the tumor in order to conduct genetic testing. Four months later, I found out that my genetic test indicated that not only was my tumor indeed melanoma, but also it was likely developing into the more aggressive form.
The tumor is located in the chorodial layer of the retina so it cannot be removed. The radiation was used to kill the tumor, and follow-up laser treatments were done in the first year to assure there was no regrowth. However, the radiation also killed healthy blood vessels in my eye, which has caused a lack of blood flow, impairing my vision.
The scar from the tumor also creates a blind spot. I lost the lower peripheral vision in the left eye as well as some loss of central vision as a result of the radiation. Ocular melanoma is very rare. Statistically, it only affects 6 in one million people and generally affects people starting in their 60s.
What If Everything Your Doctors Told You About Breast Cancer Was Wrong?
It is rarely found in young people. It has now been just over three years since I was initially diagnosed. Fortunately the tumor in my eye is completely dead, and all of my blood work and scans have been normal. I now regularly see a dermatologist, oncologist, retina specialist, and Dr. After this experience, I was motivated to do something different with my life. I decided to pursue a law degree with a focus on health in order to advocate for cancer patients through health policy. In May I went in to have a tiny, dark, dot on the bottom on my right foot removed. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered hearing that if you have a freckle on the bottom of your foot; it's not a good thing.
I went in, had it taken off, and was told to have a good weekend. The next week I got a phone call from a nurse, my path report came back and it was melanoma. I remember the nurse talking on about how I was now going to see a surgical oncologist rather than my dermatologist, the appointment had already been made, and I was to report to the cancer hospital for chest x-rays and blood work. Most of what came next was a blur, except for my first meeting with my surgical oncologist. I was still under the impression that skin cancer was just of the skin.
My thinking was, "cut it out and let me be done with this! Just one problem. Jonathan M. Vick's short stories expose the nightmares of human nature and will challenge your own ideals of morality. Is it ever acceptable to lust, to fear, to fall out of love, to run away, to kidnap, to kill? Take a raw, unflinching journey into the horrors beyond mere nightmares. With a lilting, almost lyrical prose, these stories will alter your consciousness, and haunt you for the rest of your life.
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What If Everything Your Doctors Told You About Breast Cancer Was Wrong? – Mother Jones
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