The nurse is pulling the stitches out of my face. I can tell that something is wrong because she doesn’t offer any of the typical “it’s-healing-nicely” affirmations that one usually expects. The doctor enters and tells me that the tumor exceeded three of the four margins of the diamond-shaped sliver of skin that he removed from my cheek one week ago. He explains that most basal cell carcinomas grow in one big lump, like a basketball, making them easy to remove in one fell swoop. But my tumor was a rarer, more aggressive type that grows unpredictably under the skin like an amoeba, sending out projections like tentacles. He tells me that he won’t know how far it has spread until the next surgery. Hopefully they won’t have to remove too much more tissue. But he can’t rule out the possibility that I might lose so much of my cheek that the plastic surgeon they will assign to me will have to resort to skin grafts.
Nobody wants skin cancer. And the very thought of skin grafts terrifies me. But in the three weeks prior to my scheduled surgery, what bothered me the most about the worst-case scenario was not just what I might look like afterward, but rather how it played into my trans issues. Oh, I know, you thought I was going to be a human being for a moment, talking about cancer and me facing my own mortality, an experience all humans will or have faced. But not. Let’s get to transin’! Continue reading