Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.


October 5, 2013

One of my earliest memories is of standing on the toilet seat in the bathroom of a ranch-style house outside of Rockford, IL. My little brother is there, too, waiting by the sink for his turn. We’ve been swimming, you see, which means a sunburn. It is the seventies, in the era of stretch-n-sew, and so my mother has dutifully made tiny weenie-bikinis for both of her boys, and a complementary bikini for my sister as well. The fabrics all match, of course.

That’s a lot of exposed skin, and so the procedure is thus: a can of Solarcaine (an aerosol topical anesthetic designed to relieve the pain of sunburns) is pulled out of the medicine cabinet, and the cap is cupped over our ‘privates’, and we are sprayed head-to-toe with this magic elixir. The relief is instantaneous, trading hot pain for cold numbness, and we shiver with the shift. In the seventies, sunburn is normal, and so is Solarcaine. It’s just the way we roll.

Almost 40 years later, I’m supposed to be listening to my new dermatologist, but I’m just reliving this memory as she delivers the pathology report from the mole she removed from the front of my left thigh two days earlier. Not that she needs to say anything, the truth obvious enough when her assistant called the house several hours earlier, requesting only that I stop by the clinic. Today.

It’s melanoma.

There’s a lot of talk that follows that one word, talk of treatments and further excision and of the incredible melanoma specialty clinic she’s referring me to across town. Lots of questions that remain, too, but which will hopefully be clarified soon, as we move quickly to remove more tissue and biopsy the lymph nodes in my leg. Soon. Very soon.

I notice myself leaning back from my left leg, it feeling suddenly somehow foreign. It’s been my leg for 43 years, and it has certainly served me well, but I now view it with suspicion. Because it houses some invaders, and no one is quite sure how far they’ve gotten just yet. Like little warriors pouring out of a Trojan Horse, I imagine for a moment that I can see them and I want to make a tourniquet to stanch the flow.

There is a word that’s been around me my whole life, and I’ve never applied it to myself, but I need to start soon.

It’s cancer.


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7 Responses to “Burned”

  1. Davene Grace says:

    Mike, I only know you through Pete and Jackie, but my heart was moved as I read your words today. I wanted to simply share a bit of my family’s story, as a means of offering you hope. My dad had a malignant mole removed from his left arm 20 or so years ago; it was a scary time for him and the rest of the family, but the surgery to remove the cancer was successful, and he’s lived a normal, active life even to this day.

    Of course, I have no idea what path God has laid in front of you, but I’m certain you’ll see it revealed, piece by piece, at just the right time. I do pray for mind-boggling peace to be your companion during this journey…and for it to guard the hearts and minds of the rest of your family as well.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. Wanda Gael says:

    Mike, my son. Cancer, that word can send chills through the toughest of people. It did me fifteen years ago. Mine was colon cancer and I was given a thirty percent chance of making it. Well since I’m typing this the assumption is, I made it and of course I did. It was an everyday fight. Peter went with me for my first chemo treatment and I cried and he told me it was okay. Afterwards we went and had tastee freeze ice cream on 42nd street. So that is my suggestion. Have ice cream or what ever your food of choice would be and then do whatever you are told to do by your doctor and let God work out the rest of the details. Love you guy. Wanda

  3. Leah Tomlinson says:

    Mike, so very sorry to read the news of you having cancer.
    I thank my little brother for the chance I had over the years to get to know you . I have a few great memories of you two!
    Just want you to know that my husband Myron and I will be praying for you and your family. Will be watching to see how you are doing.

  4. Kelsey Hoppe says:

    Mike…the Cassons and I were recently reading this poem. I leave it for you and I don’t leave it lightly, or flippantly, or naively. Sometimes things don’t work out but sometimes, by Sheenagh Pugh:

    Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
    from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
    faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail.
    Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

    A people sometimes will step back from war,
    elect an honest man, decide they care
    enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
    Some men become what they were born for.

    Sometimes, our best intentions do not go
    amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
    The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
    that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.

  5. Vince Gamma says:

    Geez Mike, life is just full of nifty twists and turns isn’t it? Praying for you, that this was caught early and they get it all removed, preferably without the harsher treatments.

  6. Rhonda King says:

    So sorry to hear this news. I have never met you but I have your book and feel like I know you through reading it. You are in my thoughts and prayers as you fight through this next step in your life.

  7. Tom Livengood says:

    You know my thoughts… But I want you and others to know that I respect your courage as you share what’s going on. Not worrying about tomorrow,
    it is wise to share your story to help others (and remind folks like me) to not get burned. So proud that you went to your dermatologist (mine said five years ago “so is there any issues… other than THAT!”). Prayers and ever ready and availabile to walk with you along this journey…

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