A few weeks ago I scratched my chest causing a tiny, little sore to appear. I put some Bactine on it and didn’t think of it again until a week later when it hadn’t healed. I usually heal very fast. I asked my wife to look at it. She said it was nothing. I said it was cancer. I was joking. Another week went by and it still hadn’t healed. I cranked up the cancer rhetoric as a way to get her to set a dermatologist appointment for me because a $50 copay to learn that I had a tiny, slow-healing scratch would be salt in the wound. And I’d rather she be responsible for that. But she said it was nothing. Then last Friday, after Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys died of cancer, she called me at work and said that I had an appointment with a dermatologist on Monday.

I paid my $50 and then sat down with my shirt off. “Yes, well, it’s cancer.” the doctor said after a quick examination. “We’ll have to do a biopsy, of course, but it’s a highly treatable form of cancer called basal cell carcinoma.” And then he pointed at a poster on the wall behind me. Of the four columns of data and pictures on the poster, mine was the least nasty looking. “When the lab results come back we’ll schedule you to…” and his voice faded off as my thoughts went to my wife. I was RIGHT! And I couldn’t wait to tell her.

But first I needed to confirm my thinking. “So this is a direct result of radiation from the sun, then, yes?”

“Yes,” He responded. “Most likely because you grew up in the deep south in the 70s. And you’re fair-skinned.”

“So it’s not hereditary?” I asked.

“Well, you say no one else in your family has had cancer. So it’s only hereditary because you’re fair-skinned and more susceptible to the sun’s harmful rays.”

Ten minutes after walking into the office, I was finished. “I’ll call you next week with official results and to set plan of action so we can take care of this for you.”

On my way out, I texted my wife, tweeted and facebooked. I had fucking cancer. Empathetic feedback immediately poured in via little 1s and 0s flying through the air from all over the world and into my phone as words.

My wife called. She couldn’t believe it. “We’ll get through it.” she said.

“Oh I know, honey. It will be fine. I have absolute confidence in that. But here’s the thing – I was RIGHT! I knew it!”

She paused. “Yes, you did.” she said. “I love you.”

I drove home thinking about it. I felt like I was now part of an exclusive club. A club I wanted no part of. Friends from around the globe started sharing their own experiences and sending me well-wishes. I immediately thought of the blog post I wrote on Saturday morning following the death of Yauch who was my age. In that post, I wonder out-loud whether cancer is even supposed to be solved, based on the great mystery of it. Then I thought about irony – and how God has a wicked sense of humor. Then I thought about how my form of cancer was caused by someone fixing a magnifying glass on my chest waiting for it to burn a tiny hole before moving on to someone else.

I went through the rest of my day thinking about it. I mowed the grass. I got on the roof and cleaned the gutters. There was no escaping it. I have cancer. You only hear that once for the first time in your life – and you never expect it. But now I’m over it. I have cancer. I love my wife. I love my kids. And I want this thing cut off of me right now – because even though it’s small, it wants to spread malicious code to other parts of my body. Like a foot soldier of death working its way up the chain of command.


Jim Mitchem


Amendment One: A Vote Against Fear
Amendment One Over, Lunch

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.