For a long time now, I’ve had a dark spot on the left side of my cheek.
It never bothered me too much in my 20’s. Even now, sometimes it bugs me, some times it doesn’t. It depends on how dry my skin is from one day to the next.
Now that I’m in my late 30’s, I find that so many older women stop me to talk about it, or send me messages about it being cancerous, it starts to make me feel uncomfortable. It makes me feel like there’s this giant spotlight on my spot and I should be ashamed of it.
And to those older ladies I say: I get that you think you’re helping, but you were not helping.
Let me be clear: I never believed this discoloration to be cancerous. According to every Skin Cancer PSA poster I had seen in passing or in a magazine, this mark on my cheek, has never been cancer. …That is until the last 2 years or so of my life.
For most of my life, I have been able to get away with just using a cleanser or…plain old soap on my face. When I could afford it or remembered to put it on, some moisturizer. Most of high school and college, I only had a few break outs or bad days when I ate too much greasy food. But overall, I am blessed with very good genetics when it comes to my skin.
When I saw my mom back in 2016, she though it was a birthmark. I told her it wasn’t. We pulled up old photos from grade school so I could show her. From birth to 10th grade, nothing. It just appeared some point between 11th and 12th grade.
Neither of us seemed to worried about it. She gave me an expensive face cream, and told me to bleach the spot.
Obviously, I did not do that. First, I was way too lazy to be that consistent. Second, I was also just not that bothered by it.
As I got older and learned how to put makeup on myself, I usually covered it up with concealer and full-coverage makeup, if I felt the occasion for it. But over the past few years, I noticed it was getting darker, and harder to cover up.
At my mom’s funeral last year I noticed that my aunt also had much larger but very similar spot on the left side of her cheek too. My aunt asked me how long I had it. She compared it to her own, mentioning off hand she got it later in life.
It felt a bit silly afterwards. It felt like all the the times someone had mentioned it to me started getting to me. And I felt really dumb about it. Maybe because my mom died, maybe because I was worried this was genetic. Maybe it was because I just tend to over-think and began to just over-worry about everything after my mom died.
Earlier this month I finally went to see a dermatologist. She took less than 60 seconds to tell me exactly what I knew: not cancerous.benign.
It is: Seborrheic keratosis (SK). It’s very common. Many people get it, especially when they get older. It is not the same as an age spot, and it’s not the same type of darker spots women get when they get pregnant.
I felt sort of relieved and sort of angry at the same time. At some point, I was so confident about how right I was about this whole thing. And then I let people get to me.
After talking to my dermatologist, I found out a few things:
I can get rid of it if I choose to.
It is purely cosmetic so it is not covered by insurance. (because it is not cancer!)
It will not be perfect. Many times, lasering SK off, will leave the skin a bit pink and raw looking and lighter than the skin tone.
So I left my dermatologists office, feeling both relieved and kind of angry. Angry that I let myself get convinced that it was otherwise. I can’t explain it well. It is that feeling of knowing you’re right, but feeling dumb about letting people’s opinions make you feel like you’re the crazy one.
I could say “they meant well” but also, maybe don’t point it out to me like I have a demon growing out of my face?
My dermatologist said she doesn’t think it has to go, and told me if I really wanted to get rid of it, to take some time to think about it.
So here I am, thinking about it. I guess I’ll let you all know if I decide to laser it off or not. Stay tuned.