Saturday, July 2, 2016


Dear Spike,

It's too early to know for sure how bad the scar will be, but at least for now it looks like a pirate took a sword to my face.

And I like it. It suits me, I think.

That's not to say I'd keep it if I had the choice. I most certainly wouldn't. But I don't have a choice in the matter. Sometimes in life things happen that we cannot control. Sometimes we get scars.

Two of your mother's three sisters are cancer survivors. So is my father. So am I now, I suppose, although it feels like an exaggeration of magnificent proportions to say so. Basal cell carcinoma is cancer in the way that the eight-inch dwarf lanternshark is, in fact, an actual shark. It qualifies, but only just technically.

Regardless, this much is clear: You likely carry a genetic susceptibility to cancer that's a bit higher than other people. Genes aren't fate, though. Not usually, at least. Susceptibility and inevitability are two different things, and there are endless healthy things we can do to lower our risk.

Sunscreen, for instance. I didn't wear it much as a kid and, rather unwisely, didn't use it nearly as much as I should have as an adult. The result was a carcinoma on my face, and a little surgery on Thursday of this week to have it cut away.

We're pretty good about making sure you're wearing sunscreen, but you're approaching the part of your life where these sorts of things are going to become your on responsibility.

And sunscreen is just the start. The kinds of food you eat. The amount of water you drink. The kinds of work you do. The kinds of activities in which you engage. All of these things can affect the expression of your genes, for better or worse. And yes, there's good evidence that even people with higher susceptibility to diseases like cancer can significantly decrease to chances of getting it by making good choices about their personal health.

I don't want you to obsess. I simply want you to be aware of the things you can do to give yourself the best shot at a healthy life. You know, like wearing sunscreen.

After that, life will do what life does. That's just the way it goes. Sometimes we get scars.

May all your scars suit you.