I noticed the blemish every time I looked in the mirror to shave — a mark on my chest that looked like a piece of a pencil eraser. I thought it was ugly, but it never occurred to me that it could be important or problematic. I didn’t have any other health problems, so I ignored it for awhile.
But eventually, my wife urged me to get it removed. I went in for the procedure, thinking that the ugly-looking thing on my chest would be gone and that would be that. I was shocked to learn that the mass tested positive for lymphoma.
As usual, my wife was right, and now I realize that the mark on my chest was a subtle and persistent health change — which is the most common cancer symptom. And in my case, the most common symptom for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a lump or lumps on the skin that look almost like a pimple, but they don’t go away like a pimple does.
When that blemish didn’t go away, I should have realized that something was up. Paying attention to even seemingly benign or minor changes in your health and body is vital to early detection of cancer.
I was lucky — my cancer had not spread beyond that mass. Now I go for checkups every six months, because there is about a 50/50 chance the lymphoma could come back. But if it does, I’ll have early detection in my corner again, since we are monitoring it so closely.
As part of my work as a broadcaster and anchor at NESN, I’ve been hosting our Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon for 16 years. In that time, I’ve talked to countless patients who also say they were lucky to get an early diagnosis and beat cancer. But after my own experience with cancer, I realize that luck is not the way to go. If my wife hadn’t pushed me to go to the doctor, my luck could have run out.
Luck is not a strategy—it means you have no strategy at all. And we cannot depend on luck to save lives. Everyone should know how to recognize important health changes that need to be checked by a doctor. This is the key to detecting cancer early, and can mean the difference between life and death.
DetecTogether’s 3 Steps to Detect is the effective strategy that everyone needs to be aware of to monitor their own health.
These three steps are simple, easy to understand, and easy to do. And they will help us normalize the importance of getting subtle health changes checked, to detect cancer earlier.
- blemish on chest