Sometimes, I step back and wonder how I survived being a Christian Scientist. I think most of us who’ve left Christian Science do this–especially when we’ve been faced with, and overcome a serious physical ailment or injury. Since I left Christian Science about nine years ago, I’ve faced a few. However, the one that gives me pause is one involving the ‘c’ word: cancer. Now, before anyone gets alarmed, let me assure you, it was not a serious form of cancer, and it is one that is rarely fatal.
About two years ago, I developed a lesion on my forehead that never fully healed up. It would scab over, but it never fully healed–usually a day or two after it would scab over, it would open up and discharge. Thanks to my background in Christian Science, I wasn’t initially alarmed by this, although I should have been. I put up with it for several months before I had my doctor look at it during a normal physical check-up (which I dutifully have once per year). Thinking it was possibly skin cancer, she referred me to a dermatologist who performed an excision surgery on the lesion. The lab tests came back positive for what’s known as basal cell carcinoma. A second surgery was required to remove all of the cancer.
Now, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is not usually fatal. It does not spread easily, and its spread is very slow. Despite my delay in treatment, I was in no real danger. The worst case scenario with BCC is something similar to what I and most people who grew up in Christian Science commonly saw in more than a few older church members: unsightly growths on their faces. In many cases, these growths would eventually mysteriously disappear, with a rather neat scar in its place (somewhat like a surgery scar, interestingly enough). Left long enough, such as is often the case with Christian Scientists, BCC is disfiguring. In my case, there is a small scar on my forehead that goes largely unnoticed.
Now, while I wasn’t in imminent danger, anytime a doctor says “cancer” to you, you take notice. It makes you think about life, and your own mortality. I shudder to think that if I was still swimming in the Krazy Sauce of Christian Science, I’d still have a weeping lesion on my forehead that might have started to turn into a growth. I also think about what my fate certainly would have been if it was a more serious form of skin cancer. Cancers like melanoma do spread quickly, and easily, and have a higher mortality rate. This was a warning shot, and I heard it loud and clear. I check myself regularly, and my partner checks the areas I can’t look at directly with my own eyes. My doctor and I keep a close eye on my skin at every physical exam. Even the serious skin cancers can be cured if caught early enough. I also get tested for other forms of cancer that can afflict men of my age, like colon and prostate cancer. Fortunately, I am thus far cancer-free.
I’m grateful beyond words that I’ve left Christian Science, and I sensibly seek regular medical care. I’m grateful to share my life with a partner who looks out for my well-being as I do hers. But, I still shudder to think what could have been, what could be, if I had not left Christian Science. I think I always will.
For Further Reading: