My Cancer Journey Begins

I called Monday morning and the news was what I thought—but with an unexpected twist I have a malignant carcinoma on my toe…type is Kaposi’s Sarcoma.
Surgeons in a Circle Looking Down on a Patient
National Cancer Institute via Unsplash

Before Thanksgiving, I had what looked like a corn or callus appear on my third toe of the right foot. I put a few salicylic patches on it an it simply fell off sometime before Christmas.

Meanwhile, a new one appeared suddenly on the second toe joint of the left foot. It grew more rapidly and didn’t respond to salicylic acid. The top turned white, but that was about all.

At my regular doctor checkup in January, I showed him. Taking a cautious approach, he referred me to Neuhaus Podiatry in Hermitage. She took a look and offered a biopsy if I wanted. Given age and family history, I decided to biopsy. She numbed it, found a procedure punch from the bowels of the office. Blood ran, but it was pleasantly numb so no problem.

On the following Friday afternoon, Doctor Hall herself called and left a voice mail since I was teaching just then. She said: “Hi Mr. Pollock, this is Dr. Hall calling. I received the results of your biopsy that we did last Friday, and I wanted to talk to you about it so if you could please give the office a call I know you’re at your convenience I’ll be here until about 4 o’clock today. Thank you.”

It was too late to call after I got home, so I was left on tenterhooks all weekend.

I called Monday morning and the news was what I thought—but with an unexpected twist
I have a malignant carcinoma on my toe…type is Kaposi’s Sarcoma. I’m at Cumberland Skin for my first doc appointment for a treatment decision. Freezing or excision? Waiting.

Later:

I waited not very long. Then got in the room and waited for a decision. After 15 minutes and an ipad photo of my cancer taken, the nurse practitioner said we pretty much can’t help you and you need care from Vanderbilt Oncology, so we’re referring you to them and we’ll get you in as soon as possible.

A complete waste of time. 60 miles, three hours of my time that I had to make up this evening (voluntarily because we have a massively intense day tomorrow as students return to classes for the first time since December. Urk.)


It’s been more roller-coaster-y since then. Vanderbilt Dermatology had never heard of KS. (??!!??). I shouldn’t have been referred there in the first place.

Cumberland Skin’s scheduler was pretty awesome though; she called my primary care doctor, he called me, then he burned up the lines to get me into the nearest oncology center possible. My first appointment is Tuesday 23-Feb-21, 25 years and one day after my HIV+ diagnosis. Quite an anniversary.

Update coming Tuesday evening.