Had a dermatology appointment this morning. I refer to these little events as my annual brush with mortality. It’s been eight years since I had the call from Dr. E- “the mole I was removed was melanoma”. That was a scary call. The next day an 8” long by 2” wide section of my back was removed.
And since that day, I’ve probably thought about melanoma almost every day. I’ve been hyper-sensitive to news reports about people who have died from it, which was brought home when the man across the street from us in Wisconsin passed from it a few years ago.
And then there was the KSTP personality, Mark O’Connell who died from melanoma only four weeks after being diagnosed. That was chilling.
Since that time I’ve not had a single Derm appointment where I didn’t come out with a little less of me than I went in with. The worst part of that experience, not so much the little surgical procedures where they cut of moles and patches of skin. It’s the wait. The seemingly endless wait for the biopsy results that are the killer. I’ve sat through nine of them over the years. What I’ve learned from that experience, the longer the wait, the better chance that the biopsy is going to be OK.
The other thing I’ve learned, stay off the fucking Internet to learn about heath issues.
My biopsies over the years have been concerning, twice I have had “severe” atypical moles. Stage 3 they call that, pre-melanoma. 5 times I have had “atypical” which means.. well as best I can tell, who knows.
But, in retrospect maybe, just maybe these things sort of happen for a reason. Having had stage 0 melanoma means I have a 99% chance of dying of something other than skin cancer. The problem with melanoma, the odds go down really fast when you get past stage 1.
And at anything past about stage 2.. if it’s spread, there’s no really effective treatment. That’s the terrifying thing about it.
But, in retrospect sometimes things happen for a reason.
Several years ago I was working with a woman who had what I thought was a suspicious looking lesion on her arm. I was a little pretentious and I suggested that she have a doctor look at it. She stoically told me she was fine. I insisted. And insisted. And finally she went. Her melanoma was at stage 2, a deeper tumor than mine, but thankfully there was no evidence in her lymph nodes. Still, had I not been diagnosed myself a few years earlier, I wouldn’t have made a fuss, and who knows, she may have never had it looked at.
And two kids and a husband would have a very different life today.
I don’t feel like I saved her life, I honestly think I simply was in the right place at the right time, and was able to practice a little Tikkun Olam. And for that, I’m grateful as well.
Message- wear your sunscreen, SPF 100 my favorite, wear hats and wear pants and avoid sunburns like you would cigarette smoke and heroin. The results sometimes, can be the same.