This year has been a tough one for a variety of reasons. Top of that list are several annoying health issues that have plagued my life and used up all the dollars in our flexible spending account. One of these little issues is something I feel compelled to share here, even though it is gross and probably oversteps the sharing boundaries.
Last June, I was sitting poolside in our backyard. I had a diet coke by my side (natch) and was chatting happily with the Husband. I felt a small bump on the back of my thigh, and looked to see what it was.
It looked relatively harmless, like many of the dark freckles that adorn my Scandinavian-skinned body. But something told me this one was different. I looked up at the husband and said, "I think I have a melanoma on my leg."
It seemed like a stupid thing to say at the time, because a) my incessant googling of any and all ailments does not make me a doctor, in spite of how I'll tell you otherwise; and b) it was really not all that different from the other 9,390,423 freckles that cover every inch of my cellulite-riden body.
But something told me to make an appointment and get that dreaded skin check. Call it what you like. Intuition. Fear. Paranoia. I call it an intervention from above.
This is the "freckle."
Truth be told, it looks more like a tick than a freckle. Ew.
So I made an appointment with a dermatologist, and felt that I had done my part. The day of the appointment came, and she felt we should, indeed, biopsy it, along with a couple other concerning spots. She reassured me that they were probably nothing, but did not want to chance it just in case.
About two days later, she called back. The "freckle" I had found was melanoma. It was only on the top skin layer, but they would need to cut it out to prevent further spread.
That fun surgery resulted in this lovely vision:
Yeah. Gross. Happy Fourth of July to me.
Here's the thing: Once you have a melanoma, the cancer cells will spread to other tissues. That is how melanoma is made. It's what melanoma was born to do. It's not a question of if, but when. It's only a matter of how fast it spreads (or metastasizes). She said it can spread to other parts of your body in a few days, or take years.
You. Never. Know.
Which is why they cut it all out, and a pretty wide margin around it.
Thankfully, my margins came back clean. I figured this would be the end of it. Skin checks every few months, but nothing to ever deal with again.
At my three-month check up last week, I pointed out a new mole. It was not remotely like the other one -- it was much lighter, even bordered, but slightly raised. I honestly figured it was nothing, but, again, felt prompted to point it out. This one was on my inner thigh, pretty high up, and not a super fun area to be examined in.
To be safe, she sent it in for biopsy.
Annnddd.... you can guess where this story is going. Yep. Another cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma this time. Had the surgery to remove it about five days ago.
My friends, I share this gross story for one reason, and one reason only:
GET YOUR FREAKING SKIN CHECKED.
Though squamous cell carcinoma does not usually spread like melanoma, it can.
And for reasons I will never know, I was prompted both times to seek medical attention for things that otherwise would have escaped my notice or been shaken off as nothing. And both times, these "freckles" came back malignant. Please see a dermatologist. Stand there naked for a few minutes and make sure you are okay. It is so worth it.
Don't you want to be around to see your grandkids? I know I do.
Things to also take notice of: New moles are concerning. Moles that change are concerning. Irregular borders, raised or dark moles are concerning. And if you can't tell enough if they are concerning, let your dermatologist do it for you. Please, please, please! Get your skin checked.
Turns out? What our fathers told us back in the 80s was true: Laying out in the back yard with baby oil covering every inch of your body is a very bad thing.
So, from now until the end of time, you will find me under the umbrella. Covered head to toe in sunscreen, a big hat, and a mumu.
With a diet coke in hand (natch).