Monday, August 04, 2008

Friend or Foe?

Here I sit with a dark wound the size of a big pencil eraser on my upper thigh where the mole with the dot used to be and a question mark in my mind about what that little dark spot represented. In 10 days or so I will know.

Twenty-five years ago, when I had my first pass with skin cancer, I would have been freaking out while I waited for the results, constantly preoccupied by what I might learn. But today I am amazingly carefree about the whole process.

When Dr. Peck first noticed the mole with the dot in March, he told me to watch it and come back if I noticed any change. He wanted to see me in 3 months one way or the other.

It’s like watching a flower unfold to keep your eye on a 2.5 millimeter dot and notice any change. Once on our trip to Italy I thought I saw a change, but what was I to do thousands of miles away? When I got back and tried to make an appointment, his receptionist told me August 1 was the first available.

So on August 1 he measured it at 3.5 millimeters. He still is not sure, but decided to err on the side of caution, so he had his assistant do a “scoop”, which is much like it sounds except it’s a scalpel instead of a spoon.

The little dot is now in someone’s lab being sliced and diced or whatever they do to determine if it’s friend or foe.

The hope is always that if it’s not benign, it is totally contained, in which case the course of action is a follow-up surgery that takes out an even bigger piece of skin and then sews up the resulting eye-shaped hole with a bunch of sutures. It’s not terribly painful or even confining after it’s over. And that has always been the end for me until the next suspicious dot attracts someone’s attention.

This seems a rather laid-back approach to melanoma, which can most certainly kill you if it metastasises. But once you have been down this road 4 times, it’s no longer so scary.

I’m grateful for doctors who see things I would otherwise miss. I am confident they will always do the right thing.

But meanwhile I wait for the answer about the little brown dot.


Anonymous bettyjoan said...

We are kindred spirits on this point--when I used to have biopsies, I would be a spazzed-out mess until the doctor called with results. Now, I merely sit back and wait, simultaneously hoping for the best yet preparing myself for the worst. I'm glad we've both reached a zen point. :-) And I hope your test comes back benign!

5:50 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

BettyJoan -- I thought about you as I was writing this, wondering how you were faring and remembering the post in which you had described your bout with melanoma. Those of us who have had it and survived definitely have a strong bond.

Interestingly enough, in a room of 12 people at my last book club meeting, 3 of us had had melanomas removed. It is becoming more and more prevalent unfortunately.

8:16 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

Hope the results are again negative!

I've had two "scoops," both of which have proved benign (BIG sigh of relief). I get checked every six months, more often when something is found. You're right - it's not exactly old hat but you learn to wait the results with more equanimity.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Pauline -- It would be better if the two scoops were ice cream! :)

9:08 PM  
Blogger Velvet said...

I don't like the idea that he makes you wait and watch it. I have a wonderful dermatologist in MD who takes off anything at any mention. This last round he said, "Let's let that go unless you are nervous." I said, "Eh, I'm here, I have the day off, just take it." You know he took that little thing off and the lab called? Now I have a huge hunk out of my back but you know what? Well worth it. I'm glad we didn't wait.

Let me know if you want his name. I highly recommend.

9:51 PM  
Blogger Velvet said...

Okay, wait, I read the referring post you linked and now I get that maybe you like things the way they are! Sorry!

9:53 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Thinking about you and wishing you well as you sit and wait.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

And after you sit and wait, whatever the results.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Velvet -- I'm convinced I have 2 of the best dermatologists in the country, so they are keepers. I always have the right to say, "Get rid of it now" and that is usually what I have done.

Kristin -- You've had plenty of this waiting for results. It's not fun, but feeling anxious will not change the outcome in the least. So thanks for the well wishes.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

Good luck Barbara, I hope it comes back negative.

11:27 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Cyndy -- Me too. The sooner, the better. For all my bradavo, I'm starting to feel a little anxious.

7:44 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

Good luck with this. You have a fantastic attitude and although it is so easy to get anxious what good does it serve in these situations anyway? Of course now you have me checking out every freckle for a dot - so thanks for that. (I hope you can read the sarcasm in that last statement :)

Sending you good vibes...

10:00 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

My fingers are crossed for you!

The thing that makes me crazy about dermatologists is there's always such a long wait to see them. It's frustrating to think one could have something potentially serious and have to wait months to be seen. (And then I read that recent news story about how many derms are booking people for Botox and other cash-only treatments, further delaying potentially serious cases.) Argh.

Anyway, hopefully your docs aren't like that. I think it's a real problem with our medical system.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Mo said...

I am thinking "negative" thoughts for you and sending skin-happy vibes your way!!!

2:07 PM  
Blogger Ruth D~ said...

Ahhh . . . sigh. Wisdom keeps you somewhat at peace, but it's still like being in suspended animation, isn't it. I have some nagging spots I've been ignoring. It's almost worse to ignore them, because I think I worry more than if I just knew. I guess that's what you've discovered.

All good thoughts, and . . . what else can I say to a strong lady?

3:48 PM  
Blogger lettuce said...

hoping its good news barbara - you sound pretty relaxed about it but must be hard to avoid the odd niggling worry

4:21 PM  

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