Alright so I was probably celebrating a cancer free diagnosis early.
I recognized the missed call phone number and my heart sank.
I’m not sure why I wasn’t waiting for a call this time. Maybe I was just so sure it was gone I didn’t think they would even need to call.
It took me by surprise.
I carefully dialed the number and was transferred to a nurse. It seemed like forever in silence waiting on hold.
I had no idea I was holding my breath until she said the pathology results came back as a scar. All clear for the original Melanoma! I let out a dramatic breath and smiled as big as I probably ever have. I thanked her for her time and said something about it being great news.
It is great news.
The best news.
It almost makes the pain and bruising a forgotten memory. Almost.
Myself, my wife and our dear friends have all been waiting patiently and sometimes impatiently for the results of my biopsy. I had been given an initial diagnosis of melanoma, the deadly skin cancer who isn’t usually content to just hang out on the top layers of skin.
Today I learned that the initial diagnosis was correct, melanoma. That wasn’t much for new news but I would have been ecstatic had they been wrong. No such luck.
Here is the good part: I need only go back for one more in-office surgery and then I can buy myself a cancer survivor T-Shirt as a souvenir.
I can wear it to cover the ginormous scar I will be sporting. A battle wound from an ordeal which I survived.
In a week from today I will be back under the knife followed by a couple days of Netflix to watch while I recover.
I should have plenty of time to write about prevention, diagnosis and the importance of self-care. Plenty of time to thank people for reaching out with love and support and the strength to be brave while I waited.
I was super lucky and I am extremely grateful for early enough detection.
I made myself think of what a stage 4 diagnosis could mean.
I made myself face the fact that I could die
I made promises I probably won’t keep if I could just get a pass on this one thing.
I promised to stay out of the sun. I love the sun. I will promise now not to abuse my skin in the sun.
I promised to take better care of myself. I like to be lazy and I love wings and beer. I will still partake in shenanigans but I will go to the gym more regularly. Uhh … as soon as my stitches are out.
I promised to be kinder. I am trying really hard with this. First step? Mocking people in my head instead of out loud. I have faith in me I can minimize my facial expressions soon.
My scar may be visible but at least there are no thought bubbles over my head.
I think that’s the real gift here. You are welcome.
I woke up nervous. My appointment with the dermatologist was in 2 hours and I needed to be at work shortly after.
I picked a cami tank and 3/4 sleeve cardigan and matching pants. I kept my jewelry to a minimum and left my hair down.
I tried to look as chill as possible.
No reason to give away the fact I was climbing out of my own skin.
Skin I had reason to suspect had betrayed me.
There has been an ugly spot on my left shoulder for maybe the last 6-7 years. Slowly creeping larger and larger until I asked about it again recently.
This time when I asked the reaction was a bit alarming.
The doc said I should see a dermatologist as soon as possible to minimize scarring. It needed to come off, like yesterday.
I nodded and promised to make an appointment right away.
That was probably 2 months ago.
I’m always, always busy. I spend alot of time working and the rest of the time enjoying life.
Then my shoulder started to itch and become not only ugly but also annoying. I looked at this reddish brown spot a bit closer after every shower and with an accusatory stare. It had abnormal edges and it had definitely grown.
I have no doubt it planned to take over the world … one cell at a time.
I searched the internet for similar images to the colored continent resting on my shoulder.
It looked more and more like melanoma, only way bigger than most diagnosed spots. If you are wondering there are images galore photographed and cataloged for the overly curious to browse. I don’t really recommend it.
From everything I read it is the least likely of skin cancers but ultimately the most deadly.
That’s when I started to worry. For real worry.
Deep in the pit of my gut … worry.
I thought about it until I almost made myself sick with anxiety.
My love assured me it was probably nothing and I should stop playing doctor with my degree in internet medicine from “I Can Google University”
It’s almost like a medical degree. Only cheaper.
I thought she was probably right. .. but just in case I was going to think about what would happen if I got a fatal diagnosis.
Who would get my jewelry? Who would my dog live with? Would anyone remember to feed the rabbit?
How many people would rejoice?
I only wish I were kidding.
So the time came, I made it to the dermatological place of business and met the man who would give me the news.
Although super pleasant and kinda ruggedly handsome he was still going to cut into me. He was also ultimately going to give me the thumbs up on self diagnosis.
It wasn’t the time to call the wife and leave “I told you so!” on her voice-mail but I wanted to. I was right about this in a very wrong way.
He said … “yes, this is melanoma. I hate to say it but that’s what it is.”
He asked if I had a history in my family of skin cancer of any kind. I said I didn’t know for sure.
Cancer yes, skin cancer I don’t know. In that moment I couldn’t think. It didn’t matter though. It wouldn’t have changed what was happening.
Then he told me where it was positioned made him sad, it was going to scar and it was going to be bad.
Adorable. So sweet.
I just wanted it off. I wouldn’t have cared if he used a melon baller and whiskey for antiseptic.
He said he needed to take out the growth right then and it would be a large incision. That was fine by me.
He said it would be the first step.
Not the final.
I would need to see another specialist … or many. I’m speculating on many. At the very least a plan would formulate for treatment based on the stage of the melanoma chunk he sent to the lab. Seriously… it was a wad of tissue he cut out of my shoulder.
He stitched my massive wound and tried to keep me talking. We talked about my dachshund tattoo at the base of my neck.We talked about what I do for a living. We talked about the nurses dog and her little boy.
They could see I was about to cry. They could feel me shake with nervous energy. They could hear my breathing slow and purposeful so as to not pass out cold onto the exam chair.
He took a photo of my new Frankenstein shoulder sutures and showed me. It was awesome and terrifying at the same time. The nurse covered the line with heavy bandages.
I left the office, walked to my car and drove to my office. I fed my fish, grabbed some paperwork and drove home.
I was sobbing uncontrollably at the prospect of what comes next. Of the wait. Of the potential that it spread while I was too busy working on climbing the corporate ladder and playing on beaches with my family.
So now I wait.
I will wait as patiently as possible to be defined as a number and a letter.
The number and letter which will reflect the stage for my melanoma tumor.
The grade if you will for how much toxic growth was removed. The crystal ball to see into my future.