Well, it appears it was cancer after all. 

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.

melanoma-overall-survival-by-stage
I don’t think I like these odds. 

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.

and so we wait …

 

skin-cancer-warning-signs
Know the symptoms. Do not ignore them. 

Hormones (no, not the pimple face adolescent kind)

It’s been nearly 6 weeks or so since my doc requested an alarming amount of body fluid for testing. Normally I would be apprehensive about it – but hey, he seems to know what he is doing. He did assure me that “yes, it is absolutely required to take that much blood” … I wasn’t really in any place to argue at that point and agreed.

This is how the hormo-pocolypse, as I am affectionately calling it, of 2015 started.

I thought maybe it was my stupid malfunctioning thyroid again. I gained 30 pounds in 2 years, subsequently around the time I divorced the ex and met the (now) wife. I noticed my ass got saggier, my belly tubbier and my arm fat floppier.

Whatever. It happens sometimes.

So I started hitting the gym. I was eating salads and working out nearly every day after work for weeks straight. Still no budging on the scale. Sure my ass lifted, my belly got a wee bit smaller and my arms flapped a tad less.

but still.

I was not budging on the scale.
Not at all.
It was depressing.

It was to the point of “screw the gym, I will eat Burger King if I want to”, cause what’s the point. It was literally depressing.

I made an appointment with a new doctor who boasted about being a miracle worker for thyroid troubles. The doc asked me a bunch of weird questions, and I answered the best I could.

It went mostly like this:

Him: Are you depressed?

Me: Well, maybe, I can’t lose any weight (I look like a cow in a dress) and that makes me sad.

Him: Are you having trouble sleeping?

Me: No. Yes. I don’t know. I want a nap right now. I want to sleep as much as possible? It stops me from crying and eating.

Him: How about sex? Desire? Do you find you orgasm easily?

*Long pause*

Me: Yeah, no problem there, still a newlywed and all. So … yeah. I’m good besides the possible depression and desire to hide my body under the cover of total darkness and long underwear layered with flannel PJs

Doc asks me a few more odd questions and writes the answers furiously on my symptom sheet. He may as well be drawing a stick figure or writing his lunch choices.

I don’t know what he was doing but it was an uncomfortably long period of time listening to him scribble.

After what seems like a year to take all those investigative symptom probes and turn a possible diagnosis, he finishes.

Finally he looks at me with a tilted head and eyes over his glasses, in a very matter of fact way, and advises we will discuss my test results at my next appointment.

I was feeling skeptical.

No prescription except some supplements. No diagnosis. No feel better miracle. No nothing but more questions to float around in my head and pants that still don’t fit. and may never at this rate. What the hell did I just pay for?

Then came my lab results sheet in the mail. I was eager to see what they said. Kind of like a report card in a sealed envelope for an elementary student. Could be good could be bad. Could be real bad. I couldn’t wait the few hours to see them and I made the wife open the mail and take a photo to text me. Technology is pretty awesome sometimes.

I was slightly alarmed by what I could see and I hit up Google faster than you can say Web MD. It was worse than I thought. I was clearly going to die, and probably soon, based on what I was reading.

I didn’t know how I would make it to my follow-up appointment to see what I should do now. What I needed, what kind of medication I would need and how my life might change.

Finally my appointment day came around and I waited nervously in waiting room. I was called back and sat patiently waiting to see the man with all the answers. I considered grabbing my chart from the door and reading it myself but I wasn’t sure that would lead me any more near the answers I was seeking.

He came in, sat down and gave it to me straight. No frills. No hand holding.

He told me my pregnenolone was almost non-existent.

If you aren’t familiar, pregnenolone is a major building block for other hormone production. It is like the granny in a family of hormones. It doesn’t give hugs and bake cookies but it’s a big deal. This stuff helps with memory, fights the effects of aging, fights depressive moods and assists in what seems like every other important function in the body. Seriously important, mental health, stress and depression kind of important.

I had almost none. Probably just enough so that I knew my name everyday but that is about it. I really don’t know how I was getting along at all. This explained everything.

The really frightening part of all of this is that had I not received a diagnosis I may have been suffering from “irreversible diminished mental capacity by age 60”.

Yeah.
Whoa. 

The rest of the doctors words were more harsh than I will share here, but they are my reality.

I cried when I left the doctor’s office, I didn’t even make it to the car before the tears started to flow.

I cried when I told my wife.

I cried quietly in my office later that day.

I cried when I thought about talking about it to anyone else at all. It has taken me some time on medication and a new sense of self-awareness to decide to write about my diagnosis at all.

It’s not been easy, it wasn’t all funny and it’s not always going to feel like something I can share.

I will share this with you, I knew something was clearly wrong with me and I should have seen a doctor much earlier.

Even if my diagnosis wasn’t what I expected.

Even if it proves I’m not perfect. Lets me honest, that’s the worst part. I thought I was invincible. I’m not hanging up my cape but I got a bit of a reality check.

My goal here is to encourage everyone to trust their instinct. If something doesn’t seem right with you or your spouse, your kid, your parent or even a friend, tell them to see a doctor about some blood work.

Tell them to get off their ass and go see their doctor for help – it will all be worth it.

Life is way too short to not live it … and laugh about it whenever possible.

I would love to hear from others with the same or a similar diagnosis – if your body is showing you who is boss and refuses to produce necessary hormones lets talk. or trash talk, whatever makes you feel better.