Friday, September 29, 2017

Oak mites, ugh—what are they good for?

(With apologies to Edwin Star) Absolutely nothin’ sing it again.

If you haven’t heard of oak mites, you probably don’t live in the Kansas City area. We had a terrible outbreak of them last year only somehow I never got bitten. That’s not the case this year. Oh my word, those bites are wretched.

You can read about the nasties here and here and here. Unfortunately, they can’t be killed, bug spray has no effect, you can’t see them (they are too small), and can't feel the bite until hours later. At least that was the case for me.. The only defense is to stay covered up and shower as soon as you get inside.
The cellulitis ended up
covering most of my inner arm

In my case, the bites aren’t itchy, oh no. They burn and hurt like crazy and I’ve developed cellulitis around each and every bite. That’s why I ended up going to the convenience clinic at my PCP’s practice, and I’ve been on antibiotics since last Sunday. I’ve also been wearing long tights and long sleeve running shirts on my morning runs. Fortunately, it’s been a little cooler but whew. I’ll be glad when we get a good hard freeze and kill those suckers. Until next year.

Edited to add a photo of my bug and sun mitigation running clothes. These are Cool-Tech, and are supposed to keep me cooler.

Also, a bonus music video:

Friday, September 22, 2017

I'm with the big dog

Years ago, Kent had a dog named Max. Max was part basset hound, part cocker spaniel, sized more like the Cocker Spaniel, but with the barrel chest of the basset hound. He was super sweet but not the brightest dog around. We knew he was getting old, so we got a second dog, Molly, thinking that we’d have two dogs for a while. Molly was mostly German shepherd and pretty big, about 75 pounds.

About a week after we’d gotten her, we took both dogs on a walk. Oh you should have seen Max—he practically strutted with his tail way up in the air, so pleased to be out with Molly. If he could have talked, we were sure he’d have been bragging to everyone: “Look at me, I’m walking with the big dog! Isn’t this the coolest?”

Anyway, last weekend when my sis was in town, she ran with me. Now you have to know this about Amy: she’s always been a hero of mine in the way she’s stayed active, climbed crazy high mountains, gone ice climbing, run marathons. She’s just amazing. I don’t know anyone else who could go run a marathon at the last second when a friend asked her to.

So there we were out running last Saturday and all I can think is “I’m with the big dog! Look at me getting to run with her, isn’t this the coolest??” I was so proud and so happy to be out there running with her.

Before we ran

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Please get checked

TLDR: I had two places on my back biopsied in August during my annual screening with my dermatologist. One was diagnosed as melanoma. I don’t fit the typical profile, which goes to show even if you don’t either, you should get a skin cancer check every year. Also, while I am generally very private about my health, if my story motivates even one person to start getting checked, then it’s worth feeling a little uncomfortable about sharing this outside my immediate family.

Ever had a sunburn?


Or do you have moles?

Then you should get an annual skin cancer screening by a dermatologist.

I’ve been getting screened every year since we moved back from Boston. Well actually, I got screened for the first time at 34 when one of my absolute favorite college professors, one who had a huge positive impact on me, died from melanoma. Because of his illness, I read up on melanoma and learned that your risk goes up for every sunburn you’ve had (it’s cumulative and there are no backsies on that kind of skin damage); you also have a higher risk if you have blue eyes, fair skin, fair hair and burn easily. I don’t fit that last bit at all, so I’ll be honest and tell you I truly never thought I would end up with melanoma. I figured it would be my red-headed husband who only burns, not me. Clearly I was wrong.

When I had my first ever scan at 34, everything looked fine. To be honest, I put the screenings on a back burner and didn’t bother again until 2013 when we moved back to Kansas. Since then, I’ve had something biopsied every single year:
  • 2013—a mole on my hip (no issues)
  • 2014—a spot near my collar bone (no issues)
  • 2015—a spot on my left arm (no issues)
  • 2016—a spot on the same arm but higher up (no issues)
On August 9 this year, my dermatologist biopsied two moles on my back. One scrape was about the size of a dime, and the other was more like a quarter. Both were above my bra line and in toward my spine. On August 17, my doctor called and let me know that the bigger biopsy came back as melanoma, stage 0 in situ. I was scheduled for outpatient surgery on August 24.

I’m lucky. Because I get these screens every year, my dermatologist is confident the change occurred in the last 12 months. And because we caught it early, he did what’s called a wide local excision and took a football shaped section of skin, then stitched me up. The incision is nearly three inches long, mostly parallel to my spine and sort of on my spine. I think this incision is going to end up as less of a scar than the original scrape biopsy was. If you're curious, the reason the excision is football shaped is so that when the edges are pulled together, the incision lies flat rather than puckering.

Last Friday, I got the pathology report; the margins of the removed tissue came back clear. This is good news and means my doctor got everything plus a bit to spare. You want clean margins because this particular cancer can be truly nasty when it grows down below the skin level. That’s when it often turns into the fast spreading killer kind of cancer, and that’s what happened to my professor.

Going forward, I will have screenings every six months for the next five years. If I don’t develop any more melanoma, then I will go back to annual screenings. But I’m realistic—since my body has done this once, I’ve got an increased risk (8 to 15 times according to this site and also my dermatologist) that it will happen again. As he pointed out, now we know my body will grow melanoma. Catching them really early will be the key to me continuing to survive this nasty cancer.

Please get checked. If I weren’t getting checked, then my diagnosis wouldn’t be nearly so positive.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Two more flowering things

And I don't know what these are either. They're both in the front yard.

And whatever the flowering bush/vine is that I posted last time? We saw it everywhere as we drove to Tulsa and back this weekend. I mean, that stuff was on the tops of trees, covering fences, bushes, you name it and that stuff was growing and flowering over it. I guess it's pretty invasive, whatever it is. It's still pretty, though.