Sunday, October 22, 2017

It gets in your head

Since getting that original melanoma diagnosis, I’d wondered if I would be freaking out over any new blemish or spot on my skin. See, the problem is I don’t actually know what that melanoma looked like. It was on my back, basically between my shoulder blades and centered on my spine. That’s not a spot I see every day. Plus, my dermatologist warned me that the normal A B C D E signs of melanoma wouldn’t really apply to me because of my moles, and I guess because of how the one spot looked. So I’m not at all sure of what should be flagged and what shouldn’t.

When I put on make-up in the mornings, I use a small magnifying mirror. I wear reading glasses but of course you can’t actually wear reading glasses and put on eye make-up, or if you can I haven’t figured out how that works. Two weeks ago, I noticed a small dark spot at the lash line on my right eye lid. Hmm, I thought, maybe I didn’t remove my eye make-up thoroughly enough . . . I decided to scrub harder the next morning, and check again. The spot was still there. So I thought OK, this is a little alarming—I’ll scrub harder one more morning and check again. Still there.

I called my dermatologist that morning, and they squeezed me in that day. Fortunately, the spot is benign, but until I got that news I’d been wondering how on earth it would be removed and then reconstructed if it had been melanoma? After all, the eye lid isn’t very big—seems like a wide local incision would remove the whole thing. That was not a pleasant thought.

As I told my mother yesterday in our weekly phone calls, the thing about a cancer diagnosis is that it leaves this invisible “what’s next” cloud over anything. She herself has cancer, and as she told me years ago when diagnosed, having one kind doesn’t preclude developing another kind. So there’s that bit of fun to contemplate. Plus, at least for me, this has disrupted the way I’ve always thought I’d end up going. There’s a pretty strong history of blood cancers in women on my mother’s side of the family. I figured I’d end up with one of those, and I guess I still might. But for now I have this melanoma to pay attention to, and to watch for. Only I don’t know what it looks like on me.

I go back in February for my next screening. I’m going to ask for any examples of what he removed from me. And if he needs to do any scrape biopsies, I'llask to see what it looks like before he removes it. That’s all I know to do.

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