Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What would Courage Wolf do?

PS. Wow, I have written this disclaimer too many times. This is the millionth installment of a long blog saga. Start with "Breaking The Ice" and read chronologically if you want to know what's going on. 

The biopsy came back clean. Of course it did. I wasn't really worried; I felt pretty invincible at that age.

My mother on the other hand... I found out later that she stopped eating sometime in August when I had the initial biopsy until my sentinel node biopsy came back sometime in November. She lost somewhere around 10 pounds. My dad was pretty worried about her. Of course, they kept this from me. She never showed how scared she was to me. She's a good mom.

I still remember where I was when I got the call from the lab. Sentinel node biopsy was completely clean. Follow up with a dermatologist every year. No chemotherapy for me. Of course, I immediately called my mom who didn't pick up her phone. Of course. I left a message.

My mom called me back crying. She had been visiting my post-maternity sister in the hospital, which is why her phone was off. When she got outside, she checked her messages and started bawling.

And thus concludes the story of how my mom once saved my life.

Of course, I still get regular dermatology check-ups. I've been naked in front of more dermatologists and medical students than you'd believe. I'm one of those crazy patients who invites all the shadow-students at the teaching hospitals in to watch my exams. They're always interested in seeing my scar: it healed irregularly. Plus, it is a giant scar, which is awesome.

I've had several moles removed, including a Spitz Nevi (which is really hard to distinguish from melanoma apparently and very uncommon) as well as a skin tag that just wouldn't stop growing.

My husband takes pictures of my back to make sure that no moles change on us. My entire extended family has gotten check-ups to make sure they don't have anything. Two of them have had the same surgery I had, while many others have had suspicious moles removed. Hello, runs in the family.

Hello, Mr. mole
I get my eyes checked for moles every few years (yes, there is melanin in your eyes). The eye doctor takes pictures of the one mole I have in my eye to make sure it doesn't grow (yes, pictures of my eye, how sweet is that?)

Moles can grow in the craziest places, in nail beds, on the bottom of your feet, on your nether regions (both ends), in your mouth, or digestive tract.

Hence why bleeding stool calls for a stupid colonoscopy. It all comes full circle and you realize why I had a colonoscopy several weeks ago. Dag nab you, potential melanoma!

All in all, it was a crazy, harrowing, amazing, scary experience that I hope not to repeat. The best medicine is prevention, and that's what I'm all about now. The slightest hint of an irregular border and I have an appointment with my dermatologist.

My friends are super jealous, because it takes many months to get into a dermatologists office around here. But the words "wide local excision" "potential melanoma" "sentinel node biopsy" and "new changing mole" get you a next day appointment. Totally worth it.

I hope my vantage point from the patient perspective will make me a good doctor. I know what it's like, and I know how amazing it was to have concerned nurses, doctors, PAs, heck, even the receptionists, pulling for me. I've seen doctors in 3 states and 6 different institutions related to skin things, and every one of the was professional, caring and helpful.

I know I got lucky, both in my healthcare and my biopsy results. I hope you enjoyed reading about it. And thus ends the longest blog saga in history. I was going to post it all as once piece, but I figured I would never see any of you again.

For those of you facing health struggles of your own, just remember:

Credit to


  1. Haha, loved this. Especially the eye mole (HOW COOL IS THAT?!). Glad you're doing well!

    My brother had nasopharyngeal carcinoma and was in and out of hospitals and ICUs for 2 years, so I hear you on the cancer-hate.

  2. Wow, this was a great post to read with a happy ending. Your mom is awesome! I'm tearing up thinking about it, and how close you came.
    I had a two week scare last year when I was told by a plastic surgeon that I had a basal cell carcinoma near my eye. It wasn't, thank goodness. After reading all I could about skin cancer, I finally managed to convince my mid-40's very blond and fair co-worker to go the dermatologist about a black mole on her face that had been bugging me. The mole on her face was fine but she had a spot on her shoulder. It was melanoma. She only had a few mm's before it would have broke thru and invaded her lymph nodes. I was happy that I spoke up and convinced her to go. So was she.
    You are going to be a wonderful doctor. :)

  3. @apotential - Did you ever post about your brother's cancer? I'd love to hear some perspective on something like that (if your brother is cool with it). I hope he is doing well now.

    @Anon - Good for you! Seriously, you just saved her life. That is awesome because the mortality rate of metastatic melanoma is really scary. =)

  4. Microdermabrasion business is a non-chemical, non-invasive procedure that uses a spray of microcrystals to remove the outermost layer of dry, dead skin cells and reveal younger, healthier-looking skin. I hope you like it.