Last week, when I stood up from the gliding rocking chair in my home office, I felt a pain/itch on the back of my left thigh. I wandered into the bathroom to check in the mirror and see what hurt (I was hoping I hadn’t picked up another tick—I had THREE tick bites this summer).
Due to the location of my owie (half-way between the bikini line and the shorts line), I ended up using my phone and the three-way mirror above the sink to snap a photo. Much to my shock, it appeared that I had a MOLE! A pencil-eraser sized, asymmetrical mole with an angry red border and uneven surface.
I texted the photo to Pedro—who had left that morning for a business trip, and asked him if he thought I should be concerned. Well, we both know our ABCs of skin cancer, and he confirmed that maybe I should get it checked out.
My uncle died of melanoma back in the 70s. I drove to urgent care (50 miles away). The physician’s assistant on duty took one look at it and said, “Hmmm. I think I would get that checked out by a dermatologist as soon as possible.” He left the room and returned with a 40-pound medical school reference tome. He flipped to the page on melanoma and showed me the photo of typical melanomas—the THING on the back of my leg (which hadn’t been there several days earlier) looked just like the first photo illustration.
The PA handed me an info sheet on melanoma and I started calling dermatologists. At 4:50 in the afternoon, I could only find one open. The soonest emergency appointment available wasn’t until the following Monday—registration day at school. I took it.
I got back into my car for the drive home with images of me hobbling around on one leg and learning to run with one of those athletic prosthesis legs. Next, I imagined all of the bills piling up (we’ve been through cancer once already, so those bills loomed large and real).
My family! What would my family do if I had melanoma?! I racked my brain (and resisted the temptation to research melanoma on my phone whilst driving) trying to remember which was the ‘good’ kind of skin cancer to have—Melanoma? Carcinoma? Neither sounded pleasant. The hour-long drive home went by in a daze while my overactive imagination ran through every possible worst-case scenario.
When I arrived home, I called Pedro and let him know I’d be missing some work on Monday afternoon to drive 90 miles in the other direction to have my mole biopsied. The days seemed to drag by. I spent a lot of time talking to God, journaling, and watching hummingbirds when I should have been writing lesson plans and cleaning my classroom.
I felt at peace. I knew that no matter what that THING turned out to be—God was with me. (click to tweet)
Monday finally arrived, and the dermatologist took one look at my mole and said, “I’d like to take that off.” The mole had changed slightly in the intervening days—it had more red and had gotten bigger.
“Please do!” I exclaimed. “It’s been giving me the heebie-jeebies since Wednesday.” The shave biopsy took less than ten minutes to perform, and the sweet doctor promised to call me as soon as the results were in.
I hate waiting.
Wednesday night, whilst watching an episode of Downton Abby (we’re still on season three—so don’t give me any spoilers) with Pedro, I noticed that I’d missed a call and had a voice mail.
The dermatologist’s office had called to tell me they had the biopsy results (at 7:59 at night? Really? This must mean I have melanoma if they called so late and didn’t actually TELL me the results). I could call when they opened at 8:30 this morning.
Somehow, I slept last night. I had everything arranged—where I would go for staging and treatment, how I would break the news to our daughters (why freak them out until I knew the biopsy results and had a plan?), and how I would be brave.
This morning, my fingers shook a little when I dialed the dermatologist’s office. After I explained why I called, the chipper lady on the other end of the line said, “Let me look up the biopsy results…” and I waited some more.
“Oh, here we are. Dr. Wyatt wanted me to tell you that the biopsy showed a cluster of very bruised cells. No further treatment is needed. Have a great day!”
I may have floated back into my classroom.