Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Health Scare

I know it has been quite a while since I have written but I think I have a pretty good reason. I always write about my lifelong love of the water, outdoors and passion about cottages and lakeside living so it was quite ironic that this past December at age 41, I had a melanoma scare. I am 100% Irish and fair-skinned and have certainly had my fair share of sunburns in my life with plenty of freckles, or as my Dermatologist calls it - "sun damage" to prove it. I have been very careful and diligent in the past several years with sunscreen and cute hats and fairly regular visits to the dermatologist for full body skin cancer checks. I say regularly because it had been about 3 years since my last check up so I was not overly surprised that at my recent check-up my doctor wanted to biopsy a freckle that I had developed on the top of my lip that I thought was "just another freckle". I have had 2 biopsies before right in her office for concerns of basal cell carcinoma that both my parents have that came back fine so when she referred me to a plastic surgeon I was a little surprised but went ahead and made the appointment.
I went to see the "best of the best" at Loyola University Medical Center for my appointment and it wasn't 5 minutes in that he told me he thinks I have melanoma and wants to surgically remove the lesion at his soonest scheduled surgery day. Huh? Melanoma? Not basal cell, not squamous cell? Melanoma??? He said "I am very concerned about this" and proceeded to draw with his purple marker the area that he needed to remove as well as healthy tissue / skin surrounding the lesions and that I should expect a second surgery to remove more as necessary if I receive a malignant melanoma diagnosis. I feel like my life just froze at that moment and the next 5 days until the surgery were a complete blur. I couldn't look at my two boys without tearing up no matter how hard I tried to stay strong. My family was amazing and so supportive and I don't know what I would have done without them. Needless to say that after that first appointment with the surgeon this hell finally ended 3 weeks later (7 days for a pathology report after surgery which happened to be Christmas and then the surgeon was out of town-UGGGH) with a BENIGN diagnosis. Thank You God. 
Having grown up with a summer cottage and having fair skin I felt that I was pretty aware of the warning signs of skin cancers but I learned something that I never knew about melanoma. Everything I have heard and read and seen pictures of is the ABCDEs of Melanoma: A-Assymetry, B-Border, C-Color, D-Diameter, E-Evolving but what the surgeon told me after he expressed his suspicion is something I have never heard and more people should know: "You Should Never Have Pigmentation on the Palms of Your Hands, The Soles of Your Feet or Your Lips" and if you do you are in danger of melanoma. Had I ever even heard this before I would have never waited 3 years to get this freckle on my lip looked at! I think now sometimes what if it was melanoma and I gave it 3 long years to spread. I try to put these thoughts out of my head as I am so very grateful to have dodged this bullet and I am just looking forward to living my life to the fullest and continuing to find the beautiful in the everyday - it is truly a gift!
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