Monday, November 12, 2007

Derm check-up: so far, so good!

I had my first post-operative dermatology check-up today, and I am SO relieved to say that for the first time in 3 months, everything looks great!

Here's how it's gone:
  • 1st visit: one mole removed = melanoma
  • 2nd visit: one mole removed = "abnormal"
  • 3rd visit: two moles removed = both normal
  • 4th visit: NO moles removed! yay!
When the doctor came in and asked how I've been doing, I started crying. Not a blubbering, ugly crying, but a I've-been-living-with-this-monkey- on-my-back-every-second-of-every-day-and-I'm-tired kind of crying--just a few tears that came to the eyes and a lump in the throat it was difficult to talk over. I didn't expect to have that kind of reaction, didn't expect how tense I've been about this. I guess that's because for a long time I didn't really have a good perspective on what happened to me. Half of me felt like it was a really big deal; the other half felt like I shouldn't be so dramatic about it--sure, it happened, move on. So while I was trying to talk myself over it, I guess I didn't notice it wasn't really working.

I was talking about this with a friend of mine at our TNT launch on Saturday (more on that to follow!!!). She's a social worker for an Austin oncology center. She said, "So, wow, you're a CANCER SURVIVOR!" That label makes me so uncomfortable--cancer survivors are heroes. They've battled and fought and suffered and kept their hope through brutal treatments and endless hours of waiting for news, good or bad. That's not me. I didn't do anything special. I got a spot checked out, got bad news, had it removed, and now it's done. When I told her this, she said, "Yeah, you didn't have to go through chemo or radiation or anything like that, but for the rest of your life you still have to live with and deal with the anxiety that it's going to come back."

That was a crystalizing moment for me--the two conflicting halves of my reaction to having melanoma fell into place. Sure, it wasn't a big deal in the "fighting for your life" sense of things, but not one minute has gone by since the nurse said I needed to "come in to discuss the results" that I haven't thought about it. My life totally changed. Every freckle on me now seems dangerous--and I have a lot of freckles! So I guess it's been a really big deal in that sense--the constant, lifelong anxiety-that-it's-going-to-come-back sense. And I guess that's understandable.

That anxiety was only fed because every time I went to the dermatologist's office, he took off more "suspicious spots." I was beginning to feel like a cancer-breeding machine!

Until now! He said that everything "looks great" and told me that I shouldn't be constantly worried or start hating the sun. Which is good, 'cause I don't like worrying, and I love the sun!

Leaving his office this morning, I felt like I could breathe easier. Literally. I felt like there was actual mental space cleared up for focusing on my job, for being more patient with my husband, for having the right attitude going into my next training/fundraising season. I felt more like my old self.

The monkey's not totally gone--I still have a used-car-sized hospital bill that I have to pay that is a constant reminder of what happened to me. And I still think about every single one of my poor, misshapen freckles being cancer in disguise. But the weight is 10% lighter--I finally had one appointment where everything looked great and no suspicious spots were removed. And that feels so good.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

Yea! I'm so glad you had good news. I've got a ton of moles and freckles too...hearing your experience makes me want to keep an eye on them.
Thanks for sharing yourself on the blog; it gives your slacker, disconnected brother a much-appreciated window into your life! Love, J