One thing that I want to write about on my blog is the chronic disease process from which I am suffering. Its genesis is cancer. Yes, the big “C” word. It started almost six years ago and that’s probably where I should begin.
It was January 2008. During the holidays, I had noticed a small black patch on my upper left thigh that was itching like crazy. In my imagination, I assumed that I had seen a mole or something like a mole there for a very long time and thought that the change was probably because I had injured it by scratching the area to try to ease the itch. Anyway, my annual physical was coming up, and the doctor could look at it and tell me what it might be.
Because of some work deadlines, I put off that physical until March. During the physical, I pointed out the black patch and asked if I should be concerned. By the doctor’s expression, I knew it must be worse than I thought. He looked at it carefully and then asked if he could get me a dermatology appointment as soon as possible. Okay doc, what is it? He answered, “It might be a skin cancer. Can’t be too careful. Let’s get it looked at soon and find out.” So, his nurse got me an appointment for the end of the week.
I went to the dermatologist and he looked at it. I asked if he thought it was cancer. He said, “Well, I don’t know. Probably not, but let’s get a biopsy and send it off just to make sure.” He called in his nurse who brought with her a tray of needed supplies and he proceeded to take the biopsy. I watched the procedure carefully. When he lifted out the tissue sample, it looked to me like it had “roots”. Really different looking but I hadn’t had a skin biopsy before so I didn’t know if that’s what they all looked like. After he was done, he said that he ought to do a body exam just to make sure there wasn’t anything else that might be a potential problem. Afterwards, he gave me instructions on how to care for the wound from the biopsy procedure and said that the pathology report should be back in about three days.
When I got home, I did a search on the internet for skin cancer and looked at images of various types of moles, lesions, etc. One picture really captured my attention. It was of a melanoma. It looked exactly like what I had called the “patch” on my leg. I started reading about melanoma and to be honest, it scared me a little. Well, not just a little, a lot. But, I told myself I shouldn’t worry because I didn’t know what it really was and it could come back as something totally harmless.
The next day I left the office to attend a meeting of the Board of Trustees of Tennessee Wesleyan College. I had been appointed to the board the previous year to represent the hospital’s interests (my employer) in its School of Nursing which was funded by hospital contributions. On the way, I received a cell phone call from my assistant. She told me that my dermatologist was looking for me and needed me to call him as soon as possible. So, I stopped at the next exit and made the call.
As usual when calling a doctor’s office, there were multiple steps. Eventually I spoke with the doctor’s nurse. She said yes the doctor wanted to speak with me and gave me his cell phone number. Immediately my heart started racing. I knew that the news must be bad – doctors never call themselves and certainly don’t give a patient their cell phone number. I called the number and he immediately answered. He told me that yes the pathology report came back as cancer and yes, it was melanoma. He asked that I come in the next day to discuss next steps and I agreed.
So, I went to the appointment the next morning and he went over the report with me in detail. He said that the melanoma was at least 2 mm deep and that I would need to go to a surgeon and asked if I had any preferences. I gave him two names and he said he could recommend no one better and then offered to make an appointment. I went to see the surgeon that afternoon and surgery was scheduled for the following week.
Well, that’s how I first found out that I had cancer – melanoma. Quite a scare but the story was only just beginning. In future articles, I will continue my ongoing journey dealing with cancer and its many complications.