Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Summer is Upon Us!

A good friend of mine posted this to her Facebook page last night.  At first, I couldn't watch it because my family already knows the dangers of melanoma - my dad had stage 2B on his left hand 8 years ago, my mother in law currently has stage 3C melanoma and has been battling it for the past 4 years with countless scans and surgeries, and in the past 9 months,  I have had 3 skin surgeries to remove malignant melanoma skin cells.

Anyone who knows me can plainly see that I have fair skin, brown skin and blue eyes.  I have over 50 moles just on both of my arms.  Having over 50 moles on your whole body increases your risks of having melanoma.  When I was 20 years old and in college, I noticed one of my moles under my arm had changed.  On the next visit home, my dermatologist took a look at it and said, "I don't like the looks of that" and immediately removed it from me.  I had 3 stitches and some antibiotics and  he told me to come back in a year.  The next visit, he biopsied 9 moles.  Thankfully all were clear with clear borders, but he wanted to see me every 6 months.  So every six months, I went to Dr. T and he would biopsy anywhere from 5-10 moles.  You would think that I don't have any more moles to remove!  But new ones sprout up and old ones keep changing...

Back in August, I went for one of my 6 month check ups.  He removed about 7 moles and not even 4 days later, I got a phone call that I had to come back because one on my back had abnormal melanoma cells and it did not have clean boarders.  I thought it would just be a quick removal - well, an hour and about 3 inches of stitches later, a chunk of skin was taken out of my back.  I then quickly turned to an every 4 month patient.

In January, I went back again and two more spots turned up.  One on my leg and another on my back.  The leg one scared the doctor so much that when he called me personally to come in, and I said to him, "Well, I could come next week..." He interrupted me and said, "I am canceling my appointments for tomorrow with other patients and I will see you at 7am.  You can't wait a week."  Again, an hour later and about 2 1/2 inches of stitches on my upper thigh, he sent me on my way.

The one on my back was moderate atypia, but it didn't have clear borders - so he took that one off about a month ago.  I use to be so scared of needles growing up, but since having these biopsies, it doesn't really phase me.  My pain threshold has increased after having 2 kids and 4 surgeries (two to have them, my lovely gallbladder and a hernia repair)...but this last one hurt.  It hurt so bad because it was close to my spine and hard to get the nerves right.  He had to stop twice to readminister the lidocane.  I've never cried in his office, but throw in a few bad stressful work days and sick kids and knowing for the third time in 9 months I was going to have another scar across my body - I lost it.  Dr. T stopped his surgery and held my hand.  I don't know what he said to me to help me calm down - but he did say that since him knowing me for the past 20 years (thanks teenage acne!), I had never cried in his office and it was ok for me to be upset.

Dr. T is a crazy guy - anyone who goes to him either thinks he's a quack or a nut job.  I do think he's a nut job, but he's a nut job that is excellent in his field.  He doesn't do the latest lazer treatment or botox - no he will tell you that his job is finding skin cancer and saving lives.  He tells me that I'm one of his top 20 patients and he has dedicated his life to making sure people like me don't end up with skin cancer.  I'm very lucky to have him as a doctor - and grateful that he looks after my husband, my parents, my brother and many friends. 

Soon, he will start seeing Big Girl - she has the same light brown hair with golden streaks that I had a child.  The same big blue eyes and fair Irish skin, and already has 10 moles.  Little man is mole free for now - however with his white blond hair, blue eyes, and skin the color of snow - he will be visiting as he gets older too.

So my friends, summer is upon us -  I didn't have my sunscreen with me at school on Friday and I got a little burn being outside for 20 minutes during recess duty..  I now have sunscreen at work.  I have replenished the sunscreen at my kids' daycare and signed the permission slip that it's ok for them to apply sunscreen.  We will lather up daily when we go outside.  Please do the same for yourself and your children.

I get to see Dr. T on Thursday morning...bright and early at 5am (See, I told you he was nuts).  I'll keep you posted.