January, 2012

...now browsing by month


A New Challenge

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

I never thought a cancer diagnosis could be good news, but that is just what it was, well, relatively speaking.  The Monday before Christmas, my dermatologist told me I have melanoma in situ (Stage 0), the earliest stage possible and the best melanoma diagnosis you can get, if you have to get a diagnosis in the first place! :)

Earlier that morning, I received a call from her office asking me to come in to speak with her and to bring someone with me.  Well, obviously they weren’t planning to give me good news because 1) it’s a very busy office and they fit me in immediately and 2) you don’t need company to receive good news.  For the two hours after that phone call and before my appointment, I thought the worst.  I hung up the phone and called my mom crying.  ”How could this be?”, I wondered to myself.  ”How could God give me cancer again?  How can he pile my family with sadness upon sadness?”

I called my boss crying.  I cried to my coworker.  I felt nauseous and hungry at the same time.  Then I reasoned with myself.  ”OK, Julie.  You’ve been through similar situations before and there is nothing you can do to change this medical fact.  Deal with it and move forward.”

I am familiar with melanoma through friends and acquaintances.  I have read about it online.  I knew when I walked into my doctor’s office that melanoma was one of the most aggressive forms of cancer there is, so as soon as I heard the words “in situ” and “Stage 0″, I was relieved.  The fact that she told me I had melanoma went out the window at that point because I had prepared myself for the very worst.

In situ literally means “in position”.  The malignant cells  have not metastasized or spread to any other part of the  body. Pathologists determined my diagnosis after analyzing  a suspicious mole on the inside of my right pinky toe (see  photo).

I go in this week for surgery to remove the margins, but that will be it…no chemo, no radiation.  Is it strange that I’m looking forward to the surgery so I can have some down time?  I always said one of the nice things about being a patient was that no one expected anything of me.  Not that I want to be a patient…I would much rather live with the stress of trying to fulfill expectations than face the more critical fear of life and death.  Nevertheless, I know how to milk cancer and recovery pretty darn well at this point!!  :)  I’ve already booked my spot on the couch next week and I’ve also requested a homemade banana milkshake.  I’m trying to think of what else I’d like to be spoiled with…any ideas?  I’m looking forward to cuddling with the pups and watching “Law & Order”, “House Hunters” and Lifetime.

The surgery is pretty straightforward.  The general surgeon will remove the margins (they told me this will take about one hour) and then a plastic surgeon will fix the area with a skin graft (having a little fat taken off of my thigh is kind of like a bonus!).  That part will also take about an hour.  Although they said I’ll feel uncomfortable, I won’t have a prolonged recovery.  I just need to relax a few days and that’s that!

So 2012 begins with a small hurdle, “small” being the key word.  They say melanoma in situ is pretty much 100% curable.  I don’t like using the word “cure” and “100%” together though because I feel like it’s flirting with fate.  It has a very high cure rate and I am so thankful my dermatologist noticed the spot.  Now I’d like to climb up onto my soapbox and tell you to make sure you do a monthly skin check.  Don’t forget to check between your toes and on the bottoms of your feet.  Check your head, your bum, every inch of your skin.  Make a yearly appointment with a dermatologist, always wear sunscreen (even in the winter, even if you plan on being inside most of the day).  Just wear it.  Slather it on your feet when you wear sandals and on the bottoms of your feet if you cannot live your life without sunbathing.   And for my final soapbox request, I ask you to watch this video and pass it on.

They told me my treatment for leukemia made me more susceptible to other cancers such as breast, thyroid, brain and skin.  Somehow that just doesn’t seem fair, does it?  Ironically, the same week I found out I had melanoma in situ, the Huffington Post published this article.  They must have ESP!

I’ll try to pull myself away from tv and milkshakes long enough to keep you apprised of how I’m feeling.  I know I’m a delinquent blogger, but that’s just how I am!  I’ll write when I write and you’ll just have to wait in suspense.  :)

Lots of love,