Melanoma and Me

This is the kind of post that is scary to write, knowing that melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer. When I got the call, I was hiking in one of the most beautiful places on Earth near Carmel, with two friends, a happy couple who happened to be in town.

“I have melanoma,” I said out loud. 

Thinking back to the week before at my annual exam, I realized the nurse practitioner already knew how the biopsy report would turn out. 

“You need to come in every six months,” she said. 

“OK, “ I said. 

“Is Livermore too far for you to drive to see our surgeon?” she asked. 

“No, that’s fine.” 

When she sliced off the mole on my right shin, she knew it was the bad kind and that I’d be back to have it cut out of my leg, ASAP. 

Since I got the call, I’ve heard from three friends that they have had melanoma, and that it has been years and years. 

A guy in my ski club. 

A writer friend. 

My hairdresser. 

3/4 of us are fair-eyed white people, the most likely to get it. 

My equator sunburn 43 years ago didn’t help, I am sure. The fact that I protect my face, arms and shoulders with a big-brimmed hat didn’t do anything for the mole on my shin. 

I have not been faithful about wearing sunscreen when outside. 

I live in sunny California. 

I am a senior citizen. 

These things created the perfect storm for melanoma. 

My surgery is scheduled for two weeks from today. I need to come back a 2nd and possible 3rd day to make sure there is none left. 

My worker woman asked, “How would they know?” 

“They send it to a lab to make sure – UCSF.” 

“But how can they tell?” 

“They look at the cut under a microscope to make sure they got it all.” 

She still wasn’t getting it. 

“Melanoma has fingers,” I said. 

Others have called it roots. The chiropractor said they need to see good margins. 

I am going to have a hole in my leg. 

I guess that’s better than dying. 

I won’t be able to post this until the surgery is done. Well-meaning people will tell about people they know who died of it. I can’t handle that right now. 

Maybe later when I am resting my leg with an open wound, one that might be able to be stitched closed if they get it all, then I can hear the horror stories. 

Know your A,B, C, D’s about skin cancer. 

A – the mole is asymmetrical – not round. Get it checked out. 

B – the borders are jagged, not smooth. Get I checked out. 

C – the color is not all brown. Two or more colors on the same mole – get it checked out. 

D – diameter – the mole is bigger than a pencil eraser – get it checked out. 

Mine was D. Sadly, I never noticed it under my knee. But the good news is that it wasn’t there a year ago when I had my last mole check. 

A dermatologist is better than a primary care doctor.  

A primary care doctor is better than nothing. 

Don’t wait. I’m glad I didn’t. 

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