It all started with a mole.
A mole that turned into cancer.
That is what took my husband's life. Melanoma.
Many people think that the absence of a black mole means they don't have cancer.
That isn't true.
Melanoma doesn't need a mole. Melanoma doesn't even need to see the light of day. It can crop up anywhere, at anytime, and look completely innocent. In between your toes? It can go there. Armpit? It can go there too.
It can be a small pink bump. Don't let those disgusting pictures of asymmetrical oozing black moles fool you. Melanoma doesn't always look like that.
Ryan's looked like a pencil eraser. Smooth. Completely symmetrical. Light pink. Nothing like the bleeding sores on the poster in the doctor's office.
A couple weeks ago I went to the dermatologist to have a mole removed. Not because it didn't look right, just because my bra rubbed against it and it bothered me.
Going into this office was emotional. This was not the doctor who found Ryan's cancer, but this is the one he went to for all his checkups and burning off of little spots on his arms here and there. He had been there dozens of times, so walking into the small waiting room brought all kinds of emotions to the surface.
There are only six chairs. I wonder which one Ryan sat in?
This magazine is six months old. Did he read it?
Really? I have to check the "widow" box on my registration form??
Going into the exam room was equally emotional. Ryan has been here. What did he look at in here. What was he thinking about? Why didn't I go with him?? I went to ALL his appointments. Why didn't I go to these?
Well, she took the little mole off and then she sent it off for biopsy, but I'm not worried. I'm sure it will be fine.
But as I was getting up to LEAVE, raising myself off the table, the doctor says, "WHOA! How long have you had THAT mole?"
"Ummm...forever." As I reached back to feel the mole I've had since I was born.
"No, not the one you can feel. THIS one. I don't like the color, or the hazy edges."
It was in the middle of my lower back. When was the last time you checked out the middle of your lower back? I don't know about you, but I avoid looking so closely at myself in the mirror.
She takes pictures. She measures it. And then she sits to have a conversation.
"We can wait a month and see if it changes."
"Take it off. Now." There was no conversation needed.
"Good decision." She takes it off and gets it ready to send to the lab.
So I spent the week waiting to hear if I have cancer.
Really, fates? Really?
I told a few close friends about it, and they assured me that everything will be fine. Unfortunately, my mind can't negotiate that word very well anymore. "Fine." Things don't always work out "fine." I'm a living, breathing testament of that.
I got the call the mole under my breast was benign.
But the mole on my back came back "inconclusive." I would have to wait another week for the labs at the University Hospital to give a second opinion.
So I was waiting for days to find out if I had the same cancer that took my husband away from me. Can my life BE any more made-for-TV-movie??
Longest two weeks ever.
I'll let you off the hook though, I don't have cancer. The doctor called yesterday. It isn't cancer.
But let our stories serve as a warning. Have a loved one check you over. Have a loved one take a picture of every mole, every mark, every pink spot on your body. Keep them in a folder on your computer, and update often. Measure them. If the grow, or change in color or size or texture or anything, or if they FEEL different, go to the doctor. Ryan had a mole checked out less than a year before his initial diagnosis. It was cleared as fine. But it CHANGED. It TURNED INTO cancer. And that is why you need to pay attention. It's Valentines Day, while you're getting cozy with your honey, check out their skin. I'm sure you can make it fun!
Catching skin cancer early makes ALL the difference.
The difference between living, and not living.
There isn't a more deadly cancer than Melanoma.
Please. PLEASE. Watch this.
I can't write anymore. The tears are coming too furiously for me to see the screen.
Check yourself. Check someone you love. Just. Check. And good hell people: Wear sunscreen.