Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Biopsy- Again!!!!???!??!

I just called the dermatologist's office and found out yet another skin biopsy came back benign. I should be thankful and I am..But, after awhile, the good news is just so hard to believe.

About 6 or 7 weeks ago, I discovered a strange looking red papule on my ear. I have never been able to resist a good romp with Dr. Google, and he assured me that the ear is a prime spot for skin cancer. I decided to wait a month to see if I noticed any changes or if the papule would start to go away; it looked a little like a pimple. Of course, there was no change over that time. My dermatologist took a look and told me he *thought* most likely it would be benign but that it could also be a basal cell carcinoma. I guess that's better than melanoma (well, of course it is), but I was still worried. And, also, there are those stories of people learning their suspected basal cells are actually nodular melanomas! Of course, the latter scenario is where my mind went first, especially because right around the same time I found this papule, I also found an enlarged suboccipital lymph node (back of the neck, at the base of the skull, right in the hairline). I had this checked by an ENT, and my dermatologist also examined it. Both told me it didn't feel cancerous at all. But still- an enlarged lymph node is the very last thing someone who has gone through months and months of biopsies needs to feel!! Really, the last.

I am truly in shock that this papule came back fine. The dermatopathologist reported that it is a normal mole, and Dr. Google even said that sometimes normal moles can be similar in appearance to basal cell carcinomas so that gives me a small degree of confidence. But, honestly!!!! It's hard to believe I have had six things taken off my skin since February and every single one of them has come back okay. If it's not abundantly clear, I am not a glass half full type of person (ha), and I am befuddled as to why I should be so lucky when so many good, successful, loved people get the worst news and I keep coming out of this unscathed. I know I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but really!! The WHY some high risk people get cancer and other high risk people (like me) don't is something I can't stop thinking about..and that I don't have an answer does lend itself, just a little, to wondering if the pathologist could have made a mistake.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Still Waiting to Turn That Corner

I just can't seem to get past this cancer scare stuff.

Right after finding the bad looking moles, the blackhead/SK pops up. Right after that, I find the eyelid and nose scars. I managed to see the dermatologist, and he is not worried about them so I have mostly moved past them. But, after finding them, I find the pinugecula. And now, there's more.

I seem to have transferred my cancer fear to another cancer. I have some low-level worry about head and neck cancer right now. UGH. I have had a stuffy nose, pressure in my nose and head, post nasal drip, and probably other symptoms for some time now. I assumed it was stress-induced with a little bit of a cold thrown on top. But...I googled. And, you guessed it, these can be cancer signs!!

The post-nasal drip, specifically, could be nasal cancer/ sinus cancer. Of course, the chances are incredibly slim- about 2000 Americans per year will get nasal cancer....But, my thought process is this. I have put myself at risk. (Occupational) exposure to wood dust is a risk factor and, a few years ago, I undertook this really stupid home improvement project that involved a lot of sanding and wood putty and I doubt I wore a mask. So, not only have I been an active participant in really stupid sun un-safety, there's also this wood unsafety...and I used to live in a really old house, my   hubby and I ripped out a floor and Lord have mercy, it probably had asbestos in it!!! My thought process is not in a good place. I spend more time than I need to thinking about all the risky things I have done in my life, all the x-rays I've had, all the chemicals I've cleaned with and put on my skin and in my mouth (i.e through my food, lol, I have never had an addiction to chemicals).

I went to see an ENT about the congestion/ pressure. It was not the reassuring experience I had hoped it would be. He looked in my nose, said my sinuses look fine, and he is worried about the headaches. If they don't clear up, he wants to think about an x-ray.

This is causing conflict. In some ways, I think my symptoms might be psychological. I mean, there is definitely post nasal drip...but the pressure? Sometimes, I feel like I can get it to go away if I really concentrate on relaxing my face. I have turned loony, haven't I? Oh, and I also discovered a mouth lump right before the ENT appointment. Well, actually I have had it forever, but it just dawned on me that maybe I should worry about that too. Turns out, the ENt is not worried about that- it's probably just a mucocele. Another benign lump or bump calling Casa Penelope home.

I'm desperately trying to maintain rationality as I go through this new and unwanted journey. But, crud. People DO get cancer. I need to find a way to draw a line while also having the fears that have popped up put to rest. I might be new to the world of hypochondria, but I vow to be the kind that takes the doctor's "all clear" as all clear :-)

Now, on that topic...I am developing a new dermatological issue. I am noticing a new coloration on my skin. In some light it looks bluish. It's too small to be a bruise. It might be right near a vein (my skin is so light that my veins show up reeeeeaaalll good). It might not even be blue, for all I know. I want to call first thing in the am, but I feel like the girl who cried wolf. I simply can't find something new every month. And, that's what's been happening.

I guess the good news in all of this is that I am handling the worry better than I did before. I think but don't dwell. I can smile and play and laugh and have fun. I'm still not as motivated as I would like to be; I need to make that happen. Hypochondria isn't a direction I ever thought my life would take. I must be a weakling deep down. For whatever reason, cancer has drawn me in right now, but in the best way possible- only at the level of fear and deference (that I know of). I am going to work to get past this but, in the meantime, I'm taking whatever positive I can. Mostly that is relating to diet and our home environment. Toxins are going. Buh-bye.

Friday, April 5, 2013

An Answer on My Eye

My eye thing is a pingecuele. Apparently, it's a somewhat common thing related to UV exposure and aging. Another apparently. Apparently, they are really common in Colorado, where the sun is always shining and the altitude is high and people are always outside. I lived in Colorado for seven years and moved here about seven years ago, so maybe this is the right time frame for these sorts of things to come up. I loved Colorado so very much, but I am now regretting having lived there. I probably never even used sunscreen, either. GAH.

Of course, I am 41 now and- another apparently- apparently, my age is finally showing on my skin and, ahem, in other body parts. The skin and now eye stuff related to UV rays has just been so strange; multiple new skin bumps have appeared in rapid succession. First, there was a freckle right after I got good news from the breast biopsy in early February. I couldn't believe it when a new freckle appeared on my hand right out of the blue. That prompted my self skin check and visit to the dermatologist to remove some suspicious moles. Had they changed since my last skin check 6 months prior? It's impossible to say since I had not been checking my skin myself. But, one of those moles look awful- a huge red ring growing around the border. Surely, the PA would have caught that if it had been there, right? Then, right after getting the arm mole removed, not two days later, I noticed the very beginnings of the SK. And, then just a few weeks after finding out the arm mole and the SK were benign, I get this pingecuela.

I am REALLy curious about the timing of all this. It has to be the world's biggest coincidence that all this happened in such short succession at the very same time I was living through cancer anxiety, paranoia, primal fear on steroids....Did my stress cause the skin to change? Or, does normal, benign aging tend to catch up with you all at once, and this was just impeccable timing?

Anyway, all of these changes just keep confirming the anxiety that I do have, making me feel legitimate in the fear of cancer I have developed. I am doing better emotionally, I really am. I am actually feeling quite good today.

Yet, I know this isn't over. I have the two scarlike things to contend with still, and I can't help thinking about all the other risky things I've done in my life to maximize risks of other cancers-- specifically sanding on two different home improvement projects without a mask. I feel healthy as an ox, but have made an appointment with an ENT anyway (*blush*). While I know nasal cancer is really unlikely, I have had this annoying sinus stuff for months now....I never would have thought twice about it in the past, but breast than melanoma cancer scares have changed me.

Just hoping that I get to experience a lull in cancer fear until my next skin check in 6 months!!!!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why do I get a new symptom of something everyday?

Now there is some weirdness going on on my eye. A strange browish "shadow" around one side of my iris.

Can't really take this anymore.

Monday, April 1, 2013

New Normal, Never Dull

I just wound up my first vacation since melanoma awareness entered my life. My mom and I took my boys to Myrtle beach. Now, the weather was kind of lousy- there was a constant breeze that made being outside less than enjoyable. But, still, vacations involve outside as well as lots of time spent in the car, and this was a different experience.

I have been using sunscreen for awhile now, but never everyday and never for things like sitting in the car. This time was different, and I did my best to make sure we were slathred up and that we reapplied more frequently than I used to reapply. Main lesson learned? I hate sunscreen. I hate the way it feels on my skin, I hate putting it on my kids, and it always ends up in somebody's eye. Always. I mean, I will definitely use it, but I don't have to like it. And, I don't.

I have never been a sunglasses person. I would wear them occasionally, but they are so easily lost or broken, I just failed to see the point. This time, I had glasses basically surgically attached. I was never without them. I couldn't remember if my regular sunglasses were UVA/UVB blockers, so I went to CVS and bought three pairs for all of us to wear. I'll be honest. My kids don't really keep them on religiously. I need to change that, somehow. I really, really don't want them getting things popping up on their skin or in their eyes in 20 or 30 years.

Hats, too. I made sure we all had our baseball caps. We'll be getting proper wide brimmed sun hats for summer, but the caps worked good enough, especially since we were wearing jackets  all the time.

Even taking these steps, though, melanoma awareness has made me hate the GD sun. Even when I am covered, I now feel it burning my skin and eyes. It just feels like an enemy, whereas I used to just lo-oooove soaking up its warmth. I'll be honest. I am not a person who accepts knowledge claims easily and I still can't understand how it's possible for the sun to be a carcinogen. I mean, how did evolution even allow that????? My mind is truly boggled by that one. But, I am trying to accept and not question and just trust that making these sorts of changes can make a difference for me and my kids. I can't see a future without the outdoors in it, but melanoma awareness has made being outdoors such an internal dilemma. Being indoors, too. For the first time, I am realizing that I need to protect myself, even from windows. My dear husband works out of our home and I noticed today the sun streams in right in his eyes. I'm going to have to get the man curtains since I know he will not do that himself.

The effects of sunlight on the eyes is hitting home for me right now because, when I was on vacation, I noticed a strange lesion on my eyelid. It is flesh colored, scarlike, an irregular circle surrounded by blood vessels, and Dr. Google is suggesting this is possibly a basal cell carcinoma. Dr. Google is also suggesting that this might be the worst kind of basal cell carcinoma you can possibly get. The ones that look like white scars are aggressive and root way down deep and can spread to nerves and organs.

I am trying to keep hope alive that this is another benign thing. And, in honesty, some of the features of my scarlike lesion do not match how the morpheform basal cell carcinomas are described- it is not firm, the skin is loose, there is no hardened base.

But, I am also aware that cancers don't really care about the memo. They present how they present, whether the textbook likes it or not. I have had moments of terror because, if this is a basal cell, it is right on my upper eyelid, and I will be deformed at the very least when they go to cut it out. I could also lose an eye. I have no idea how long this thing has been there, but it isn't small. I mean, it's definitely bigger than a pencil eraser. Dr. Google tells me the eyelid is also a very common spot for skin cancers. Even though it isn't a possible melanoma, I am still scared about what it could do to me, my face, my eye, my life.

I also have a strange little scarlike thing on the tip of my nose. Yup, never a dull moment, I had had a dermatologist appointment scheduled for April 9. I'm not sure how I'm going to wait.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pathology In

I am cancer-free!

This has been a harrowing experience and, even though I don't have melanoma, I still feel so moved and touched by the disease.  I want to get involved in fighting it, somehow-- even if it's just donations to research a cure and preaching it far and wide about keeping your skin nice and pale.

I was really surprised to learn that my arm mole came back NORMAL. There weren't even atypical cells. That mole had been keeping me up at night because it seemed to be sliding out of it's border and had three colors. So, perhaps the lesson is you can't judge a book by its cover. Get it tested? YES. But also go into your biopsy knowing that moles can look like H-E- double hockeysticks and still be normal!

Mr. Blacky was a seborrheic keratosis, or age spot to you and me. I've never been so happy to be reminded that I'm getting as old as dirt.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spilled the Beans

Unfortunately, I have had more than one cancer scare in my life. Most have been moles but, in January, I found a breast lump and lived through that process (resulting in a surgical excision of an ultimately benign adenosis) as well. 2013 has been a constant cancer scare.

My MO is NOT to tell people until results are in, especially not my parents. They are worry- warts. They are pessimists. They get long faces. They pick out your coffin (And, no, now is not the time to talk about apples falling from trees :-) )

Now, my mom and I have had a trip planned for Spring Break, which starts this Friday for my boys. We were going to take them to Myrtle Beach. The plan was to drive separately since my parents and I live in different states. So, my mom- who is pretty neurotic about everything, not just health- has been calling me repeatedly to ask if I've "thought more about Myrtle Beach" (especially whether I was going to leave Friday or not). I've been putting her off and putting her off. But today, I just blurted out, "Listen, I'm being tested for melanoma, and I'm really not thinking much about the trip." GAH.

Her voice got grave. I started tearing up. She has been around the melanoma block with my sister. I didn't have it in me to talk long, but she asked if I would let her know when I got my results. Well, duh, of course I will let you know!!!!

We got off the phone and she called my sister immediately because SIS called me not 5 minutes after my mom hung up. I learned more about her melanoma than I ever thought to ask before. Hers was a pink one. It had started out darker and lightened. For three years, she had been concerned about it, but multiple doctors told her "Nothing to worry about." She finally found one who agreed to biopsy it, and that dermatologist also thought it would be nothing. But, it wasn't nothing. It came back melanoma.

The doctor called her personally and, with absolutely zero compassion or bedside manner, just said, "You've got malignant melanoma and will need to come back in for an appointment." She asked what that meant, and his answer was, "Well, usually if you get one, it means you'll get more." That was his answer. YIKES.

It turns out, the one she had been watching for three years was still in situ. Because she had worried about it for so long, she really thought it was going to be advanced, and her daughter was only one at the time. I remember she called me at that time, really shaken up about dodging the bullet and how much she had feared leaving her child without a mom. I TOTALLY didn't get it at the time. I was dismissive and compared her experience to my experience with a mole removal. UGH. Kinda embarrassed and miserably sorry about that now.

Do I feel better after talking to SIS? Yes and no. She said that, for what it's worth, she has a lot of moles that sound like the one I had taken from my arm. She asked if I have other moles that look like it, but I don't. I'm still feeling like it could go either way. And, the blackhead thing? That one is still throwing me for an enormous loop.

I am now on day eleven from getting the arm mole removed, and i can't understand why I don't have my results. My sister said that happened to her once. One of her moles needed to be sent to a second pathologist because it was a borderline melanoma case. That caused the delay. If that is the cause of MY delay, well, I'm not feeling so great about that.