Sunday, April 01, 2012
One year ago today I was at Rockdale Hospital. I had several dr's appts during March that lead me there. It all started with a mole on my shin. It had been there as long as I could remember, but just seemed to look different lately. I decided I'd go to the dermatologist to get it checked, “when I had time.”
The first time I walked in to spin class wearing shorts, a girl in my class who works in a dermatology office immediately pointed at the spot and said, “You need to get that checked.” I called my doctor the next day.
The PA, Katherine, said “that needs to come off” as soon as she saw it. Once they got the lab results back, Katherine left a message for me to call her. That kind of scared me...usually they just leave a message with results. It took a few calls back and forth for us to actually talk. I heard skin cancer and kind of lost track of what she was saying for a few seconds.
She said I needed to come back to the office to have some more of the surrounding area removed. Then she called back and said they were going to send me to a general surgeon. Then she called back and said I'd probably have to go to day surgery and I heard lymph nodes mentioned. I was SO SCARED! I was at work, and having a tough time holding it together. I sent my boss a message on the computer intercom system so he'd know why I was upset. I told him I couldn't really talk about it.
I don't usually go to lunch, but I called my good friend Lydia to see if she could meet me. If you are lucky enough to have a friend or family member who always makes you feel good, you are very blessed! Everybody should have a Lydia in their life.
I asked my husband to go to the general surgeon consultation with me because I was tuning out when things sounded scary. The dr. explained everything that I would go thru at the hospital. She answered our questions and gave my husband her phone number in case we thought of anything else we wanted to ask after leaving her office. We set an appt for Friday of that week to have the surgery.
Our day started early. I think we checked in at 6 or 6:30. They got the IV started then it was just a waiting game for time in nuclear medicine. The nuclear med tech came in to tell us what he was going to do and give my husband an idea of the time line. They had to insert a radioactive solution in 4 sites around the original incision. A scanner would track the solution in my veins so they would know which lymph nodes to check. He told me it would be very painful and to let him know when I needed a break. I made it thru 3 before I asked to take a breather. They said the solution would burn, but that wasn't what was so painful. Because there isn't much give in the skin in that area, it felt like my skin was being pulled off my leg with every injection. After a few minutes, I told the tech I was ready for the final injection.
After the tracking, it was decided that they'd take lymph nodes from the top of my leg. They would also cut margins around the spot on my shin and check them while I was in the OR. They would keep cutting until the test came back clear.
I woke up with a large bandage on my shin, a small bandage on the top of my leg, and very THIRSTY! They gave us information on caring for the wound (I had to leave the waterproof dressing on for 3 days) and a scrip for pain meds and sent us home. I was laying on the bed and my sweet boy Obie (a 90 lb golden retriever) wanted to check on me. Unfortunately, he stepped right on the incision! That was when I took my first pain pill.
I kept my leg propped up and didn't really have much pain. When the dressing came off, I had a 2 ½” incision with staples and stitches. It really hurt for anything to touch it, so even though it looked bad I wore dresses instead of pants. Everything came back clear on my lymph nodes. YAY!!!
At the first follow up appt, the surgeon removed the staples. She said the stitches needed to stay for another week or so. Once the staples were out, the stitches were pulling all the time. It was a long week waiting for those stitches to come out.
I had regular body scan appts with Katherine all year. The first one, she took off 2 more spots. When the lab results came back, I had to go have more of both areas taken off. The next appt: 2 more spots. Same with thing with the labs...more cutting. The next appt: 2 more spots, but the labs came back fine. Then I FINALLY had an appt where she didn't cut me! I told Katherine I was working on losing weight...she didn't have to take a cm at a time!
If you've never had a full body scan PLEASE call and make an appt! Melanoma is very curable when caught early. It's also very deadly once it's progressed. The skin is your body's the largest organ. You need to know if it has cancer cells BEFORE they have a chance to move to other parts of your body.