Four times I year I go to the dermatologist. It’s a big event that I get all worked up about, even though the last three years have been uneventful. That is, until today.
Let me go back.
When I was pregnant with the twins I was a very good girl and dragged myself to see Dr. Williams at Central Dermatology (if you click the link, Dr. Williams is the blonde). I never like to go, but I always do.
I was early in my second trimester and already as big as a house. I stripped down to my underpants and the infamous paper dress, and held my belly while I waited.
When she was ready to see me, my amazing doctor came into the room and we talked about the babies, what I thought their names would be, the niceties.
Then she got down to business, as she does. It’s the same old song and dance. Start with arms and scan. Ask if I’ve noticed anything new. Look across my back. Get out the little measurer thingy. Say big words to the assistant.
When she stopped, I knew I’d be heading home with at least a few stitches.
Only once after being biopsied in the past did I need to come back to remove more from the margins. I survived that first surgery in 2006 mildly unscathed, with a scar that has faded so much that only little children notice it now, when my right forearm is showing.
I was aware that more biopsies were always a possibility, but I figured I had enough going on with my high risk pregnancy, and that whole thing about God only giving us as much as we can handle. I guess He thought I could handle more.
By the time she passed over my belly, which looked, “clean,” and made it to my legs, she’d marked me with a sharpie seven different times. I confirmed this with the assistant during my visit today. She was not with the practice at the time, and her eyes grew wide when she read the number on my chart.
“She NEVER biopsies that much,” were the next words out of her mouth.
The assistant back in 2007 had to locate another pathology container, since the one in the room had space for only five. I checked this too (when I was left alone in room this morning) by counting the little circles on the container labeled Greensboro Pathology; same container with five round slots.
Despite my hesitancy about being injected with numbing drugs that were not tested in pregnant women, I held my breath and let Dr. Williams get to work. It was a tough day.
During the last weeks of pregnancy I had surgery every ten days to remove various melanomas and extremely dangerous cells (that would likely turn into melanoma if not removed). It took ten whole days for a biopsy to be tested, analyzed, and for me to return for a surgery. My final melanoma stitches were removed in the Labor and Delivery Ward by my OBGYN. I was 32 weeks pregnant and the babies needed to come out. I was ready; they needed a little more time. Thankfully they were born healthy, though small, and I was enormously grateful!
The past four years I’ve been melanoma/cancer free. I have seen specialists at UNC Chapel Hill and have been diligent about wearing sunscreen. We believe that my skin issues increased rapidly during pregnancy with all the hormones I had surging and that not being pregnant was probably the reason things calmed down. As a teenager, my refusal to listen to my mother regarding sun protection, and the practice of covering myself with baby oil to be Bain De Soleil brown, had a lot to do with it too.
Imagine my surprise this morning, when Dr. Williams paused and requested her special light and measuring thingy. One of my lovely melanoma scars has developed a blue mark, which looks like a recurrence.
I went through the whole song and dance again, took the shot of lidocaine like a pro, got “punched,” (4mm), and will begin the waiting game.
My thoughts on the drive home were that dealing with this will be easier not being pregnant. But the same old feelings of worry came back. I want to be well for my kids, and my husband, and my family (old and new).
I cried on Brian’s shoulder for two seconds when I walked in the door, but I’m feeling much better now. The writing definitely helps, not to mention the goal of finishing the marathon, which has become a huge part of my life. This marathon is going to happen despite what is thrown my way.
It would be really nice, though, to not have to run it with stitches.