Monday, December 3, 2012

Wakeup Call

I've been holding on to this post for a while now, not sure if I should publish it. I'm still uncertain, but here goes.

For months I had been feeling overwhelmed. Working 30+ hours a week, along with Princess' schedule, running a household and going to crossfit . . . I was going from 6:45am until 10pm (or later) everyday, and still not getting it all done. I was over the top stressed out. I kept talking about cutting back my work hours, but instead I just stayed stressed and kept on going.

Then on September 6th I went for my annual physical, did the fasting blood work and found that the numbers prove that my Paleo lifestyle does indeed keep me healthier than my former way of eating. Cholesterol is looking great! Blood sugar is great! But that mole on the back of the left upper arm, well, it looks a little suspicious. Let's schedule an appointment to have it removed and biopsied.

October 8th the mole was removed. October 10th I got a call that I had to go in to the doctor's office tomorrow for results. Uhm, no. You have to tell me over the phone what exactly is going on or I need to come in to the doctor's office right now. The doctor called within 15 minutes. They don't like to do this over the phone, but . . . "you have a melanoma".

October 11th, on to doctor #2, the dermatologist, who does a mole check. Everything looks good. But when we have a melanoma this size (over 1 millimeter, mine was 1.02) we recommend surgery.

October 16th, on to doctor #3, the surgeon. We're going to go out about 2 centimeters from the location in all directions, draw an ellipse and cut that giant piece out of your arm. But before we do that, we are going to have you go to Nuclear Medicine and have them inject some radioactive dye (seems counterintuitive doesn't it?) around the site. Then they'll spend the next couple of hours tracking where that dye goes, using a gamma ray camera, and taking pictures. Once we see where that tracks to (which lymph nodes) we're going to remove those lymph nodes while we're cutting the giant chunk out of your arm.

October 22nd, to the hospital. Not much to tell. The radioactive dye injections sting like the dickens! Going through the gamma ray camera picture extravaganza was no fun and rather claustrophobic. Then on to surgery. I remember climbing onto the operating table, getting an IV and having something injected into the IV. The next thing I recall is waking up back in the area I started in. As soon as I was able to eat rice crackers (thank goodness they had a gluten free option) and drink water and walk around they let me go home.
October 30th, back to the surgeon for a post operative check and results of the biopsy. The arm looks good. One of the lymph nodes looks good. The other lymph node, well, we're not sure. It seems there's a tiny thing (only a few cells), could be nothing, but after passing it around to all the experts nobody is willing to go out on a limb and say it's nothing based on the fact that you had that melanoma. We're sending it off to some guru to look at and it will likely be 2 more weeks before we hear what he has to say.

November 13th, back to the surgeon again to have the sutures removed and to find out what the guru said. And the answer is . . . melanoma and a referral to an oncologist.

November 19th we got some answers at the oncologist office. It was a lot of information to take in. He gave us a lot of opportunity to ask questions. It wasn't until later that evening that I really began to have more of an understanding of what we had just heard. Bottom line, there is a 3% chance for other melanomas under in other lymph nodes under my arm. So we decide, do more surgery to check some more lymph nodes or not. He suggested that if we will obsess over it and lose sleep over it, have the surgery, but if we feel okay about it we can elect not to. We are electing not to. Chances of melanoma reoccurrence are in the 20% range. I have to go for regular skin/mole checks at least every 6 months for 5 years.

The thing is, the guru's opinion of melanoma was not conclusive, but it's safer for him to say melanoma to cover his butt. The oncologist is on a melanoma board of doctors and he plans to share the slides of my cells with them. Who knew my cells would be so interesting?!

When this all started, somehow I knew that the original mole would come back as a melanoma, but I also knew that everything would be fine.

And now, I've cut back my work hours (I am so grateful that I work for such an amazing company.) and I am consciously taking some down time and taking time to take care of me. I'm taking more time to spend with Princess and LK and with friends. I'm doing things I haven't done in ages. I plan on sticking around for a very long time and I plan to enjoy every minute of it.


  1. I'm glad everything is ok. Definitely scary and puts everything into perspective.

    1. Thanks, Secret Mom. Yes, I have a whole new outlook on what's important. :)