About a year and a half ago, I hurried in to see a dermatologist for what I was sure was a melanoma. It was a shiny, black spot on my forearm that I had not noticed before. Ever since my sister was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma almost nine years ago, I've been keeping a close eye on my skin and this new, sinister-looking spot had me worried. After (not even really) diagnosing me with nothing more than black spot poison ivy, the dermatologist said he didn't want to see me back in his office for another six years. Six years? I remember thinking...even with a first-degree relative with a history of melanoma?
I figured I would go back, though to a different doctor, for regular skin checks anyway, despite his recommendation. In the meantime, I noticed a mole on the top of Molly's scalp. It is flat and even and light in color, but I wanted a dermatologist to take a peek at it out of an abundance of caution, so I went ahead and made a couple of appointments for this morning.
After a brief run-down of my family history with skin cancer, the (new, and lovely) dermatologist began her head-to-toe exam on me, before checking out Molly's mole.
She shined her big, bright, fancy light on my face and immediately said, "It looks like here we have some basal cell skin cancer."
Um. Wait. What?
"There are also a few very faint 'wisdom spots,' which are perfectly normal..."
"Um, hang on. Going back to the skin cancer?!"
So, apparently, I have skin cancer. But if you're going to get skin cancer, basal cell skin cancer is the kind you want. It is slow-growing and very unlikely to metastasize. It can be removed surgically. She will do a biopsy of the area to confirm that it is, in fact, basal cell skin cancer but, based on her diagnosis by sight, she is "certain" it is.
In about a week, once the biopsy results come back, she will refer me to a Mohs surgeon, who will perform a special, microscopically-controlled surgery to remove the skin cancer. The cancerous skin will be removed layer by layer and then analyzed to ensure that a clear margin of tissue is removed around the cancerous skin tissue. It will be fine. I will be fine.
And then, I'll be on a six-MONTH (not six-YEAR), skin-check schedule.
I'm so, so thankful for Molly's mole (which is perfectly normal and perfectly fine to monitor at this point, rather than go through a traumatic removal process at this age). It forced me to go with what my instincts were trying to tell me all along: Have yearly skin checks.
And wear sunscreen!
I will. And so should you.
Getting older sucks.