Saturday, April 16, 2011

Living in the Moment

It's hard to do but maybe living is better than all that waiting

I'll be posting my next Star Tribune blog in the next couple of days. It has to do with waiting. Waiting is one of the hardest things to do, and also the most stressful. Sometimes we have no control over the way things turn out or the end result of something. Yet, we always seem to think we have all the control and easily let the worry(ing) eat us alive. We seem to forget that sometimes we need to let go (and let God) in order for the problem/fear to work itself out. I know I'm guilty of it. 

For instance, I had a mole cut out on Monday. No bigs, right? We all have moles removed now and then, right? Well, it kind of was a bigger deal. I took two years off from seeing the skin doctor. ----> insert stupid button here <----- I tan incredibly well. Friends think my skin is made of special sun-soaking material. My family says I inherited my grandpa's skin. That's good because, boy, do I love the sun. It feels good on my face. I'm happier when the sun is out, even more when I'm laying out. For once I finally feel warm when I'm basking under it. In my mind I think I'm invincible. There isn't any family history of anyone dying from skin cancer, that I know of...well, okay, my mom had two spots of pre-cancer found on her face. That was my first warning sign. And the fact I have blue eyes, blonde hair and fair skin was the next.

But I guess I pushed that aside. The sun loves me and I love it. But my last visit to the skin doctor kept popping up in my mind. He stopped on a mole located on my breastbone and told me to keep an eye on it. Since then, I have but it didn't sound so serious. If he was really worried, he would have shown more concern, right?

Since that visit, I've been to St. Lucia, Mexico, California, and Arizona (three times), and sure enjoyed all that sunshine. My husband kept pointing out the mole though. And when we found out the horrible news that our dear friend Erin was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma, Karl practically yelled at me to get in to see the doctor. For a night I tossed and turned and felt bothered that he was so mad, but I knew why. He cares.

Fun in the sun! I was wearing sunscreen! Sun is brutal in Mexico!
I made my appointment and both the nurse and doctor didn't think my tanning habits were very funny. I undressed. Laid on the table and the doctor scanned every inch of my skin. Of course she just had to stop on the mole that's been giving me troubles. She said she wanted to biopsy it because it "looked suspicious." That word sounds so scary.

"Can you do it now?" I asked, surprising myself. Now? Did I just say that? I wasn't even giving myself a minute to think about it. Not when I heard Erin's story and how she wished she had her mole biopsied back in 2009 when she felt something was wrong with it. Ahh, intuition. Mine was telling me to have mine removed. Number one rule: listen to that voice whispering and pushing you.

Me and Karl looking majorly TAN in Riviera Maya.
I was moved to another room and laid on a table that resembled the operation tables on the show ER. Keep in mind the only surgery I've had was tubes in my ears when I was two (do not remember) and on my wisdom teeth. I didn't mind that I was completely exposed lying on the table with lights shining down on me. I just wanted the mole off. The doctor wiped some ointment and cloth along my skin and stuck a needle in close to the mole. "This will pinch."

A month before I had just gotten two fillings so I remembered what that "pinch" felt like. And to tell you the truth, it feels worse to get fillings or to give blood than have a mole removed.

Soon she was cutting it out with a tool that sounded like a drill. The smell was interesting, but it was over in three minutes. The nurse asked if I wanted to come back in 14 days later so they could remove the stitches. I opted to have my husband do it. He likes to cut out his own ingrown toenails, so part of me knew he'd have no problem snipping them out. (Yes, I love him for his weirdness.)

Friday, I got home from work and a letter sat in the pile of mail from Park Nicollet. I opened it and saw a pamphlet stuck in the mix. My heart dropped. Crap. They're trying to educate me on the type of mole I have. But my eyes landed on the results: atypical nevus. No cancer. (Huge sigh of relief.) There were more scribbles from the doctor and I couldn't make out most of her writing or code jargon. However, she asked to see me for 20 minutes. So that will be my next plan of attack, as well as always wearing sunscreen (and not just on my face).

Mole, Before (In St. Lucia - August 2009)

Mole, After - buh bye (April 2011)
So my question to you is...have you had your skin checked lately? What are you waiting for? Some of the facts below from The Skin Cancer Foundation might persuade you...

  1. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in over two million people are diagnosed annually. 
  2. Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon. 
  3. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
  4. Over the past 31 years, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
  5. Nearly 800,000 Americans are living with a history of melanoma and 13 million are living with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer, typically diagnosed as basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma.


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