I was 39 standing in line for the Haunted Mansion ride in the hot Florida sun in Disney World. It was our summer vacation that year for our small family…my husband, daughter, and myself. We were having a great time. Lots of laughs. And even with the heat and sore feet, we were making memories. As we made it under the cover so we’d get a bit of shade, my daughter pointed at my left arm and asked what that spot was. I hadn’t noticed it. Since the age of 29 I’d been going to the dermatologist for annual skin checks and had multiple suspicious spots removed. But all of them had been caught early and weren’t diagnosed as skin cancer. So I didn’t think much of this one either. I had my annual skin check coming up in a month or so. I’d get it checked then. That was the extent of it and we went about enjoying the rest of our vacation.
Returning from vacation my daughter had something she needed checked by the dermatologist. She always had sensitive skin. I made her appointment and took her in. She saw the same dermatologist I did, so once my daughter was squared away I asked the doctor as an afterthought before she left the exam room, “I’m sorry to ask you this, but I have a skin check in a few weeks or so and I just wondered if I should try to move my appointment up. There’s a spot on my left arm.” The doctor was kind about my tacking this on and took a quick look. She said, “Yes, go ahead and see if they can get you in sooner.” I was surprised but dutifully changed my appointment on our way out.
When I returned a few days later, the dermatologist said it was concerning and took a biopsy. Within a few days of that appointment the doctor called me personally. This isn’t a good sign. Doctors don’t typically call personally to tell you how great everything is. What she said next was that I had melanoma and needed to come in as soon as possible to have it removed. I asked if I could come in next week. She said she was uncomfortable with my waiting that long. That got my attention. I made the appointment to return and was back to have her remove a pretty good chunk of my upper left arm and she stitched me up. She would know for certain after lab results if she had been able to remove it all. She then gave me orders for a chest x-ray and bloodwork that she encouraged me to get done right away. And, I did. Off to another floor in the building for the x-ray. Off to another building with a lab where I could get the blood drawn. I had flashes that at 39 my doctor was making sure the melanoma had not metastasized.
Once home, I followed her directions to take care of the stitches. Showering was a challenge. But otherwise I tried to put it all out of my mind. This shouldn’t be a blur but it is. I don’t remember if I was back in the doctor’s office getting the stitches removed or if she called me, but she delivered the good news. All of the melanoma was removed. My chest x-ray and bloodword were good. I was put on a three month skin check appointment routine. After a year I went to the six month skin check appointment routine, and that will be my routine for the rest of my life. It’s been ten years almost. I have not had any more skin cancers removed, not even any suspicious ones. It’s not lost on me that this could have turned out differently.