Sunday, April 29, 2012

Oncology Part 1

"You have melanoma."  "Call your dermatologist."  "Excuse me, what exactly is melanoma?"  "Please call your dermatologist."

So, I called one of the dermatologists I had tried to get into earlier in the month.  I said to the lady on the phone, "I was just told I have melanoma.  I am supposed to see a dermatologist for a follow-up visit.  How do I do this?"  She said, "I am so sorry.  Everything is going to OK.  Please call your doctor and have him send the lab results to our office."  So, I did.

10 minutes later, I got another call.  It was the dermatology office.  She said, "After looking at the lab results, our doctor does not deal with melanoma.  He is sending your information to a skin cancer specialist.  Do you have a pen?  I need you to call their office right away.  I need you to call immediately after we get off the phone."

Ok, now I started to sense something bigger was going on than just a follow-up visit.  I tried to look up the name of the doctor the lady told me to call.  I couldn't find him under dermatology.  I couldn't find him under any MD listing.  I went to the white pages and finally, I found his name.  It said he was an oncologist.  The word jumped out at me.

Let me give anyone reading this,  a big piece of unsolicited advice.  Once you have been told you have cancer, stay off the internet.  No matter how "sensible" you think you are being, it is not a good idea.  I typed, "melanoma" into Google and my world turned upside down.  I was reading about survival rates, Breslow's depths, Clark's levels, finding hope in spite of a melanoma diagnosis, living with cancer and I had three little children in my house needing me.  I had cancer and from what I was reading, I had "chemo/radiation low-survival rate cancer" and yet my kids were on the playset demanding me to watch them swing.  They needed to be fed lunch.  I had to read to them.  My baby needed nursing.  How do I have cancer and be a mom?  A wife?  The house needed vacuuming.   How do I tell my husband?  It can't be good for his patients to have a dentist whose wife has cancer.  He needs to focus on their root canals.  He has to be a good dentist to keep his practice going so we can pay the medical bills we were going to have.  I had church service to do.  How does a mole on your arm change everything?

I called the office of the "skin cancer specialist" who really was "an oncologist who specializes in melanoma."  I spoke to the front desk lady.  She said the lab report hadn't arrived at their office yet and I couldn't make an appointment until they had it.  I called my husband.  He said, "We will get through this.  Call and ask them to read the lab results to you.  Write them down.  I'll call you when I am done with work."  Again, people are talking to me like I am sick.  Like I have something to "get through."  I just pulled out a ton of grass to create a flower bed in my front yard.  Sick people can't do that can they?  What is happening?

After about 20 minutes, I called the oncologist's office again. No lab results yet.  I called the OB's office and asked to be read the lab results.  And, could they also send them to the oncologist?  To this day, I have no idea why dermatologist number two never sent the lab results.  But my OB's office did and they read me the lab report word for word.  The numbers meant nothing to me (Clark's level, and Breslow's depth, which would come to be my favorite number in all of this and other things that seemed like a foreign language) but I wrote it all down, word for word.

I called the oncologist office and spoke to the front desk lady.  I said, "I can read to you the lab results."  She said, "I can't make an appointment until we get the fax."  I said, "I am mother of three young kids.  One of them is nursing.  I need an appointment.  I need to know if I will require chemotherapy.  I need to know if I will lose my hair.  I'm a natural blond who has never colored my hair.  Do you know how uncommon that is?  I need to know what "stage" of cancer I have.  Do I have to wean my child?   I love nursing this baby.  What about radiation?  I know this is every day stuff for you but my world has been turned upside down.  Did I tell you I have three young kids, one who is nursing?"  Yes, I was talking a mile a minute but dang it, I was scared and wanted answers.  All I had was a mole that itched and looked "funny" and now I have melanoma which happens to be cancer.  There was a pause.  She said, "You've been on the Internet haven't you?"  I said, "Yes."  She said, "One minute."  I was put on hold.  She got on again many minutes later.   "We just got the pathology report.  This is excellent news. Breslow depth is less than 1mm.  Clarks Level 2 but it appears only part of the lesion is Clarks Level 2.  Margins appear to be clear but we can't be sure until our doctor's preferred pathologist looks at the actual slides.  You are going to be fine."  I said, "But I have melanoma."  She said, "But not all melanoma diagnosis is the same.  You are lucky."

I wasn't lucky.  I was blessed.  I fought to get that mole removed.   I knew something wasn't right and fortunately, I acted on it.  Which, truth be known, was not like me.  Again, I thought, "Divine intervention."

Part 3:  Oncology Part 2


Isabelle Thornton said...

That is so scary. Such a scary story. I am so sorry it happened to you.

elaine said...

Wow! I'm so glad you got through it. My Dad has skin cancer frequently. I think I'll go get some more sunscreen tomorrow!