Just a few short weeks ago after a follow up appointment with my radiation oncologist, I got an unexpected call from my dermatologist wanting me to come in. I’d had a thingo removed from the back of my leg; a thingo he was sure was a harmless dermatofibroma but given my experience with cancer I insisted he remove it anyway. He was happy to oblige.
It turned out that little thingo was invasive melanoma. Now, for a ghastly white girl with porcelain skin that burned like a mofo as a child before sunscreen became mainstream, melanoma makes more sense than breast cancer but FFS. TWO different cancer diagnoses in less than a year? I barely had my requisition for my 6 month post-treatment mammo-slam in my hands and hadn’t even booked that appointment yet. Talk about a One-Star Shit Parade.
It also turned out that Melly (I named it of course) required additional surgery. Not just a bit of freezing in the leg & be done with it, but proper surgery where they knocked me out, taped my eyes shut and removed a couple of lymph nodes from my leg as well. When initially removed at the dermatologist & sent for biopsy, if melanoma measures 1 mm or less it’s considered gone. You have follow up appointments every 6 months and after 5 years without episode you’re considered cancer-free. Melly measured in at 1.1 mm. How lovely.
That .1 mm just barely pushed me into a category requiring surgery cutting a large area around Melly’s former home on my calf and removing a chunk of flesh (certainly not Merchant of Venice pound of flesh-esque but big enough!) along with two more lymph nodes to send for biopsy (because really, who needs lymph nodes, right?! ). This all happened very quickly. I saw my surgeon on a Monday morning and had my surgery the following week on Tuesday. And now, we wait for biopsy results for the lymph nodes. Although it required these steps it is still considered very early for diagnosis, and cells were reproducing at a very slow rate (pathology is fascinating AF, really). My oncologists said the chances of this being completely done with surgery alone are excellent.
Although waiting sucks and so does the fear that creeps in, there are a few good things about having been through the experience of cancer previously. Experience brings wisdom. This time, I haven’t told my mom about it because last time she told me I was going to die, and I’m not sure any good could have come of that for either of us. I know that something in this very early stage is highly unlikely to become anything life threatening. I know I’m in great health otherwise and am doing everything I can to be well. And I know for sure it’s important to celebrate each victory as it arises and experience it instead of just waiting for a grand prize and ignoring the gifts in each of these moments. Moments like getting through surgery without any complications and recovering quickly and comfortably. Moments where I think about how incredibly lucky I am to have found something so early and being self aware enough to notice something so seemingly insignificant on my own. Moments where I find humour and creative ideas for naming the new scar on my leg. I haven’t named it yet but will be establishing a committee to do so once the area has healed. Only ridiculous suggestions will be considered.
But there are great moments to experience as well – like having my 6 month post-treatment mammo-slam today with results being clear & showing everything is healing just as it should be. Experiencing this moment of now. No rushing, no hurried & insincere interactions in the name of “being too busy” – just experience where you are, for the love of Pete and all things holy. Be here. I promise you won’t regret it.