Sunday, July 26, 2009

Consider this your warning

I hate WebMD. Ok hate's a strong word. I dislike WebMD and all of the self-diagnosing that can occur. For a hypochondriac like myself, websites like that can really ruin your day and your ability to sleep peacefully. However, they can also be does Edward put it?...a drug to me. Totally addicting. Now there's this other website that I've discovered that you can type in your symptoms, putting and or or, and it spits out a whole list of possible diseases! For example, I learned that I could have malaria, really, malaria, all because I experience dizzy spells while I'm on my period. Of course it could also be anemia, chronic kidney disease, excessive dieting (yeah right!), the flu, or hemorrhagic thrombocythemia.

So I was on WebMD the other day, trying to decide if a certain skin issue was cause for seeing a doctor, or if I just needed to put a little hydrocortisone on it and forget about it. (Honestly, though, what self-diagnosed hypochondriac could forget about any ailment!?! We always see a doctor!) Well I learned that, of course, the issue could be life-threatening, even in rare instances, cancer, so I better go on and get it checked! So I made an appointment with a dermatologist and sweated the days until I actually could get in. I don't know why dermatologists can't give you same day appointments. Don't they know that the sooner cancer is diagnosed, the more likely you are to survive!?!

I decided that while I was seeing a dermatologist, I might as well go ahead and get a total skin check. I mean, look at Izzy, hers almost went undetected! Plus Khloe Kardashian gets total skin checks every 3-6 months! Now my real-life friends have varying levels of skin care. Some of my friends get checked every year, some tan during the summer, and one of my friends owns her own tanning bed and tans year round. My mind went back to my 7th grade year when Mr. Spears was showing us the stages of Melanoma. He told us about how fair skinned people are more likely to get skin cancer. I remember very clearly, him pointing all around the room, and saying, "One of you WILL get skin cancer." And my friend, John Knight, (that's right John, I haven't forgotten!) pointed at me and silently mouthed the word, "You." Please keep in mind that the reason I made my appointment in the first place had nothing to do with skin cancer. I didn't have a scary mole or weird freckle that I was concerned about. My problem was more along the lines of eczema, but you see how my mind works.

Anyway so I went to my appoinment totally convinced that my eczema was cancer and the skin screen was just precautionary. For those of you who have never had a skin screen before, it's really not as bad as it sounds. It's not like you're lying totally exposed for the entire nursing staff and waiting room to see. The doctor lets you hang on to some bits of your dignity as she looks at one little section and calls out every freckle and stretch mark (why did she have to point that out!?!) so that a nurse can record it on your chart. Then, there it is, the small, but ever-present gasp, something you do not want to hear from you doctor. "What about this freckle?" she asks. "Oh that's nothing," I tell her, "My OBGYN dismissed that one already as nothing scary." Then she tells me that she dis-a-grees with him. She what?? Disagrees with him?? So it is something scary????? Images flash through my mind of all the melanoma pictures I've seen; pictures of Grey's Anatomy and all of Izzy's suffering; even John, pointing at me, picking me out as the one who would eventually get skin cancer. I couldn't believe it. This is it! This is how I will die. I'm usually not so dramatic. I've only proclaimed that this is how I will die two other times; one when I was in labor with Ainslee and my epidural wasn't working, and I didn't think it was possible to live through that amount of pain, and two, a few weeks ago when I was flying to KC. I don't know why. I was just convinced I would die on that plane ride. See...hardly ever dramatic!

So I went home clinging to may last days, waiting for the phone call with the results of the pathology. In the back of my mind, I really do know when I'm being irrational, and I think that's how I got through those days until she called. I rationalized in my head that chances are the spot really was fine, just like I did when I rationalized that women make it through deliveries every day and planes take off and land safely every day. So I really didn't sit by my phone waiting, and I didn't say my last good-byes. But then the phone rang. It was my home phone, and the only people that call me on my home phone are my mom or the Texas Association of State Troopers. My mom was at work, and the troopers usually wait until dinner time to call and collect their $50 donation so they can send me my awesome decal for my car. Of couse, I've only given that donation one time because my friend's husband is a trooper, and I thought I'd help him out in case he needed a new uniform or gun or car or something, but then my friend told me not to donate to TAST because her husband is a member of a different organization. I answered the phone, and sure enough, it was Candie from Texarkana Dermatology with my pathology report. My heart was racing, my head was spinning. I sat down for the news. Then she said, "The spot is benign." In my state, all I could think was, "Benign? What does that mean??? Cancer? Not cancer? Cancer? Not cancer? Oh why do they have to use real medical jargon????" It reminded me of the time that I was on the phone with Ava's dermatologist, and she was explaining to me that Ava had Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and all I could think was, "Oh thank goodness it's not staph!" Hello! Anyone ever hear of MRSA staph?? The bad kind?? The kind that doesn't respond to antibiotics!?! Yep that was me, breathing easy. Her doctor probably thought I was some kind of an idiot, sounding relieved that my daughter only had Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Luckily, though, I was able to settle my mind and remember that benign means no cancer. Yippee! I'm free! Free from worry!! But then she gave me the rest of the news that the spot did have moderate to severe change in it, and while this time it wasn't cancer, I should consider it my warning! (dum, dum, dum, dummmmm)

So friends I say all that to say, that I would like very much if you would consider my warning, your warning also. Go get checked! Seriously it doesn't take long, and it's not nearly as embarrassing as you might think. If you don't have a dermatologist in the Texarkana area, Antoinette at Dr. Parham's office is wonderful, Dr. Gaylor at Collom & Carney is great (but she's on maternity leave until September), and Dr Young with Dermatology Associates is also top-notch, if you feel more comfortable with a man looking you over. Call, make an appointment, get it done!

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