Stunning Pink Flamingos
Picture Credit: Pedros Szekely
There were hundreds of plastic ones on the grounds of the Hospital where I had my surgery in Gainesville!
As you may already know, October is Cancer Awareness month.
So, it is appropriate for this to be shared right now.
My absence from you was not by my choosing.
Since 1988, I having been dealing with a well-known enemy, skin cancer, more accurately Melanoma.
Three weeks ago I finally made the long trip to Gainesville for the appointment that I have avoided for three reasons, for the past fifteen years.
Lack of money, health care and fear.
All quite equal to my mind.
In September with the last payment on our car, money could no longer be one of my excuses.
So, I found a plan and a Doctor and made the too long put off appointment.
I already knew I was in trouble before I ever walked through their doors.
They took four biopsies and sent me home to wait for the call.
It came exactly one week later.
No matter how much you prepare, you are never really ready for that call.
I had four cancers, one level three Melanoma, two other lesser ones and a Basal Cell Carcinoma.
The kind person on the phone said that the level three would be done first with a wide excision in surgery.
The Surgeons office called an hour later and I went the next day for a consultation.
The Surgery and Sentinel Node removal were set for the next day.
There was no time to prepare, just go.
The most terrifying part, other than obviously the surgery, was a procedure new to me, a radioactive injection.
The Surgeon and I had thoroughly discussed this and I reluctantly agreed to have it all done.
With my first Melanoma in 1988, I had refused to allow my Lymph Nodes to be removed, which really angered the surgeon.
The hideous scar and extensive cut he did, left me thinking that agreeing this time to a single excision of a Sentinel Node might avoid a repeat of the first surgery that left me feeling and looking, like the bride of Frankenstein.
That scar went from my elbow nearly to my shoulder, a fact that really made my soon to be Doctor, the Chief of Dermatology at Kaiser in LA and new best friend, very angry.
As he said, and I concurred, if the Melanoma has reached the nodes, you’re dead anyway, so leave them to do what they were meant to do.
Over the next 12 years, there were 8 more Melanomas and 22 other moles removed.
But, back to the Radioactive Injection.
Knowing nothing about this was the worst part.
It sounded simply terrifying and dangerous and scared the hell out of me.
I got to the lab and every single person involved could not have been sweeter.
When it was over, they all looked a bit surprised at how well I had done.
They claimed I had handled it great.
I told them that this was a piece of cake, the four biopsies had hurt a lot more.
Ok that was done, then they took me to pre-op and did the usual things to prepare for surgery.
I kept looking at my arm and the monster that had been a part of my life for more than twenty years and absolutely dreaded what was to come.
Again the entire team was kind, gentle, understanding and made me feel good.
When I woke up, I remembered little.
After a brief tine in recovery, we were sent home.
My Surgeon came to chek on me after the operation and said that he had taken a sentinel node and would not know if the Cancer had spread unitl it went to the lab.
He would call me on Tuesday to let me know the results.
So, we went back to the Hotel that we had checked into for a couple of days to get through it all.
We stayed two nights and came home.
The thing about Melanoma is this, if it gets to your Lymph System, it is pumping the Cancer out to your entire body.
Unlike other Cancers, once Melanoma reaches the Lymph System is entirely fatal, there is no treatment, you are all done.
And as for that new drug I wrote about a short time ago, I was told by the Nurse who did my 4 Biopsies, that it is just an extender, it simply just gives the patient a few extra months.
At this time, there is not a cure, or a drug for level five, or Systemic Melanoma.
So, finally on Tuesday at 1:30 in the afternoon, the call from my Surgeon came.
I held my breath, waiting to hear the words I was afraid to hear.
Thank God, his calming, assuring, voice said it all instantly.
It had not spread, I was clear, he could not have asked he said, for a better report.
It was difficult to talk to him and answer his questions, emabarrassinlgy I was crying too hard.
It was over.
Now, in a few days, the stitches will come out from the operation and then the Derm Clinic Doctor will tend to the other 3 Cancers.
First the two smaller Melanomas, and then the Basal, which will inlcude another new procedure, Mohs.
When that is finished, finally I will become just another regular patient at the Derm Clinic with regular check ups and moles removed as they present.
For the past three weeks I have been to hell and back.
Now I want to get back to what gives me a reason for living, writing on these Blogs.
My reason for writing all of this today, is for one singular purpose, to encourage any of you with moles to stay on top of them.
Please, Do Not make the same stupid mistakes that I did.
Waiting to make your final car payment could cost you your life.
It could have cost me mine.
Melanoma is not like other Cancers, it is a fast, vicious killer.
The most important thing that you can do for yourself is to look at your entire body on a regular basis.
Have your partner or a friend look at the places you can not see.
Any mole that changes color, size or shape could be a Melanoma and it can and will kill you, if it is not removed.
I was stupid, but you do not have to be.
Get checked and get safe.
The sun is not your friend and getting a tan can kill you.
I have been given a reprieve.
I am so very grateful and now want to get back to doing what truly inspires me.
Writing about animals.