Sunday, September 30, 2018

Not Cancer — Life resumes

Nothing like the sight of the sea and wind-varnished grasses to make
 one appreciate being alive.

During my recent six-month dermatology check-up,  my doc noticed an irregular spot on my upper back.  
It was not raised but was colorful. Brown and red is not a good combo for skin lesions, she explained.

"We could keep our eye on it until your next check-up (in six months) or take it off now," she said.

"Get rid of it! " I said without hesitation.

She did a "shave" biopsy, I asked to take a gander at  the fleshy disc before it was shipped to a pathology lab, where it would be scrutinized for evil.

It looked harmless enough. But I remember another shave biopsy in late 2015 that I'd asked to see. Tiny, pink, translucent.  It WAS evil. Nineteen days after that biopsy, my then-doctor called me with the bad news.

I had a particularly nasty form of melanoma called a Spitz nevus. 

The initial pathology report said it was metastatic, which means it was spawned by a primary tumor lurking elsewhere in my body.

A second opinion called it merely invasive.

For an excruciating month, I had cancer.  Chest X rays, blood tests, surgery, and breast biopsies were bad enough, but the worst part was NOT KNOWING whether the invasive devil had invaded. 

I was cast into what I called the Cancer Club in the first of a series of posts I wrote during that time.  I was angry and scared. 

I wrote furiously—my way of coping. I wrote too much, probably. The writing was therapy, and reader responses —especially from cancer patients and survivors—were heartwarming and encouraging.

The best of the blog posts was Back from the Brink - 10 Lessons Learned,  (The other cancer-related posts are linked from that one if you're interested.)

This time around, I was calm, but still worried at the prospect of a bad diagnosis.

However, I knew that even if the discolored spot was malignant, it was being caught early. I  was thinking how lucky I am to have dermatology exams every six months, and a great dermatologist. (Not the guy who waited 19 days to deliver the biopsy results.)

I was relieved, of course, to hear a week later that all was fine.

Presto! Back to the ordinary life for which I am so grateful, renewed in my efforts to live well, be kind, and savor every fleeting day. 

And quit grousing about getting old! 

Posts about earlier cancer experience are here. 

The Blue Pool on Oregon's McKenzie River is like looking into the pure eye of nature,
affirming, once again, how great it is to have the gift of life.

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