It’s been nearly a month since I last updated. We’re all fine, nothing terrible has happened; I just didn’t really feel that I could write about the things bugging me (I did a spot of business with a friend and it was a pretty horrendous, eye-opening experience that’s made me feel angry, troubled, insulted and very sad). I find that I can’t write if I try to ignore the things boiling around in my little mind. Worse, if I don’t write, then the things in my head take root and take over. Bummer!
Luckily, something else took over for me to fret over that I am going to write about. About 4 months ago I saw my GP about a mole on my back that I’d idly noticed ticked all 5 boxes of the moley-things that you should see your GP about: it was Asymmetric; the Border was irregular; the Colour was irregular and changing; the Diameter was bigger than 6mm (it was about 12mm); and it was Evolving (changing). I also had a new one below it that itched. Hmmmm… My GP took a very quick look, declared both moles absolutely fine, and put me on the 6 month waiting list for minor surgery to have them removed if they were bothering me. Well, she kind of put me on the list… I think she’d had a tough morning and seemed pretty vacant and woolly; when I asked the receptionist to check how long the waiting list was, it turns out the GP hadn’t got any idea how to put anyone on the list at all, so the wonderful receptionist sorted it out for me. I went away and stopped fretting for a bit.
Fast-forward to a few weeks ago. I checked out the mole again as I do every month or so. Christ, it looked like it was growing antlers! And there were more shades of brown and black in it than in a very muddy puddle. So I went back to the GP’s again, and asked to see someone else. This time, the GP’s quick look turned into a sharp intake of breath, big frown, a longer look, a stare, and an urgent referral (“Two Week Wait”) to a dermatologist. I know I’d gone to the appointment ready to ask for that to happen. But it was still a bit unsettling seeing the words “possible melanoma… alarming… worrying” in sentences about yourself.
As a dyed-in-the-wool Drama Queen and Hypochondriac, the next week was a tad angsty. My appointment came through, for a few days later, at the local hospital. I’d no idea whether the appointment was just for a quick look-see, or if the mole might be removed there and then, or what might happen. I phoned to ask (Knowledge is Power and stops me getting hysterical), but by the time I was passed to the 5th different person, I gave up. The Boss sorted out time off work to come with me just in case I got it cut out and needed a driver home. He’s also being checked out medically at the moment, so I’m sure his work must think that he’s secretly attending job interviews by the dozen, rather than haunting our GP’s surgery and local hospital.
So, at the appointment we met the very sympathetic, professional and reassuring nurse-practitioner, B. He took a full history of the mole’s antics so far, previous sunburning incidents, etc. etc. and very discreetly asked what my natural hair colour was (it’s currently a fading pillarbox red with peach and pink breakthrough stripes). He had a good look at both with a dermascope (?) and took a lot of photos. Then he surprised me by saying that he’d need to check all my skin. Yep: all of it. Oh. If only one of the 5 folk I’d talked to had pre-warned me of this possibility – I might not have selected that particular pair of knickers to wear that morning… I changed into a hospital gown (always reminds me of Caesareans!!) while B fetched a female member of staff to chaperone, even though The Boss and Mini Minx sat looking through the curtain, sniggering and playing Hide and Seek.
Now, I understand why you change into a gown and lift bits of it up at a time for a full body inspection – it’s partly to help you retain a little dignity, and perhaps partly to act as a mental trigger to the medical professional to see the person in front of them as a big chunk of skin with moles on it, rather than a naked middle-aged woman whose husband was right beside, trying not to giggle. Now, way back when I was being induced when I was pregnant with Maxi, a strange man in scrubs came into the room accompanied by 4 or 5 female nurses. He didn’t say hello or introduce himself, and merrily put his whole hand up where a whole hand really shouldn’t go. He left without saying goodbye. Luckily, I’d been expecting him… I suspect that painful event blew all my body modesty valves, so I don’t really get shy about my flabby flesh anymore. So when the professionally-detached B asked me to lift corners of the gown while he twisted and turned to look at other moles closely, I suggested it might be quicker to dispense with the bit of cloth altogether and dropped it before he could say “no”. He nearly lost his aplomb; the smiley female chaperone’s grin froze and The Boss let out a tiny chortle. Mini helpfully said, “Mummy’s boobies!” in case anyone was in any doubt about what I was waggling about. Well, the tiny element of comedy made me feel a bit better, stood there in my see-through, threadbare knickers, looking like I didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘topiary’, silently thanking my stars that at least I’d had a shower that morning. I’d tried cracking jokes, but I could tell that they were the standard ones that the ever-patient B had heard 100 times before, that morning, already.
B explained that he’d upload the photos for the dermatology consultant over in Aberdeen to see online, and that he’d get back to me before the end of the week with an all-clear or whether they’d like to have one or more removed. He then rattled through common questions and their answers, knowing everything that I’d want to ask. He checked whether The Boss had any questions, then we left. I settled down for a 3 day wait to hear from him, but he called back a few hours later saying that the consultant wasn’t happy with the big mole and wanted it cut out as quickly as possible; if there weren’t any local appointments could I travel to Aberdeen? I asked if the consultant thought it might be a melanoma. “Yes” was the simple answer. Gosh. The world shook a little, my inner Drama Queen had a fit of the vapours, whilst the Real World Me just thanked B for phoning so quickly.
The next morning B called back with an appointment for minor surgery at a distant small hospital in 6 days time. I joked that because he’d cleverly booked it for late morning that it meant I didn’t have to worry about the school run – a huge weight off my mind! B spent quite a lot of time carefully checking how I felt, and gave me his number to call any time if I felt that I needed to talk or had any questions. It’s kind of him, but no. Phoning to talk, to a nurse whose specialism is skin cancer, is talking to a cancer nurse. I don’t have cancer; I’ve just got a big lurker on my back that’s getting cut out this Wednesday!
Now, I’m pretty good at consulting Professor Google. I have an MSc, so I can do some reasonable research (eg Netmums and Yahoo Answers probably aren’t the most credible of sites…). It strikes me that it’s most likely that the mole is a dysplastic nevus and that it isn’t a melanoma. And for most of the day, when I’m awake, that’s what I honestly believe. It’s when I wake up at 4am and my rational self is still fast asleep, leaving the irrational, scared, panicky me lying there in the dark, fretting through the What Ifs…
I’ll keep you posted. And don’t worry. Be more concerned about what poor B maybe sees every night when he turns out the light – me stripping off. What’s been seen cannot be unseen!