March 21, 2012

My Melanoma Madness

Sometimes, life feels a lot like this.
Like Old Mr. Johnson's fabled cat, it was bound to come back.

Or not, we'll see.  But at any rate, I had another charming trip to visit my idiot of a dermatologist yesterday.

Why?  Once again, I had a mole that was starting to get funny.  And after calling my PCP (not my OB, not my melanoma specialist), she insisted that I make the first possible appointment to see the old, easier to schedule with, jerk of a dermatologist.

I wasn't looking forward to it, and here's why:

  1. The mole in question?  Tiny.  Just like the last two.  The two he scoffed at, told me were too small to be worth worrying about at all, and then was flabbergasted when they turned out to be... well... cancerous.
  2. The mole in question?  One I'd had my eye on for some time anyway, so it might have been in the notes as "we looked at it and it was fine," which might mean I'd have a harder time getting somebody to listen to me.
  3. The mole in question?  ON MY STOMACH.  That's right- the rapidly expanding thing that's causing all of my skin to stretch.  That's the thing I was insisting that they cut into and put stitches in.

As you may recall, my dermatologist has no bedside manner.  None.  He never remembers me.  This is always irritating.  I've seen him about eight times now, and every time but the first he's finally remembered me when he's seen my back tattoo.

When he walked into the room yesterday to look at my probably-hysterical-pregnant-lady mole, the first thing that he said was, "Hey- you're pregnant."

No kidding, you knew I was pregnant the last two times you saw me... you know, three months ago.

"I saw you last time you were pregnant, didn't I?"

Yes, but you also saw me THIS time I was pregnant.  THREE MONTHS AGO.

He then proceeded to look at my mole, insist in a superior sort of tone that it was tiny and totally benign and there was no reason to even bother shaving it off, when I finally said, "And that's what you said last time.  And that was a melanoma, wasn't it?"

He gave me the sort of looks that can etch brick walls, and then left the room.

I spent a very uncomfortable twenty minutes listening as he, the resident, and the nurse conversed in hushed voices outside the door of the exam room.  I just... waited.

Finally, when they came back, they had my brand new melanoma specialist with them.  I had never met her before, but I am scheduled with her for my first *real* melanoma evaluation in about a month.

She looked at the mole, described it, and then explained that it was tiny, that it was normal, and that I shouldn't be worried. which I responded, "I know.  I just wanted to be sure, because this is exactly what the last one looked like.  And see?  Here's my big ol' scar from where this guy re-excised it because it was melanoma."

Slightly surprised, she asked my dermatologist... "What did the last one look like?"

He couldn't tell her.

I picked up my comic book, and trying not to steam at the ears, answered her questions to my dermatologist, as they stood poring over surgery notes on the computer.

Nobody had photographed my previous moles.

Nobody had written an adequate description of them.

And of course, my dermatologist couldn't remember.

Finally, when she said, "Do you have any idea what it looked like?" I shouted over them,

"IT WAS TINY- IT WAS (holding my finger and thumb a millimeter apart) THIS BIG!"

The old dermatologist turns to me and said, with his eyes huge and round, "Oh yeah!  NOW I remember!  That thing was tiny!  It was, like, less than two millimeters!  It looked like NOTHING!"

It was the melanoma specialist's turn to give a withering look, but not to me this time around.

As she gritted her teeth, she turned to me and said, "Now that I know your medical history, I understand.  And while this is so early in its development that it's unlikely we'd learn anything from it, I think that we should take it off."  She then turned to the resident who would be performing the excision and said, "Four millimeters."

And abruptly left the room.

All of that took about an hour.  The removal of the mole?

Two minutes.  Two stitches.  Done.

I don't know yet if it was cancerous.  It probably wasn't, as the melanoma expert said, "too early in its development."  But it was still definitely changing.  And it was still definitely changing quickly in a way that, in my own medical history, leads to cancer.

The moral of the story?  You have to be your own advocate.  You can't always trust your doctors to do the right thing, all the time.  You have to trust them that they know more than you, but not about you.  Not about your own medical history, not about your own understanding of what is and isn't normal for your body.

You also have to be vigilant.  You have to keep your eyes open for things that change, things that are not supposed to change when it comes to your body.  You know your body, and you know when it's doing something funny, and funny is not usually a good sign when it comes to your body misbehaving.  You have to take care of yourself.  And sometimes, that means dealing with unpleasant or embarrassing situations.

Yesterday, I basically had to bully a gigantic jerk with a scalpel into cutting into my pregnant belly.  Something that I am 100% not thrilled about.

But it was the safe thing to do.  It was the thing that I needed to do to ensure that my children, all three of them, would have me around past the end of this pregnancy.


I totally want to punch that jerk in the face.


  1. wow, that's crazy that you had to go through all that. the title of this post is very fitting! i mean, it's a good lesson- that you have to watch out for yourself- but hot damn that's crap that such things happen in doctor's offices.

  2. That's right, Lea, you go yell at those doctors. They freaking deserve it!

  3. I'm glad you can stand up for yourself. That would be so frustrating, though!

  4. A majority of documented melanoma infection originates in the skin. It is a skin cancer. Melanoma is also known as malignant melanoma or cutaneous melanoma. It is curable, but an early diagnosis and treatment is very important.

  5. it's a good lesson- that you have to watch out for yourself- but hot damn that's crap that such things happen in doctor's offices. STC Technologies

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