It’s Not Melanoma If You Can Rub It Off
I worry too much. Perhaps a reasonable person would say I have a right to do so, but nonetheless, it is pointless and it pisses me off. It probably comes with the territory of being an “old CF survivor,” as I have been called. Fifty-three is not exactly “old” in wild-type years, but for a cystic (man, I hate that term) with my original lungs in place, it is ancient. Being a worrier could actually be an adaptive train. I don’t know. I know that when I catch a cold or the flu, I have an exceptionally high chance of landing in an ER, so I worry about being around sick people. When I look at my heart rate monitor and it registers 135, even though I’m barely moving and my dog is clearly doing all of the work as she drags us around the streets of Palo Alto, I know something is very wrong, and I worry. Could I be dehydrated? Anemic? Am I getting sick again? Crap. Who’s going to take care of the dogs this time? Before I know it, in my mind I am lying on a gurney and CF is winning.
I can’t count the number of times that I have wished I didn’t understand medicine. Oh, to be a retired carpenter, or chef, or lawyer! Why do I have to know everything bad that could be happening inside of me? It all started in medical school, when I started acquiring all possible disease states. I’m not alone in this malady; I think it probably happens to every budding doctor. But I took it to extremes. I was surprisingly CF symptom-free back in those days…other than GI problems which I will not go into…you’re welcome. But this didn’t stop me from imagining horrible afflictions. Having the subject of pathology as my all-time favorite course, it shouldn’t be surprising that I self-diagnosed almost every type of malignancy, barring testicular carcinomea. In fact, by the end of medical school, I had honed down every one of my many symptoms to be a form of brain cancer. It really is true…brain cancer could be the answer to any problem. It’s kind of like Kevin Bacon and the seven degrees of separation. Kind of.
Anyway, according to a recent CT scan taken to rule out a pulmonary embolism because the last freaking pneumonia hurt so much, I now get to worry about having lung cancer for three months. The CT showed multifocal pneumonia and mucus plugging (duh…I’m 53 with CF and I was sick), but the radiologist just HAD to mention that he or she “could not rule out” malignancy. ( This is totally Karma coming to bite me in the ass. If you knew how many times I have used that phrase in my path reports…). So he/she suggested a repeat scan in three months and now I get to worry. More.
The last straw happened last night, as I was enjoying the downward dog pose for the first time in over a month (PICC lines and yoga don’t mix). I noticed a very dark splotch (technical term) on the bottom of my foot. It was new, irregular in color and shape, and was in a prognostically horrendous location for a melanotic lesion…the sole of my foot. This little factoid kept ringing in my mind…”Oh God, Julie…a new pigmented spot on the sole? You are so dead.”
I rushed to find my reading glasses, because without them it looked vaguely like a tick…yes, that black…but was flat. With my glasses and under the light, my fears were confirmed. It was no tick. It looked exactly like an acral melanoma. My stomach turned and the oxygen left the room. What a way to die! Wait, CF was supposed to kill me! This was outrageous! I needed to go to the dermatologist NOW. I wondered if they had a night clinic? Ok, deep breath…at least it’s flat. Maybe it hasn’t metastasized yet. BUT NO WAY, I then remembered that acral lesions can be flat and be very bad actors. Panic truly began to ensue.
This is what happens to me. I need to cut my head off. Instead, I had the rather brilliant idea that perhaps I should see if it was dirt. So I wetted a paper towel and began to scrub. Three seconds later, my melanoma was cured.
I realize that this post does not belong on a blog titled “Sick And Happy.” It should just be called “Sick.” However, I don’t really want to start a new blog. It would just be something else to worry about.