Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Many Emotions of Just One Day in Melanoma Land

I am an emotional person. I wear my heart on my sleeve. When I get excited, I talk loud and I use my hands. When my husband asks why I’m yelling at him, I tell him, “I am not yelling. I am passionate about this topic, so I get louder.  Remember I am half Latina.” 

Mr. LSM:  What does that mean?
Me:  It means what it means.

Then I walk away..and lower my voice.

I am emotional.   What can I say?

 (I can proudly admit this because my husband rarely reads my blog. He will never see this, therefore technically, I have never admitted it.)

So you can imagine, since being diagnosed will melanoma, I've become even more emotional, especially when visiting with my doctors. 

After my last appointment with my surgeon, prior to my ultrasound to recheck my enlarge lymph node, I was told “If they stick a needle in you, you come back. No needle, we see you in 3 months.”  So when I didn’t get a needle stuck in my neck, I figured I didn’t need to go back. But last Friday, I called to be safe, because you can never be TOO safe when it comes to your health.  They said the doctor did want to see me. That made me a bit nervous, until I got a letter on Saturday, from my doctor, saying that he would be leaving at the end of the month to pursue other challenges and opportunities.  I figured that was probably why he wanted me to come in. My relief quickly disappeared though as I realized- he is leaving at the end of the month.

Then on Monday, I was just too busy to think about anything, until I got to the office.
Until I was a patient, I had never been to a cancer center before. As most would imagine, most of the people are older, so I always feel a little awkward and out of place.  As I look around, I see my grandparents in these people’s faces, even my parents, and then I think, Oh my God, I am here, too. I am a patient like them.

Today, there was only one person in the waiting room with me. She was called back as soon as I sat down, and I was called shortly after. I started to get a little nervous at that point. What if there WAS something wrong and I just misunderstood the lady doing my ultrasound? The nurse taking me to the room was very upbeat and talkative. They always ask your name and birth date. She said I would be hitting 40 in a few more years and was I ready for that. “No!” I answered while laughing, “Are you kidding me? I still feel 28?” Then my laughter stopped.  God ,I hope I see 40.

I sat down with a People magazine to distract my mind, and it worked, because I came across this picture.

Ladies, you're feeling calm right now just looking at it, aren’t you? 

Then I turned the page to see this ad…

Which made me upset. That is the EXACT lotion I used whenever I laid out to tan. SPF 8 so I wouldn’t burn, but would still get dark. I even used accelerator whenever I could. I hated the fact that on this ad, in 2012, they are claiming the protection you deserve. Really? SPF 8 is protection?

I was angry. I wanted to go back and smack my teenage self, shoot, I needed to smack my early 20’s self as well.  If only I knew.  If only I had known what to look for, so I could have caught this nasty beast in an even earlier stage.

My surgeon entered. He came in and said, “The lymph node has shrunk.”  Ah, relief. Then he sat down to tell me that at this point, he isn’t going to give me a neck dissection if my CT, PET Scan, and ultrasound are all negative. Good news right? But a part of me wanted to say “Do it! Take them all out. Please!”  I started to doubt my good fortune.

I didn’t say that however. What I did say was, “I received your letter, and I am very sad that you are leaving.”  He explained that he felt bad leaving his patients, but he was offered a great and challenging opportunity. How could I be angry at that? The man has a gift. If he felt God wanted him to go elsewhere, then he needed to do that.  But what am I going to do without him? He told me that now the practice was just down to one head and neck surgeon, so she is going to be busy. That worried me. He always saw me so quickly. He was on top of everything.  Then, maybe because I knew it was the last time I would be seeing him, I said, “I am scared. I read these stories about people who have melanoma on their head, and years later it is in their stomach.  How am I supposed to know?  How can I know? You looked out for me.”

And he looked me in the eye and told me, “You live your life. You continue being a great mom. You continue being a great wife. You live. You continue to check yourself and stay on top of this, but you live.”  Then he went on to say that he really cares about his patients, which I know first-hand. He said, as he has said many times before, “When I look at you, I see my wife. You are my age. You have young children like us. I am sorry that I internalize it like that.” And I said, “NO! I am so glad you do. I want everyone to see me as someone they love, because there are people who love me.”

 He then told me I need to make sure I get a CT every 3 months for the first year.  He handed me a copy of my ultrasound report and he shook my hand. I started to tear up. Then he asked if I still had his cell phone number in case I was ever worried about something.  Wherever he is going, those people sure are blessed.

He left the room. Then I walked out to schedule my next appointment, with the other, soon to be very busy, head and neck surgeon. I also scheduled my CT appointment. The nurse who walked me out asked me if I was ok. Clearly, my eyes were all welled up.  “Yes,” I said. No. Make him stay. This other doctor isn’t going to care about me. She isn’t going to worry about me like he did. She will be too busy to read my scans or catch anything in time.  I sat down, wiped back my tears, and made Starbucks small talk while scheduling my next scan.

I was sad in the elevator. I was sad on the way home. I was sad when I got home (until I spent about an hour explaining to my husband that NO, if someone would have told him that they see their husband in him, I would NOT be bothered. Well, not if it was a doctor. The lady checking him out at McDonald’s couldn’t do that and get away with it.) Then I had to remind myself- your lymph node shrunk. Negative. Negative. Negative. This is GOOD stuff. 

Happy times.

It was definitely a bittersweet visit. You don’t realize that you don’t only trust God with your life, but sometimes there are people right here you also trust. I knew from the first time I met with my surgeon, that he was going to look out for me and do his best. Just like when I go to bed at night, I can sleep without worry, because I know my husband will take care of me and the kids if anything happens. Just like I know my mom and my sisters will do anything to have my back and help me. Just like I know my friends will always be there with a kind word, a joke, a meal, or some company.

And to think, I almost didn’t meet my surgeon.  Well, no, God  would have made sure that I did.

I ended that day even more thankful- for everything and everyone. I decided I must do what the doctor said, LIVE MY LIFE, no matter how emotional I get about it. I must keep living and doing what I am doing so I can help others to live their life as well.  So, for me to be invited to participate in The Thankful Hearts: The Random Acts of Kindness Project just minutes after I finished typing this was absolutely NO coincidence.  This couple has so much to be thankful for, much like us all. They want to encourage us to make one random act of kindness on Wednesday, December 5 and share it. If you can’t think of anything, they have ideas on their site.

Readers, please go out and do something for someone today simply because it makes you feel good to do so.

Share your acts of kindness with them- AND me! I'd love to hear!

Thanks for reading. Until next time, practice safe sun!

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