I have this bad habit of always thinking things are going to be okay. Not really a terrible affliction to have, exactly, but it can easily look like I’m blowing things off. I’m not. I still worry. But I just…think things are going to work out for the best.
I headed back to the dermatologist on Thursday. After my last visit, they called me to say that the samples they took came back as “mildly abnormal.” The woman on the phone described that there’s a scale of abnormalities: mild means they keep an eye on it, moderate means they want to take more and do more tests, and severe means you are going to die. I’m just kidding. She didn’t say that, and that’s probably not very funny. But severe cases can mean skin cancer and minor surgery.
I was mild.
“So what does that mean, exactly?” I asked.
“Well,” said Girl on the Phone, “They range from mild to moderate, to severe…” Yes, yes, you already said that. It didn’t matter how many times I asked, she read me the same script, then told me that they wanted to go back in and take some more skin from me. To make sure they got it all.
At the dermatologist’s office, it was more of the same. No one seemed to be able to tell me exactly what “abnormal” meant. Was there a name for it? Abnormal-Not-Cancer? Slightly-Weird-Not-Terribly-Freaky?
The most information I could get was that since my samples came back mild-to-moderately abnormal, they don’t know how fast the cells are growing, so they wanted to grab a little more to make sure they got it all. I didn’t exactly describe the taking of the samples last time, but basically they numbed up my spots, then the dermatologist shaved them off with a razor. They weren’t raised, so it seems slightly less gross. But once the lidocaine wore off, it was pretty painful, and it totally gave Christian the heebie jeebies.
This time was a little more involved. Same process with the lidocaine, but they went wider and deeper. I tell you, there are few weirder feelings than being totally numb in an area, but being able to feel the motion of someone sawing at your back with a razor blade. Gross, I know.
I don’t know what it is that gives me this mentality, the inherent sureness that things will be okay. Or maybe it’s just the suppression of worriment that it won’t be. If my husband is late coming home, he’s just late. If my kids are sick, they just have a virus. Even when Rachel and Claire were in the NICU, I knew everything would be fine. We had one scary day, and then we sailed through the rest of our stay. That’s how my life has been so far. Everything has just always been fine.
Until it’s not. When Rachel was a baby, maybe a year, one of her blood tests from a regular well check came back with high platelet counts. Or was it low? I can’t remember. We took her in to be retested, and I tried to push out the thought that something could be wrong. I don’t even remember what the high/low platelets could have signified. All I remember thinking was that this was my daughter, named after her Aunt Rachel, who passed away from leukemia at age 17. And so began the squashing of the terrible thoughts.
Another blood test on Rachel came back normal. And she’s still normal today, or at least as normal as any kid in this house is going to get. What scares me is that thought that someday, I’ll be living in my “it’s fine” wonderland, and something won’t be. Something will go wrong. Someone will get really sick. Something will be “abnormal.” And it will hit me like two tons of bricks because I was totally unprepared. I never even allowed myself to think about it.
So again I play the waiting game. I’m still pretty sure that there’s nothing detrimental going on, but my “hey! it’ll be okay!” confidence has wavered a bit. I’ve never had a test come back weird, and this isn’t any time to start, you hear me, body? I’m just going through life with two gashes on my back that look like bullet wounds. Sounds much more hard core than “Oh, yeah, those are some spots I had removed by my skin doc.”
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to check your skin and keep track of it’s changes. A friend of mine asked me how I realized the spot (it’s a mole, but the word mole sounds gross to me? Molie molie molie!) had grown in size. Truth is, I look at my skin all the time. After a shower, when I’m changing…I check out my back in the mirror and make sure that there’s nothing glaring that I’ve never noticed before. In this case I had to have Christian double check it, because I couldn’t get a great view, and he was able to verify that it did look a little larger and misshapen. We’ve been together 14 years. Dude knows my skin better than I do. And even though it still gives him the willies, Christian’s the only one who can keep them bandaged for me, so…that’s marriage, folks.
This is where I was going to insert a picture of the skin samples they took from me the second time around, but after looking at the photo again, I think that’s a level of oversharing that even I can’t do. If you really want to see it, email me, and I’ll send it on over. Instead you get to see a photo of me, non showered, hiding behind my book because I had to wait foreverrrrrrrrr.