Check your skin, part the second

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.

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  1. There is absolutely nothing wrong with thinking everything is going to be fine, because you know what? Worrying doesn’t prepare you for anything, and at least you can be happy until/if something DOES happen. I’ll be sending good, healthy vibes your way. 🙂

  2. Totally agree with Greta’s comment. Worrying is for warts. I’ve been in the exact same spot and have some groovy scars on my back (twinsies!). The way I look at it is – it’s awesome that they got it out now. It’s not cancer yet. Score! Also sending you healthy vibes.

  3. I like your attitude. I need to be more chill, because I tend to go “OMG I’m/ we’re all/ going to die”. Then it’s nothing, so I would have freaked out and lost 5 years on my life for …. well, something I won’t lose my life over.

    Keepings fingers crossed for you! (and no, I don’t want to see the skin samples)

    (That’s a good book, isn’t it!)

    1. It’s a GREAT book. I’m almost done and am a little sad.

      I tend to think of myself as less chill and more…ignorant? Oblivious?

  4. I made a just-to-you post on G+ with my e-mail address, so you can send me the picture. (I’m weird that way.)

    I overthink things and make contingency plans for things that are highly unlikely. My mother told me that she worries about stuff and makes all sorts of plans in her head, and that people don’t like to hear that sort of thing, so I might want to keep it to myself if I had any such tendencies. My husband knows I have those tendencies, and knows I’m awfully good at planning for scheduled happy things, so when it looked like we were going to be in a bad situation where Action Must Be Taken, he told me to make a plan. I told him I had the outline of one just waiting for such a situation, and that I’d be set to lay it out and spring into action *if* the triggering event occurred. (It didn’t then, thank goodness.)

    I think that your approach is probably the happier one.

  5. My husband as freaked out by the whole saw thing when he had to have some removed for testing.

    I am the opposite. I think that by worrying I will add an hour to my life. So you’re actually on the right track.

  6. I JUST got home from a therapy appointment where my therapist said this, “it is a mistaken idea that worrying will prepare you for the feelings you will have in the moment of sadness, terror, disappointment…as if you won’t feel them as much if you start feeling them now. That is absolutely false. Thinking about how it could turn out is one thing, dwelling on it will do nothing but make you sick.”

    I think she would approve of your attitude.

    Also? Everything is going to be fine. It just is.

  7. David needs a mole check appointment so bad. I MUST get on that. I’m the opposite of you. My brain would be cooking up all kinds of worry. I wish I could be more chill about things.

    1. Girl, schedule it for him. That’s the only way my husband goes to see the doctor sometimes.

  8. I loved Wild!! And, I need to make an appointment to get my skin checked. It has been far too long and I am more freckly than ever!!

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