Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A story with a moral

So, in case you missed it at the party, I had a spot cut off my arm that turned out to be melanoma - skin cancer, and not one of the cut-it-off-and-fuhgeddaboutit kinds. Now, all indications are that we got it all off, and that it was a tiny, early cancer, so I'm definitely on the better end of the scale.

But, this is melanoma, and you don't mess around with melanoma. Unlike a carcinoma or squamus, a melanoma can shed cells and spread. So here's what I get to do next Thursday: I get a blue-dyed radioactive tracer injected into the spot. After a couple of hours, they take an x-ray and see where that ends up in my lymphatic system.

Then I trundled off to the operating room, presumably in one of those getups that leaves my butt crack hanging out. I get a general anesthetic. On my forearm, they make a football-shaped cutout about an inch wide and a couple inches long, because they want a one centimeter margin of clean tissue cut away from the melanoma site. That'll be a nice line o' stitches, there.

After that, they get out a Geiger counter and use that, the blue dye, and the X-rays from earlier to locate the lymph nodes where the tracer went - presumably in my armpit. This would be the gateway that melanoma cells would have to pass through to get to the rest of me. Those nodes get cut out and sent off to pathology. If they come up clear, with no signs of cancer cells, then I'm good. If not, well, it's off to the cancer specialists for further action (presumably some sort of chemotherapy).

After all that, I still have to start going to a dermatologist to have all my spots, moles, freckles, and skin tags mapped and checked for changes every year. And I'll have a follow up with an oncologist somewhere in there, too, 'cause one way or another cancer's part of my life - once you have it, you're more susceptible to it.

At best, this is a huge and expensive pain in the ass (well, arm and armpit, I guess). At worst, it's... well, put it this way - if all the tests come up clear, I can honestly say that Kirsten, who was the driving force in getting that spot removed, saved my life. That's pretty cool, but I'd just as soon not have had the need to have my life saved.

So, moral of the story! Simple, short, and very to-the-point, and at the first team ride I'll have a lovely pile of bandages for emphasis:


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