I have been keeping something quiet for the last month and it’s been difficult. I don’t like posts to stir sympathy and living in my own trauma to get attention (I swear I’m not trying to get attention with this post), but it’s easier to post this on social media and control the narrative myself as opposed to it getting around in gossip: I have skin cancer.
If you’ve gotten this far, I love you. Full stop. Let me just level it at that. It’s not as bad as it probably sounds, though.
I had a mole on my right calf that I just found annoying. It was getting lighter and growing. I have gotten two sunburns on my legs in the past 7 years, I didn’t think it was a big deal because it wasn’t bigger than a pencil head eraser, so I got it removed. I’ve had people close to me shame me for having pale legs, and I let them get to me, I’ll be honest, so I didn’t wear sunblock on my legs so much. I wasn’t stressed about the mole removal, I had had two done before on June 2nd, but on June 24th my dermatologist called me to tell me it was a melanoma and referred me to a surgeon at Vanderbilt.
My mind was spinning from that news for about a week. Luckily, I had the wherewithal not to start researching skin cancer and melanomas on the internet and scaring myself. I told a select few people, simply because it was eating me up inside, and they were a great source of comfort. I’ve mostly stuck to doing research on how skin cancer melanomas develop and what the treatments are. If the cancer had gotten to my lymph nodes already, I’d start cancer treatments which could include chemo and radiation, my dermatologist didn’t know. If it hadn’t spread outside the skin around the mole and I had the skin removed, I’d be fine. I started wig shopping online, but my close friends who knew told me to knock it off, I don’t even know how bad it is or if I’ll even need chemo yet. No use catastrophizing. I know this as a therapist, too, but it’s difficult to put into action when it’s yourself, I will admit.
Of course, with our crappy, expensive healthcare system in this country that’s been sabotaged so many times but individualist politicians, even with health insurance, I had to wait until July 20th to even meet with the surgeon, Dr. Kelly. The amount of rage I have these politicians is palpable: they’re bypassing the health of their constituents for corporate payoffs. I have choice words for that (obviously). Of course, I had no news about if I was going to get surgery on the 20th or just a consult. Almost an entire month. Mentally, it’s been really taxing on me.
On July 11th, I got a call that there was a cancellation for Tuesday the 12th for Dr. Kelley, and I flipped my schedule upside down to get to it, and it was confirmed it would be a consult, not surgery. My heart was pounding in my throat when I got to his office. I was seen and he looked at the site where my melanoma had been and my lab results from dermatologist’s lab, and said things looked promising. He wanted to do a wide-incision to remove the skin and remove lymph nodes to check for cancer, even if it was microscopic. If I have cancer in my lymph nodes, I’ll be on immune boosting drugs as a treatment, not chemo. Finding this out was a huge stress relief for me. My body responded in needing food and extreme tiredness when I got home. BUT they arranged a pre-surgery appointment quickly, which would be July 25th. The actual date of surgery is July 28th (the day I posted this).
I didn’t tell my mother all this time because I don’t want her preoccupied with me while she’s been staying with my sister and watching her granddaughter for three weeks. Any mother would at the news her daughter has cancer and is getting surgery. I told her once she got back. She handled it really well, and had brought a letter for me from my niece that said, “I hope you feel better, Aunt GG”. The day after I told her, I got a pre-pre surgery check in call from the anesthesia nurse while at work, and I thought I was alone in my corner of the office. After I answered some questions, I went to get a refill on coffee, and the doctor in my office asked me if I was having surgery. I told the truth, mainly because I didn’t want the whole office wondering and whispering about what was going on in my life. I wasn’t going to tell the office until the day of surgery, but I did early. It’s a huge relief to be honest there.
Last Monday, I went to my pre-op check in and was presented a $3300+ estimate bill, not including the anesthesia bill. I laughed so I didn’t cry. I think I can figure a payment plan. Yay! More debt! Just what I always wanted. Please don’t donate or start a Go Fund Me, I’ve got it covered, although Diet Cokes would be welcomed. In other news, my brother has had a really crappy cold, so my mother, the world traveler and adventurer who will probably outlive us all, is taking me to the surgery today instead of him. She’s gonna drive me home, too. I don’t need a meal train or anything, but if you felt like coming over to make some of my Hello Fresh meals for me and hanging out to watch an episode of the Boys or the Orville: New Horizons or going for a walk (I'm cleared for that), I wouldn’t say no. I’m not super scared right now, but I have been eating like a pig lately, just stress eating.
So now, I’m telling everyone here and saying it now; I love you all. I’ll update my Facebook and Instagram once I’m out of surgery and let you all know how it went. I’m certain I’ll be facing medical bills (like the anesthesiologist’s bill that insurance apparently doesn’t cover and the cost of the operating room) after this (which I’m not looking forward to), but things could be worse. I feel like if I panic and catastrophize, it will inevitably turn out worse, so I’m trying not to. Positive thinking. Once my doc says I can have a drink, I’m treating myself to a glass of Apothic wine, I literally haven’t been drinking at all this summer and could use one.
Thanks for reading this far, and I hope we speak soon, preferably by text or DM. If you are the praying type, I welcome it. If you are not and want to send me good energy and love, I welcome it too.
Thanks and everybody take care!