Don’t Jump to Conclusions

Last month I went to the dermatologist for a simple skin cancer screening. It’d been 3 years since my last check and I wanted to get all caught up on my health ‘to do’ list. Plus, I thought I had a planter wart on my foot and wanted to get that taken care of before a family vacation. The simple screening…turned into a 4 site biopsy session! That worried me because I didn’t expect anything like it. I was also upset because this was summer and I wasn’t allowed to jump in the lake until the biopsy sites were healed.

Tick-tock. I waited impatiently for the results (and the healing) and finally called the dermatologist 10 days later because I hadn’t heard from her. Results from the nurse…1 benign mole, 1 basal cell carcinoma and 2 dysplastic moles requiring excision for clear margins. What? I was stunned. This meant more trips to the dermatologist, more summer fun postponed and more questions. What exactly is basal cell carcinoma skin cancer? What about deadly melanoma skin cancer? I was immediately on the internet researching these results and what they meant for me. Whew, okay, basal cell carcinoma is different than melanoma. The chances of “severe dysplastic moles” hiding melanoma cancer beneath them is slim. BUT POSSIBLE. I found all the scary worst case scenarios.

Can you guess what happened next? My mind immediately jumped to very deep, dark conclusions. Doomsday scenarios interrupted my thoughts day and night. I was consumed by this fear for a week as I waited for my followup dermatology appointment. When it finally arrived, I responded with tears to the nurse’s innocent question, “how are you doing?”.  All of my fears spilled out in a rush. I obviously wasn’t the first tearful patient she’d seen. She quickly brought the dermatologist into the room. Calmly, it was explained to me that I didn’t have melanoma, they didn’t expect to find melanoma hiding under my moles, and the clear margin requirement was a precaution to prevent future melanoma. The doc also apologized that the nurse’s call the week previous hadn’t made this clear to me.  She did caution me to use sunscreen and keep a close eye on my skin. Through my research, I’d found out breast cancer survivors are more prone to melanoma than the general public. Not fair! Even so, I walked out of there with a big bandaid on my back and a big smile on my face. I was going to live another day! The fact that I was still banned from lake swimming was completely forgotten.

Moral of the story?  Try not to jump to conclusions. They are often wrong and can cause unneeded anxiety and stress. I realize that my reaction to the dermatology experience was very different than it would’ve been before my breast cancer diagnosis. For better or worse, our life experiences shape us and how we perceive the world. I now know if something DOES come up, it’s much better to take a deep breath, clear your mind and approach it calmly.  That’s what I hope to do next time!

(In case you were wondering, the planter wart on my foot wasn’t actually a  plantar wart, it was a corn! Back to the internet…)