Category Archives: MM = Malignant Melanoma

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! (boo!)

When I get the mail, I read who it’s addressed to and then who it’s from. Saturday there was a letter addressed to me and I groaned. Another rejection letter to rip up in front of my daughter who laughs hysterically every time. I can’t believe I missed out on my 15 minutes of fucking fame by two years.

Then I noticed the return address. Huh, that’s odd, I thought. I hadn’t applied for anything with my dermatology clinic…oh…OH! I knew with that letter that it was good news because bad news warrants a phone call. I ripped open the envelope to find a one page letter with four separate boxes of information. Two of the boxes were checked.

“No cancer was found…” !!! Yippee! I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I sobbed in relief.

Here are those moles:

Inner Arm
Inner Thigh (aka The One-Haired Bastard)

The other section marked wasn’t quite as good, but not altogether bad:

“…an atypical mole – not 100% normal…” Dysplastic Nevus.

Of course I had to look up dysplastic nevus and really found nothing useful. I don’t fit the profile for someone at risk for dysplastic nevus, nor for malignant melanoma, but here I am. I tan easily and I don’t have a body full of freckles and moles and there’s absolutely no family history. My dermatologist told me during my exam last week that it would be easy to find unusual moles because I didn’t hardly have any. Also, dysplastic nevus usually means moles that are large and of different shades and margins, but this one? This bad baby was just a tiny little dot on the top of my foot. Of the moles biopsied, I was the least suspicious of this one:

Left Foot

Since my diagnosis of MM six months ago, I’ve seen updates from a couple of my friends about getting their moles checked. Whether it’s due to my diagnosis or not, I’m always glad to see that they are being pro-active. Get checked, even if there hasn’t been any changes to moles you may have. The worse part is you may have to get naked (I got to keep my underwear and bra on) in front of a young, good-looking doctor. And since I know many of you have had more intimate “exchanges” with medical professionals, this kind of visit will feel like walking around your home.

I already have my next appointment scheduled. Another six months. I can’t look at it as another six months I’ll be cancer-free. Instead, I can only look at this past six as such. The next six months will be once again full of uncertainty and worry. I just hope that I’ll luck out this next time and not have to get nekkid again for a whole year.

Six Months Later and I’m Right Back Where I Started

Yesterday was my six month appointment with my dermatologist. It was scheduled as a mole check, not necessarily a follow up to my surgery on the malignant melanoma in October. The scar has improved in appearance, but it still has the ability to make my friends pull back in horror and grimace when I show them. The edges are still rather purplish-red prompting the doc to suggest laser work to break down those blood vessels and lighten the scar’s edges if things don’t improve on their own in another three months. Due to lack of insurance – or a job – I’ll be stuck with red, angry margins for a while.

He then did a quick mole-check, literally scanning me from head to toe. He asked if I had any moles that I was concerned about and I showed him three, two of which he agreed should be biopsied, while the third was a wild card and he would biopsy anyway and eliminate it from future worries altogether. A fourth mole, a freckle really, on the top of my foot he marked with his pen to be sliced.

The nurse numbed the four areas quickly and efficiently and then he removed each and dropped them in their respective vials to be sent off to the lab. I should have the results by the end of next week. Then again, maybe not.

I was glad to get rid of the mole on my inner thigh (the one that looks the most suspicious). That fucker was growing a singular hair of bristle brush quality. I remember after my pregnancy with Aitch, once I could finally see that part of me again, the hair had sprouted to mythical proportions. I’m fairly certain a little boy named Jack was eyeballing it as a worthy challenge.

And now I wait again and hope for good news. My doctor was especially pleased when I told him that my swimsuit this year is one that covers me neck to hip and shoulders to forearm. A rashguard designed specifically for women with a built-in shelf-bra. Now I can stop taking those contortionist lessons that I had scheduled to help me apply sunscreen to my back with my feet.

Ten Weeks Later

I had what is probably my last post-surgical follow-up with the plastic surgeon today. I should note here that the other surgical oncologist never did schedule return appointment with him. That kind of makes him an asshole to me. On the other hand, that kind makes me an asshole as well as I didn’t call him out on it and darken his office doorway.

I didn’t really care for the plastic surgeon when we first met. He seemed a bit standoffiish and impersonal for my liking. However, over the past couple of appointments he has grown on me. My only complaint now with him is that each time I see him, he tells me something he should have told me at the last appointment.

Today he asked me if I was rubbing the scar. No, I answered, should I be? Yes, he said and I should get some silicone gel to rub on it as well. So now I wonder how long I should have been massaging it. Bah.

One side of what I should now call The Scar is still quite tender. As he poke and prodded that side he suddenly gave it a pinch on a particularly inflamed area. Once I climbed back down from the ceiling he told me that I had an ingrown hair and he had opened it up.

Now you see, he does sound like bit of an asshole, doesn’t he? But he’s direct and doesn’t try to schmooze and I think that makes up for everything else. He asked what I was doing for Christmas and when I asked him, he easily told me about his four children – mostly adult-aged but single – and how they would all be home this weekend.

I took advantage of him and asked him if he thought I’d be a good candidate for restylane to help my “smile” lines and the dark bags under my eyes. He wheeled his stool up close to survey my face and said, “You’re not too bad yet…” YET?!!

Ok, so he could have left off that little word. I still kind of like him.

Updated pictures are on my Flickr page.


It was just a couple of months ago that I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. It seems odd to even say or think the word cancer since in my case the diagnosis and the removal of it occurred within days of each other. In other words, could I really be a cancer survivor when I really don’t feel as if I ever had cancer?

Very shortly after I lost my job at the hospital two years ago, I found out one of my friends still working there was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. They gave her six months to live. As of last week, she is still alive but in so much pain that she refuses to see anyone. The only treatment available to her at this point makes her violently ill and unable to function physically or mentally. Her family doesn’t know if she’ll make it through the holidays.

Last week we received word that Sparring Partner’s CousinP from Boston, the one who graciously gave up his free time to me while I was visiting there, was diagnosed with testicular cancer. We don’t know any more than that right now except that he has taken the news very, very hard.

S.P. told me I should give him a call and talk to him “about what we had in common.” Obviously, I understand where he was coming from but the suggestion was ludicrous because I just don’t feel as if I do have anything in common with him, just as I don’t know how to talk to my friend who is quite likely on her deathbed with cancer.

I had a cancerous growth. I had it removed. I don’t see myself as a cancer survivor and quite frankly, I’m sure many feel the same way towards those with this particular type of cancer…some might even say it’s a pseudo cancer.

I rarely think of it, except when I accidentally hit my leg against something or when Aitch demands to see my “big owie” (to which she always exclaims “Oooh! That’s a big owie!” and then kisses it to “make it better”). Sometimes I examine it while getting dressed. I stopped commenting out loud about how ugly the remaining scar is as S.P. would remind me, almost reprovingly, “The cancer was ugly. This (he would look pointedly at the hole in my leg) is not ugly.”

I appreciate his sentiment, but I guess I’m vain. The large scar seems to be the “pay off” for what seems to be a curable (for the time being) cancer; simply cut it out much like a rotten spot from an apple.

My friend with terminal cancer is a survivor, regardless of what comes in the next few weeks. My husband’s cousin will be a survivor because of the uncertainty he will face. If I am lucky (very, very lucky) my cancer will not return and I will never have to perceive myself as a survivor.

11 of 30: Bills, Bills, Bills

Now that NaBloPoMo is a third of the way over, are you just pushing the PGDN button on your keyboard while in your reader? Go ahead, you can admit it to me. I do it and I’m participating for heaven’s sake.

Working a decade in the healthcare industry has given me such an insight to the internal bullshit, especially the patient billing. EOBs (Explanation of Benefits) are not scary and confusing bits of paper to me. Now that I’m self-pay/private-pay/uninsured/underinsured I can easily understand why so many billed people get annoyed and angry and frustrated.

One of the clinics I use locally gives self-pay patients a 25% discount.  The hospital I had my surgery at in The Metro gave us a 20% discount. However, the hospital, my former employer, had a policy of giving a whopping 5% discount for self-pay patients IF paid within 30 days of the first statement. It would seem that in the past couple of years they’ve been under a bit of a financial strain, what with deciding to build a multi-million dollar expansion during the financial downturn and losing their asses SO when I received a statement from them, I found out that the “generous” cash discount offer had been rescinded.

Of course I’ll be calling to negotiate: 10% discount or I’ll pay $10 a month for the next couple of years. Of course I’ll be nice. I can be nice. Stop looking at me like that. I can too.

I also called another clinic about a balance from Doodicus’s visit to find out what kind of discount they offer. The person who took my call countered me with the most ridiculous response: “We are a self-funded, self-employed clinic.”

“And I’m an unemployed, uninsured guarantor on my son’s account, so what?”

“We don’t offer a cash discount. We don’t get kick-backs from the state.”

“Neither do I.”

Really?? As long as that doctor sees any patient who has insurance, he (“he” as in “his business office manager”) is     negotiating discounts. This rep went on to tell me that they can set up a payment plan but that they have a minimum monthly requirement. I should have replied with, “Well, I have a maximum monthly availability and that trumps your requirement,” but I didn’t. I could tell I was stressing her out, so I told her once I get a statement we can figure out how to proceed. Never mind Doodicus’s visit was nearly two months ago already.

The other notable experience I had as an uninsured patient was just yesterday at yet another follow-up appointment with the surgeon (don’t have to go back for another six weeks!). Just as the nurse calls me back, I get halted by the receptionist who informs me that their business office manager wants to speak to me first. O f course I know what this is about. I get redirected to a tiny, windowless, torture room where the manager hems and haws uncomfortably while she pulls up my account on the computer, which she informs me has been “flagged.”

“Have you talked to anyone in our office about financial counseling?”

“No and I don’t need to.”

She stared back at me, a little stunned.

“Oh. Well, we normally try to work out something with our private-pay patients before their balance gets too out of hand and your account, which is over a certain amount was flagged because we didn’t have any arrangements in place.”

I wanted to tell her that it’s not my fault that no one from HER staff contacted me about the financial arrangements. The surgery was scheduled. It wasn’t emergent. Not my responsibility. I don’t work for the surgeon, she does. I also thought about telling her that there’s really nothing she can do at this point as she can’t deny me my follow-up visits which are all included in the surgery itself, but I didn’t. I just told her that when I finally get a bill, I’ll take care of it. She told me it was sent out on the 5th….it’s the 11th and I STILL don’t have it. Gotta love that outsourcing, don’t you?

Now don’t you wish you had clicked the PGDN button?

Earning a Medical Degree One Illness at a Time

You know, as soon as this whole business with my melanoma has blown over, I can’t help but wonder what other crap bit of luck is going to drop in my lap. Maybe I shouldn’t wonder too hard, hmmm? Especially since Sparring Partner’s dad has been feeling under the weather; or since my dad is recovering from a crushed vertebra; or since two year olds are prone to all kinds of accidents…

My second follow up with the plastic surgeon was a couple of days ago. I was looking forward to this one because it meant getting the stitches out of my foot. I had no idea that the stitches were causing me so much discomfort until they came out. My foot had healed up so well that they were ripping my skin back up again with every step. In fact I think they were in too long since the resident had to open a third set of pick-ups when the first two he tried were too dull to remove a piece of blue nylon that had become embedded under the skin.

Oh, you’re shuddering at the thought?? Trust me, I had a death grip on the exam table, nails dug in deep, and my head averted to keep myself from kicking him in the face as part of an automatic reflex to watching some one picking at the sole of my foot with a foot long pair of sharp tweezers.

The tagaderm (a transparent film dressing) is still in place over the donor site. I was told that eventually it’ll come off on its own and the site will still be red and raw. Funny isn’t it, how long it’ll end up taking to heal, huh? Another fact I wasn’t made aware of by the oncologist or surgeon. These were the EASY wounds.

As for the MM site? It’s still ugly, but getting better. It’s sore, especially in the morning, but at least the swelling in my ankle goes down by then. Oh, I didn’t mention that earlier, did I? Yes, my right ankle swells and gets painful by the end of the day. Apparently there was significant damage to the vessels and my lymphatic system needs to figure out a new way to move fluid around the site.

As for the good news, at least 80% of the graft took. I didn’t ask what will happen with the area that didn’t. I’d ask in two weeks when they asked I return, but I didn’t schedule that appointment. I walked past the desk without a second look. Sparring Partner suggested I go back in a month instead.

You’ll have to check out my “Cost of Healthcare” page. I’ll have that updated soon. Here I was just thinking a month ago that overall, our out-of-pocket expenses were way less than an annual insurance premium plus copays and deductibles. Alas…the kids didn’t need to go to college anyway. Look where it got me.

Instead of Pictures…

Maybe once it starts to heal up and not look like a giant eel took a bite out of my leg and left a black, festering wound, I’ll post pictures here. However, until then I figure it might be easier on the eye (and stomach) to just post the link to a new set I created on my Flickr account.

Yes, I have Flickr. Don’t you? And if you do, how come I’m not stalking you there as well?? Uppity asshole.

This is the link then. Now you have a choice and sometimes even the simple choices are really nice to have.

My Cancer: A set on Flickr.