Monday, February 7, 2011

Moles and Cancer

Some say I was blessed with fair skin but mostly those are the darker skinned relatives on my wife's side of the family. For them, anyone with lighter skin than they is more handsome or beautiful depending on the gender. I disagree along with most of my side of the family. Having fair skin means that you only burn, never tan. When I go outside in the middle of July, unless I have sunscreen on, my skin feels like what I assume a piece of bacon feels when it hits a hot griddle. Fortunately my daughter is blessed with the best of both worlds. She is fairer than her Filipino relatives and thus more beautiful and she has skin that can tan and not burn. By the middle of summer, she has a natural tan that would make even the most regular of tanning booth visitors green with envy. But this post isn't about her, it is for more selfish reasons... me.

When I was a young boy, my mom was diagnose with a spot of cancer on her cheek which was successfully removed. Though fair skinned, the was burnt regularly as a kid and young adult in her attempts to tan back when skin cancer was not as publicized as it is now. So she drilled into me the importance of sunscreen and avoiding regular sunburns. I have. But when my wife recently gazing at my naked backside as I was getting ready for bed gasped in horror and told me to come closer, I immediate got a big worried. I learned two things that I never knew about myself in the next minute, one that I had a mole underneath my left shoulder blade and two, it evidently looked kind of funny according to my doctor wife but not quite as funny as the mole at the  head of this post. Her immediate diagnosis was that I needed to get it checked out.

Knowing my mom's history with a bout of skin cancer, I made the call first thing on Monday morning and though I asked for an appointment in the next few weeks, they got me in that very afternoon. I guess the impending snowstorm that we were going to get caused people to skip their appointments and create an opening for me. After the usual waiting for forty-five minutes past my appointment and then waiting for another fifteen minutes in the waiting room, the doctor came in and quickly gasped in horror at my back. Actually he took one look and told the nurse as he was walking out to transfer me to the outpatient room to get it removed.

In my mind, I pictured some sort of anesthetic cream followed by the doctor deftly scraping the mole off to put on some slide to send to a lab who knows where for some tech to look at under a microscope. That wasn't what happened. I was quickly jabbed a dozen times with a syringe the size of a turkey baster until I wouldn't have felt the Rockets doing their routine in high heeled shoes upon my back and then he proceeded to cut away. It was only when the nurse asked him how many stitches he needed and the doctor replied five that I had my first clue that I had drastically underestimated the size of the procedure. When he was done, the doctor said they would call me with the results and after the nurse slapped a bandage on the wound, I was sent home.

Now my wife was already at our urban jungle apartment for the week and I am not agile enough to reach the rather large bandage, so I ended up staring at the thing in the mirror all week wondering what kind of gash was under it. Finally when my wife removed the bandage on Saturday I looked at it and gasped in horror. It looked like a golf ball had been removed from my back instead of something the size of a pin head that I could barely see in the mirror with my glass on! No wonder my back has felt like I had inadvertently stuck a steak knife under my shoulder blade and forgot it.

It turned out to be non-cancerous and just a mole which of course I'm happy about. However, if I ever get another mole, I wish it would just be one of those regular kinds that doesn't cause people to gasp in horror from across the room when I start getting undressed. Or perhaps rather than an average everyday mole, I at least get one of those Academy Award winning moles like the one on Robert De Niro.


R. Sherman said...

Congrats, I guess, on the false alarm. My wife had a similar procedure on the back of her leg a few years ago. She thought it was a marble-sized growth. Baseball sized would be more accurate. It's wonder what can grow deep unseen.

BTW, your wife did the right thing, of course. I've got a buddy who's a dermatologist and he tells too many stories about people ignoring moles or not discovering them for reasons such as yours, and it then becomes a big problem.

If it were up to him, tanning salons would be banned. In fact, he practices in a wealthy area of St. Louis, and if he finds out one of his patients uses a tanning bed, he recommends six-month check-ups.

geri said...

What a relief it must've been for you and your wife. Sorry to hear about the pain and discomfort, I can only imagine what a wound that size would feel.

Evan takes after his dad and unfortunately doesn't tan as dark as Little Abbey but doesn't go red as his dad too. =)

Vince said...

Holy Wow, that must have frightened the bejapers out of you.

sage said...

Glad things are okay. I know that must have been a scare.

Murf said...

Geez, Ed. Next time ask for a 'shave biopsy' although that too leaves a divot in the back but at least there are no stitches. Much like you, I was wondering how I would ever change the bandage if Big A wasn't around. I guess through your post, I have learned that I just wouldn't until someone made the bad mistake of stopping by for a visit. :-)

Bone said...

Sure glad things checked out OK for you.

I'm never sure what to think of moles, freckles and the like. I've heard that as long as they don't change size or color, they're probably OK, but not sure how medically sound that advice it.

warren said...

Ugh...we've each had several moles of varying degrees of yucky removed and it has sucked in each case...keep up the sunscreen!