Let me preface this post by stating again that I do not have melanoma. Thank goodness that I have no clue as to how it feels to have melanoma or any skin cancer. I did have a prostate cancer scare a few years ago (false alarm…twice), but that’s not really the same. I cannot relate to what it feels like to live with cancer. I can only surmise how it feels from the experiences that my brother scarcely shared and from what I read from others…and there have been so many who have shared. Regardless of so much “data,” I still will never know until I get it. And that’s what I fear…”getting it.”
I have lived “high risk” for various conditions for several years now. I have an extensive family history of cardiovascular conditions, plus I take medication to keep my triglycerides and cholesterol from going through the roof. I love my pizza, cheeseburgers and burritos. I’m a heart attack waiting to happen. When I saw a photo that my daughter recently took, I got scared. I am not in shape…unless you call round or pear a shape. I need to make some changes to make sure that heart attack never happens. The truth is I CAN make such changes. Other conditions may not be so easy.
As I mentioned above, I had a prostate cancer scare several years ago. The doctor felt a lump during the good ol’ “digital exam,” so she referred me to the even longer-fingered urologist who agreed that indeed there was a lump where there shouldn't be. A painful biopsy followed with an inconclusive diagnosis. There was “something” in there and they needed another look. So I had a second biopsy performed with more pain but better results. The conclusion was that I didn't have cancer. “But,” as the doctor told me, “you are high risk to get prostate cancer…probably in your 50’s.” I’m 51 now. Unlike my weight and general shape for better heart health, there’s not a lot I can do to make me lower risk regarding prostate cancer. I take supplements (saw palmetto and licopene) that have statistical links to improved prostate health, but truly there is nothing more I can do except, well, get in better shape. (See love of pizza above)
And then a few years ago, my brother Jeff was diagnosed with melanoma. At the time, he told me that melanoma was “carried” between siblings because we grew up in the same environment, and probably the same type of sun exposure. Yep, baby oil, iodine and Solarcaine for the after burn…that was our method. You know Jeff’s story. Mine has a happier continuation with no end written…yet. I have moles aplenty and remain high risk due to my blonde hair and blue eyes. I wrote a blog once about uncontrollable risk factors. One statistic that caught my eye was that having two immediate family members with melanoma creates a near 100% chance of being diagnosed with melanoma. That seemed unreal to me and I actually contacted the source from where I obtained this data. Sure enough…100%! Thank goodness I had only one family member who had been diagnosed with melanoma.
I called my dad the other day and he gave me the rundown of his week. A gathering with some friends one day, a check up with his cardiologist another day and an appointment with his dermatologist to get some spots removed. Obviously, I asked him about the latter first. He responded, “It’s just a couple pre-cancerous spots that I always have taken off. Oh, and he wants to remove a melanoma off my back.”
“A what? Do mean ‘carcinoma’?”
“Nope, it’s a melanoma. The doctor said it was no big deal.” (My dad would tell me that a tornado was no big deal to keep me from worrying)
So my mind thinks of all the times I've written how early detection of melanoma results in 97% survival rate. Many articles state that early detection leads to it being cut out and being “cured” of melanoma. My mind focused on this as I logically agreed that it indeed was probably no big deal…especially if it was indeed caught early as my dad implied. My heart admitted that I'm a little worried. My gut screamed one other thing…”That’s the second family member…dammit!”
Obviously I’ll be talking to my dad soon. Logically I’m not worried because he DOES visit the dermatologist often and if melanoma was detected, I’m confident it was caught early enough. As for me, I know I take all the precautions I can against melanoma…now. In my earlier years…not so much.
Once again, I have another “high risk” tag placed upon me. I've been here before. This time however, it got my attention a little more than usual.