Image of a red canvas painting with a gold diagonal line and white three-dimensional leaves attached to the line.
Painting Molly did at Paint and Wine. It hangs in my office next to mine.

Today’s post was going to be about illustrations for my children’s book and why the launch was delayed a week, but I am postponing that to talk about the phone call I just had from my doctor.

A little history first: Over the past six years, I’ve had six wonderful, contemporary friends stricken with cancer. Three are doing very well post-treatment, one is still kicking chemo’s ass and taking names, and the other two are gone now. The images on this page are for them.

So, to say I was a little freaked out when a biopsy from my left shoulder came back as melanoma in situ April 2017, would be putting it so mildly as to be frozen. But everyone around me save one told me not to worry; melanoma in situ is not a big deal. The one who didn’t say that has a relative with metastatic melanoma.

The person who did the biopsy was an ARNP at a local health club that has a medical spa with a dermatologist. She also did the excision and everything seemed fine. Until my three-month follow-up appointment. The ARNP said there was a spot at the top of the incision she didn’t like the look of and, though it was probably nothing, she wanted to do a biopsy. That came back with abnormal cells and they couldn’t rule out melanoma in situ. The ARNP said that it wasn’t a recurrence because they had clear margins the last time; it must be a new occurrence and they would take it out, too.

Image of four penguins standing together, with their beaks open.
Bethany loved penguins and I love this picture because it looks like they are either singing a lament for her or a barbershop quartet. Perhaps both.

My mom was visiting at the time and suggested I go get a second opinion from a Mohs surgeon¬†because they check the margins on site and immediately take more if they need to. That’s how she’d had her basal cell carcinomas removed. I found a local dermatologist who is Mohs certified and made an appointment. Apparently, at least at that time, the Mohs procedure was not used for melanoma excision because the idea is to take as little healthy skin as possible, whereas with melanoma you want big margins to make sure that #@%& is gone.¬† I decided to stay with the new dermatologist anyway and he removed the melanoma in October.

I’ve seen him every three months since then. At the first follow-up appointment, I asked about the top of the scar because it looked, to me, similar to the way it did when I had my second biopsy. He said it looked fine and has continued to say that at every appointment until last week. I asked about the discoloration again and, this time, he said it still looks fine to him, but he’d do a biopsy just to make sure.

This morning I had a voice mail message from his office. It said to call them back, which means there’s something wrong that they don’t want to talk about on your machine. Turns out the biopsy came back with abnormal cells and they couldn’t rule out melanoma in situ. In other words, deja vu. They said again that it has to be a new occurrence because they had clear margins when they did the excision, which was deja vu all over again. I’ll have to ask the doctor when I see him because this seems like quite a coincidence and I don’t believe in coincidences.

I have an appointment for the excision next week. As I’m right-handed, I may ask them to just take the whole left arm.


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