Sep 25, 2008

100% chance

a 100% chance of something. that's pretty solid. you can count on that. a 100% chance of rain. a 100% chance that the sun will rise and set each day.

i went for my yearly visit to the dermatologist in august and pointed out all the spots that concerned me. only one concerned her. she froze it off and i got a clean bill of health. i was good to go. one month later, while shaving my legs, i noticed a spot that had never even been there, and so i did what she had told me to do and just made a mental note to keep an eye on it. this wasn't difficult to do. it changed weekly. then daily. which made me mental.

i got on the google and went down the checklist of symptoms, looked at all the gruesome spotty pictures. check, check, check and omg, check. and for weeks, i would call my doctor and beg to be seen asap. i would explain how it was at first changing weekly, then daily; and they would explain they had an opening two months down the road. i thought i could be dead two months down the road. (i am a worst case scenario girl, i can be very dramatic). then i started calling daily to ask if there were any cancellations. i was always told about the two month wait.

but then, through the magic of a friend who is married to a doctor, who does a freakishly good job of pretending to be a nurse - i get a coveted appointment with a different dermatologist. so i go and see him. and he comes right in and looks at the spot that has convinced me i have melanoma and assures me that's not the case. and now i have the peace of mind i wanted all along and i can breathe a sigh of relief.

but. as he was talking to me and explaining what sort of spot it was and that it wasn't alarming to him but how i did the right thing because the alarming spots and the perfectly normal spots will all do the same alarming things; he looked at me with such scrutiny and intensity as he talked; i knew that my face was a road map of my love affair with the sun and held all the dirty little secrets of my sunny sins and indiscretions.

i knew that he knew i had lounged out in my back yard as a teenager with baby oil on my face and a double record album covered in tin foil. i knew he knew my high school friend and i laid out on one of those foil blankets while on vacation to maximize our sun exposure and go home with a good tan. i knew he knew about that really bad sunburn i got on my legs in my 20's. that shameful tanning bed phase. he knew i spent my childhood summers on a beach, by a pool, and winters were spent skiing where on a sunny day you could get a rockin' tan with the added bonus of the reflection off the snow. i had the feeling my face was speaking volumes and all i could see was a double record album covered in tin foil.

and that's when he said it:
you have a 100% chance of getting skin cancer. you will get it within the next 10 years.

after all of my google research i was practically convinced that i was going in to the doctor to be told i have skin cancer. well, thankfully; i don't have it. today. he told me how it would happen and what i needed to look out for. and he never said if. he said when. and i kept thinking: a 100% chance? really? really? why not 98% ? 80? can i get a second opinion? don't you want to do one of those snazzy infrared picture things of my face? or is my face that bad that you can tell with the naked eye? good god. if someone told me i had a 100% chance of breast cancer, i'd get my boobs lopped off. no problem. if someone told me i had a 100% chance of uterine or ovarian cancer - hello hysterectomy. but skin cancer? what do i do? well. i know what to do. i go in to the doctor and get each offensive spot burned off and hope i caught it on time. i have to say the skeptic new yorker in me that my father raised couldn't help but wonder how much money he would get every time i went in to get something burned off.

i'm a smart girl. really. i am. i wear sunscreen. in the summer. when i am sitting by the pool. and shamefully, that's about it. i know you are supposed to wear it all the time. in winter, on rainy days, on cloudy days. every day, all the time. i'll start that now, but 40 years worth of sun damage is done, and while 100% sounds really alarmist, i am actually strangely calm about it. i guess its good to know in that crystal ball sort of way. i know what to look out for and i know it can get taken care of if i catch it on time. i am now on a diligent, religious spot-watch for the next 10 years.

i'll keep that appointment that i have for two months down the road with my regular doctor and get that second opinion. see if she sees the same shameful road map on my face that todays' doctor saw. but still. a 100% chance? shit. that's pretty solid. i gotta go slap on some sunscreen. and wear knee socks.


Anonymous said...

Geez. You sound very calm. I would totally be freaking. Maybe, though, you know, that's just his way of emphasizing to his patients that they should always their doctor whenever you see something suspicious as opposed to putting it off because they're afraid that if they go in and it's nothing they'll look like a hypochondriac??

Judi said...

I am just like you but we used crisco oil to get tan. I had skin poinsening once. Puked and had to sock in a bathtub full of tea bags. I haven't been to the derm in years. In denial. And i never wear sunscreen now. EVER. So I guess we're in the same boat - you'll probably be a lot smarter about it now tho.

house on hill road said...

i want that doctor's name. i bet my chances are just as good as yours.
i am so happy that you are cancer free today!

ItchyBits said...

Egad. At least you are being smart about getting checked. Start wearing that sunscreen Friday morning girl. I slap on Clinique City Block 25 every single day because I don't like to wear any make up unless at work or out and this stuff is a non-issue while exercising. It's like a tinted moisturizer with spf. I also keep a spray bottle of some form of block in my bag of cycling stuff to catch my arms, legs, chest etc. before I get on my bike. Not perfect but it must help.

Cindy said...

we all did silly things in our youth, when we felt invincible or just didn't worry about STUFF. it's good that you and your dermatologist will be on top of things and catching anything before it gets to be troublesome. which reminds me that i need to male my husband get in for a mole check. slather on that sunscreen!

Laurel said...

I'm so glad you are cancer free. This is great news.

And at least now you know to be on the look out. I would definitely get that second opinion though. Especially anytime someone says "100%"

Groover said...

I just started using sunscreen the last few weeks, too, and only because I start seeing sun damage in my face. I never wore sunscreen before even with all the warnings of skin cancer in Oz. Thin ozone layer and highest skin cancer rate in the world and all ... we are so silly, aren't we?

bsegal said...

First, I'm glad that you are cancer free. That's a huge relief. I have to question any doctor that believes in, much less verbalizes a 100% chance of anything. Life is far too random for there to be that level of certainty in anything. Do the right thing and protect yourself, be safe, but please don't believe someone just because they got thru med school. These things have levels, and fall across a broad spectrum. Sorry to rant, but I spend every day around drs and I don't believe in absolutes. Or kneesocks.sunscreen & watchfullness are really solid.

zanne said...

Laurel - yeah, it was that 100% thing that i couldn't really wrap my head around. i mean - is he psychic? is my face THAT much of a crystal ball of doom?

i asked my doctor friend if he would EVER tell a patient that there was a 100% chance of something, he replied 'no', but knows the guy & said there must have been something pretty compelling for him to say that. ack!

fortune tellers & plam readers and people of that sort always freaked me the hell out. couldn't figure out why people would go ... i never wanted to know what was going to happen - but i guess this is good -i know what to look out for & it wont become an issue. zap it. its gone.

i took all my suncreen out of the 'pool bag' (since that's the only time i wore it) & i put it everywhere now - in the car, by the front door, on my purse. am thinking of putting some next to the toothpaste & coffee pot too ... no more forgetting to put it on.

Unknown said...

Yikes! But good thing you now know to be diligent in checking for any changes.

I started wearing sunscreen religiously after reading the blog of another runner who had skin cancer (he included pics). Fortunately he was able to stop it, but the medication he had to take made his face look pretty scary (it basically kills off several layers of skin).

Stay healthy!

Anonymous said...

I'm sure he was exaggerating (good golly how do you spell that?), maybe just a tiny bit. I'm sure his "100%" was his way of saying something like, your chances are ridiculously high based on your past lifestyle. To make a point, you know? And he did, because look, you're changing your lifestyle. And that's good.

I'm glad you're cancer free. I feel for you, because I'm quite certain I did alot of damage to my skin in my first 20 years too. I've already had a biopsy done on one of my spots. We all do stupid stuff when we're young. :) So, as much as I hate sunscreen, I wear it when I'm out for more than 5 minutes.

Hugs to you and your moles. :)

Nat said...

Good to know that you'll have to watch out for it. That's for sure. Good news it's very treatable. :)

Anonymous said...

Yikes. I'm glad you're OK and I'm glad you got it checked out. Within the past two years, I've added a trip to the dermatologist as part of my various yearly doctor visits. I've also done some stupid things regarding way too much sun exposure. At least we're on top of it!