This morning I am going to see a new member of my team of Cancer Street Fighters. This time, however, I am NOT seeing someone about my boobs (or lack thereof). No, this time I am seeing a specialist that will be able to look after the first area of my body to be desecrated by The Guys In The White Van, my largest erogenous zone, my skin. (For those of you who don’t want to look back to see who the Hell these guys are, read this.) After spending four + years unhappy years with the same dermatologist, I decided to take my health into my own hands and found a new skin specialist, whom I will discuss later, once I meet her.
Why unhappy, you may ask? My current dermatologist, let’s call him Dr. Color, has absolutely no personality. I’ve often seen him get angry, both at me and his staff. But lack of personality alone does not evict one from my team of Cancer Street Fighters. What does is lack of care. When I say lack of care, I am using the word care in at least a couple different definitions of the word–both care as being a caring doctor, but also care in the treatment of Skin Cancer, which can, at best, be seen as a chronic condition. Once my childhood dermatologist, Dr. Music, removed the melanoma from my back, he was simply opening up a Pandora’s box of nevi (moles and growths and such) ripe for the picking. When I was 17 or 18, Dr. Music told me that the melanoma he had removed was a fast-growing cancer, unlike the DCIS in my breast. Another six months delay in detection, and he would have given me five years to live. In fact, he told me that right before he had seen me, he had to tell a young lady in her 20s that she would die from the same disease that had brought me to his scalpel. Try swallowing that as an omnipotent teenager. At the same time, Dr. Music told me that for the rest of my life, every three months I would have to be checked by a dermatologist. The life I save would be my own.
I took Dr. Music’s advice seriously. I am diligent about getting new growths checked out, and slather myself with sunscreen when I am faced with that glowing orb in the sky. So, imagine my surprise and dismay when, after being diagnosed with a dysplastic nevus not six months previous (this one, Dr. Color said, would have been bad), Dr. Color told me I didn’t have to be checked for another year. “A YEAR?!?” I thought, “If I waited a year for the melanoma on my back, I would be dead for many, many years.” I reminded him of my history. “Oh. Well, yeah, a year is fine. Unless you find something, you know.” Unless *I* find something? Who is the skin specialist here? That’s why I see you so often, I thought–not for your charming personality!
I didn’t think much of it until an elderly friend of mine called me up to tell me about the problem she had with HER dermatologist. She has been visited by The Guys In The White Van, so she is diligent in her skin routine, too. I wont share her story, lest someone recognize her details–but guess who her dermatologist is? You guessed it, Dr. Color. After my bad feeling about not being checked for a year and my friend’s bad experience with something not unlike mine, I decided Dr. Color had to go.
So today, in a couple hours or so, I will see a new Cancer Street Fighter. I am a bit concerned because I have some nevi that definitely need to be removed. Yesterday I expressed to my husband that I am afraid…no, afraid isn’t the right word. Concerned? Aware? Aware. Yesterday I told my husband that I am aware that my chances of dying at a somewhat early age are greater than someone who has never been visited by The Guys In The White Van. I expressed how I wanted to make sure that everything I do has some value and purpose in my or someone else’s life, and how I want to make sure that I have my ducks in a row, so to speak. I want to make sure my life has meaning. Besides the skin, I have other issues that need to be resolved, other cancer fears, so to speak, that creep into my dreams late at night when I should be sleeping. My sore throat and swollen glands, for example. I’ve had it since October 2010 and it never seems to go away. I was promised all the swelling would magically disappear once I had my misfunctioning ovaries removed. That hasn’t happened yet, and still I have the sore throat and swollen glands, and have taken antibiotic course after antibiotic course. I don’t think about it most of the time, but like those Guys circling, I know they are there.
So today I’m going to add to the team. Now, where did I find this new superhero, you might ask. I am not ashamed to say I found her from the radio. Without giving away my personal details, her husband is on a morning show I keep in the background while doing my morning routine. I have listened to him speak of how she studied for her boards (so I know she is board certified), how she cares for husband and daughter (so I know she must be a nice person), and how dedicated she is to her field (so maybe she is a good doctor). I really need a superhero to be on this particular part of the team, because, as I mentioned before, melanoma will kill me faster than DCIS, especially because I no longer have any breasts to invade. So far, the research I have done looks promising. I have taken my health into my own hands in firing Dr. Color and establishing a good vetting process for the new member of my team. I am aware of some of the nevi that need to be removed. But most of all, I am conscious that the time I have left here on this big blue marble, whether five years or 50 (lets hope for the 50), needs to be treated as precious moments. Because all of them are precious moments.