After shock

I met with the surgeon, Dr. Steve Bartos, yesterday and listened carefully to his explanation of the surgery and recovery. They will take the affected node and all surrounding nodes, fatty tissue and any nerves running through the mess out – a pretty good chuck, as he described it circling his fingers around an area slightly bigger than a tennis ball. Joking with a friend, I said I would be lopsided now, but it is still a small price to pay for living.

There are times when I feel like this is all happening to someone else. Out in the yard on beautiful spring nights like tonight, throwing the Frisbee for the dog, I feel perfectly fine. How can something so ugly be hiding inside waiting to spread roots and take hold? Yet other times, when I am tired, more tired than normal it seems lately, I don’t know if its the emotion draining me or the battle waging inside.

They keep asking me if there was a mole or lesion on my skin somewhere that disappeared. No, not that I can remember, but in some dark crevice in my mind, I vaguely recall watching a spot on my back, looking for it at some point and not finding it. Brushing it off as bad memory, maybe there was no spot there and I am remembering it wrong. I honestly don’t know, but something nags in my mind.

I wish I had known then about monthly full body scans. Due to my history of sun exposure, I was watching markings on my back, making sure they didn’t fit the description of basal or squamous cell carcinoma. I never learned about melanoma. I didn’t know about the ABCDE features, nor about the Ugly Duckling sign (http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/melanoma/melanoma-warning-signs-and-images/the-ugly-duckling-sign).

Remind me to thank my lymph nodes for an outstanding job of corralling these wild cells and saving my life. Off and on for a long time I’ve felt like I had been fighting something. How would I ever have guessed it could be something as dangerous as melanoma? It still doesn’t seem real that I am a “cancer patient,” yet I look at my wrist with the black “kickin’ cancer” awareness band and I can’t deny, that’s exactly what I am doing.

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