I was betrayed by a mole

I have recently been diagnosed with an aggressive skin cancer called malignant melanoma.

For as long as I can remember I have had a large, dark, thick, oval mole in the center of my back; I asked my wife to regularly check on it because it was hard for me to see in the mirror. Ironically this one was not the problem.

Just before Christmas I noticed a freckle on my left thigh above the knee. It was itching and then became more prominent; In the past there was a light coloured freckle in this location but now it had a darker area within the old freckle that looked an odd shape. It stopped itching and I almost let it ride; but somehow this one seemed different.

I promote self checking for new or changing skin lesions in my mens health clinic, so I took my own advice and decided after noting this change to see the doc.

I made an appointment 2 weeks after it changed. Just before heading off for Christmas, I saw a GP who was very helpful and agreed that this new changing freckle should be seen by the Dermatologist urgently.

Christmas was great - it was our first with our baby and she brought new meaning to the season - she created so much joy in both our families!

After Christmas I went to the Dermatology department at my local hospital. The Dermatologist felt the lesion on the leg should be completely removed the next day and the mole on my back could also be removed.

The next day both moles were removed  under local anaestheticby a skilful nurse who left a neat line of 7 stitches in my leg and a large scab on my back!

Life carried on as normal until a week later, whilst on a home visit I was standing in a patients kitchen (my leg was aching now as those stitches had become infected) and my mobile rang displaying a witheld number. Thinking this call was another visit coming through from the practice, I answered; it was my Dermatologist. She knew I was about to go on holiday so had called with the results.

I was a little taken aback when she explained it was not good news and the mole on my leg was a malignant melanoma. I mainly remember the words "malignant" and "we have got it all".

At these words my head spun and I had to tell her to inform me as she would a normal patient - to spell it out; She said it was the most aggressive type of skin cancer but the mole and the skin around it had all been removed in the procedure, showing no sign of spread.

She offered me a follow up appointment on return from holiday and told me of a preventative operation which might improve future outcomes by taking out the nearest lymph node (to which cells might have spread) but explained that as yet there was no evidence of this procedure offering any increased in survival rates. I thanked her and asked if it was ok to go abroad but she reassured me it was fine and mentioned that I should inform my family as their risk of skin cancer was now increased.

I mumbled my way through the rest of the home visit and left as quickly as I could; I sat in my car in a rainstorm and wondered if I should call anyone. But who to call with this news?

How do you tell your wife that you have just been diagnosed with an aggressive form of skin cancer?

I was most worried about the reaction of others when I told them and wanted to get more information before talking to anyone. I especially wanted to frame it appripriately, not underestimating the risk but stressing the context that so far it had all been taken away.

My afternoon surgery was hard to get through - my mind kept wandering and in the end I looked up Malignant Melanoma on the web, showing 93% survival rate at 10 years - "I'll take those odds" I said to myself.

Suddenly my perspective was altering- like in Fight Club when Brad Pitt puts his associates through regular near daeth experiences to improve their perception of the value of life.

So many questions go through your mind at a time like this: will I beat the odds or will I be in the unlucky 7% who don't survive 10 years? How will my family cope if I die? Will I live to see my daughter on her 18th Birthday? Am I still paying those life insurance premiums? Can I keep working? What would I change if I had less time left on the earth?

Youre supposed to fight cancer but how can I fight this?

After dinner I sat down with my wife, when the baby was asleep and we talked. She'd had a premonition that this mole was a nasty and was prepared for this bad news - perhaps God had answered my prayers of how to tell her and already let her know? Talking was easier than I had thought and less like in TV medical dramas.

We chatted about the facts, we cried and hugged; then we looked forward to our impending holiday.

We prayed that we would get through this challenge like others we had faced before and we prayed that we would grow old and wrinkly together if God allowed it. We made an unsaid pact to make the most of life here and now.

We went off to Cape Town and had the best holiday of our lives over the following weeks, making the most of the time with a contented and portable baby. I was determined to go Kite Surfing and managed to do so, leaving the sea half drowned, exhausted but happy after 6 hours of battling the wind and waves. I had had some niggles in my back which I am praying are just stress related back ache from the exertions, but I am off to the doc to get these seen too.

Tomorrow I go for the operation to take a wider section of skin and lymph nodes away, to check for spread.

I am glad I noticed and got the freckle treated - many of my friends will know my aversion to the sunbathing - I love the outdoors but always cover up - even lying on the beach in a full sunsuit when we were on the beach in Australia!

I'll keep you posted on my progress and would love it if you got your moles checked if they are itching, growing, bleeding or changing colour or shape.

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  1. What did it look like before?

  2. Eric take a look at my next blog post which contains a pic of a lesion like the one i had removed. http://showhowitsdone.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/how-to-self-check-your-skin-if-it.html

    unfortunately I didnt have the presence of mind to take a pic of my own lesion before it was chopped out! more important read the article and realise that its not just about how it looks, more if its changing get it checked! cheers


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