Down, But Not Out

So far I’m not so thrilled with 2019. It bothers me that I’m saying this, because I’m almost always a positive-mood person. 2019, however, has come in like a lion.

Getting bad news

A couple of days into the new year, my daughter called and said that my son-in-law’s truck had a window smashed while they were out to dinner. The thief, though, only got a lunch bag and coffee thermos and thankfully caused no damage other than the window. Two days later, I discovered when looking online at my checking account that my debit card number had been stolen. Okay, two things in three days, but both are relatively minor in the whole scheme of things and I was still on the ‘yay for the new year’ kick.

Then, my mom passed out, fell, and broke her collarbone. It turns out she passed out because she’d had a major heart attack, although she’d had zero symptoms of a heart attack other than tiredness. (Heads up, ladies – the cardiologist said this is why it’s called the ‘silent killer’ with women; many women have no symptoms.) Mom seems to be doing okay, thankfully, and I thought that was number 3 of the "bad things come in threes" saying.

The bad news keeps coming

But then I was given some unexpected news at a medical appointment. Last year, I had some anxiety-producing appointments and procedures brought on by my annual mammogram. The doctor found a suspicious area on my mammogram and ordered additional tests and procedures. I was relieved to finally get the good news that the three radiologists who were involved in my case all agreed that the suspicious areas were actually scar tissue from a previous skin cancer surgery.

Based on that, when I recently went for my 6-month follow-up mammogram I expected an uneventful appointment. However, the radiologist who read my films while I was there asked for an additional set. Uh ho – my anxiety level definitely started rising. And after that set, he wanted to talk with me. He said he wasn’t sure that the area was in fact scar tissue and he thinks I should have surgery to remove the suspicious area. He provided me with contact information for two surgeons and said to call one of them to schedule the surgery.

Prepare to advocate for yourself

This was not at all what I expected to hear, but years of having skin cancer has taught me something – and that is that we are our own best advocates and that it is okay to say no, or to say I’ll get back with you, while we then do some research or look into other treatment alternatives. I wasn’t fully comfortable with the doctor’s suggestion of surgery, as this was the same doctor who six months prior said all was well. I wondered if the surgery was actually 100% needed or was instead suggested so the doctors didn’t have to second guess every year when I came in whether I had scar tissue or breast cancer.

Learning about myself

Something I’ve realized about myself throughout my journey with skin cancer is that I’m not at all a fan of having surgery or a medical procedure based on a "maybe." If I need surgery, there needs to be a good reason for it. So, I’ve scheduled an appointment for a second opinion with another doctor, and I’m praying for good news at that appointment.

Even though 2019 so far has been nothing at all like I had expected, I’m pushing on. I’m still here, I’m still spreading the word about skin cancer awareness, and right now, I’m advocating for myself as a patient.

Here’s to a brighter, better 2019.

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