Getting Through The Days Before My Full Body Skin Check
I woke up this morning with a sick feeling in my stomach. I didn’t have any other symptoms-no fever, no body aches, no sore throat. I thought about it for a few minutes, as I got ready to go to the gym. Had I eaten something that made my stomach hurt? Was I getting sick?
Anxiety over my upcoming skin check
Then I remembered that I have a full-body skin check on Monday morning and that I had received a reminder call about that checkup last night. At that moment, I knew why I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I was nervous about my upcoming 6-month full-body exam. I thought about how I was going to cope with these feelings for the next three days.
Here’s what I did on to cope:
- I compartmentalized when I had to work. I pushed the nervous thoughts and concerns away to another part of my mind and only allowed myself to focus on my work. I had to do that a few times each day because those nasty worries kept pushing into my consciousness.
- When I wasn’t working, I went to the gym or walked with friends. I tried to stay busy. At times, I checked my body for suspicious spots, anything I want the PA to check. I don’t mean that I obsessively looked at my body, but I did pay attention at certain times throughout the day, and I made a list of everything that looked even slightly suspicious to me.
- After my shower, I checked as I toweled off. I looked at my arms and legs, and behind my legs, which I don’t always do. I looked closely at my face after I put in my contacts and as I was applying my make up. I wrote down anything I saw that I thought might be skin cancer: 4 spots on my face, 1 on my left leg, 1 on my left ear
Trying to find control
Throughout the day, I found myself glancing at my hands, or looking a little more closely at my face, in the mirror, to see if I noticed anything suspicious that I wanted my PA to take a careful look at. When I bent down to put my sneakers on to go for a walk at the end of the day, I looked at my lower left leg and noticed a spot.
I know this may sound a bit compulsive, but it actually made me feel better. As a psychologist, I know the importance of control, especially the perception of control. Even though I know I don’t have control over whether my previous sun damage will result in skin cancer, I do know that catching it early means that there will be less to surgically remove and lessens the possibility that it will have spread. So by noting all these spots and carefully checking my face and body, I felt like I have a bit of control over a pretty uncontrollable situation.
2 day count down to skin check
Two days before my full body exam. I followed the same routine as the day before, checking my face as I brushed my teeth, examining my legs as I put my pants on, wondering if I was missing anything.
Day before skin check
Finally, it’s the day before my check up. I was actually a bit more relaxed today because I knew I’d be having a professional examine me the next day. That felt reassuring.
Day of skin check
The morning of my appointment, I didn’t look at myself as closely as I had been doing all week. I woke up, ate breakfast, and drove to the doctor’s office. I concentrated on work while waiting to be called in to the exam room at my appointment. By controlling other parts of my life, I actually felt a little more at ease about my upcoming exam.
How do you all cope during the days leading up to your fully body check? Does any of this sound familiar, or do you do something else?
How well was your skin cancer diagnosis explained to you?