a man and woman walk hand in hand, while the ghost of his wife holds his other hand

When a Melanoma Death Hits a Nerve

After years of being divorced and single, and going on many bad dates, I finally met a nice guy. He’s tall, intelligent, funny, and kind, he likes my dog, he’s athletic, we have the same political views, and we’re basically the same age.

A serious coincidence

In his online dating profile, he wrote that his wife had died, but he didn’t say the cause. I wasn’t going to ask on our first date. But the conversation seemed to lead to a natural opening, so I asked if he minded telling me what happened.

I nearly fell off my chair when he said she died of melanoma. Not only that, but she was treated at the same hospital where I went, first, for leukemia, and second, for the squamous cell cancers that I get on my skin.

Sharing the truth

I generally had a three-date rule about telling people that I had leukemia. But later that evening, I figured I better tell him to find out if it bothered him because if it did, I’d rather know sooner rather than later. He said he was fine with it.

My little brain later went off on a tangent that rationally doesn’t make sense. His wife had melanoma and died, therefore I could get melanoma and die.

The melanoma death sparked worry

Of course, I then saw a spot that I thought could be melanoma. My dermatologist and I go way back and have become friends. So I called the office and asked I could talk to her. She called me back and reassuringly said that I get squamous cells, not melanoma. (Although I did get one basal cell.) A dermatologist’s reassurance isn’t going to totally put a stop to this kind of concern, but hearing her words helped.

Also, it is a known fact that if you catch melanoma early, it is treatable. This was not the case with his wife. A dermatologist misdiagnosed it, and by the time she sought treatment at a bigger hospital, it had progressed.

Taking solace in my regular visits

I see a dermatologist every three months so that if I had something, it wouldn’t sit around for long. A friend told me what I already knew-- just because someone else has or had something, doesn’t mean you’re going to get it.

The other day I was sure that one of the little blemishes on my skin had changed. I don’t even know what these things are. My dermatologist calls some of them “little guys.” I should get their proper name. I stared and stared at a little darker color on one of them. I nudged it with my finger (not a good diagnostic so don’t do this at home). I used a washcloth on it in the shower, and low and behold, the darker color came off.

See something, say something

A spot on my wrist looks a little strange, so I took a photo and sent it in. I want to know if I should put one of my many creams on it or if I should get a biopsy. The rational way of looking at it is that I’m trying to find out how to treat it. The way that doesn’t help at all is to stare at it or pick at it and worry that it’s going to kill me.

Notes to self: Don’t project, don’t catastrophize, don’t pick.

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