3 rings. That’s all it took before I answered the contact-less, but familiar, number on my phone. The woman on the other side seemed calm and unfazed as she broke the news to me that my biopsy showed positive for melanoma cancer. How crazy is that? In 3 short minutes, the world disappeared and my life went on hold. I then had to break the news to my mom over a phone call right after. Who knew a phone call with a faceless voice could have such a debilitating power.
No evidence of disease
Fast forward to now. I have been NED for about 2 and a half years, but I’ve had a considerable amount of moles removed and each one is a scare of its own. I’ve been in and out of hospitals and doctor offices. From reconstructive surgeries to ultrasounds of my lymph nodes, I’ve seen it all. I had a spur of the moment appendectomy after about 12 hours of very odd, very specific pain.
Before we headed to the operating room, I listened as my mom asked the surgeon to go ahead and check out the rest of my abdomen for anything interesting while he had a scope in there anyway. Each new doctor, each time I listen as my mom double and triple checks it’s not cancer, is heart wrenching, After the appendectomy, the pain where my appendix was had thankfully subsided but my abdomen pain did not. I continued to have this very odd left side/back pain followed by some unexplainable bleeding. As she and I headed to my family doctor, my mom again mentioned that I had a past of cancer and we just wanted to make sure nothing went unseen.
That night, she and I headed for a CT re-scan, 4 weeks after my appendectomy procedure and original CT scan. My doctor assured me that I would know whether or not my lymph nodes were of concern that same night. When nothing appeared out of the ordinary, we left the hospital and scheduled a re-check for the following week. As I was leaving early for work, I received a phone call from a nurse that left a message asking to call her back to discuss the appointment she made. I did so promptly to be sure that I had not messed up my appointment date. After a couple minutes of bouncing from person to person, I finally reached the nurse that left the voicemail and she began to tell me about an appointment she had made for me with a doctor I had never heard of. After I asked who that was, she explained to me it was a new oncologist because my original one had retired. To my dismay, I broke down because as far as I was concerned, nothing seemed abnormal. I could tell instantly she knew she messed up and was only meant to make the appointment, not call me.
I arrived at my check up, thankfully with my mom because that phone call created a stomach ache far too familiar. My doctor then assured me that my lymph nodes did not seem to bring too much concern, but concern enough with my past to see a specialist. I then saw this new oncologist and we have scheduled my very first PET scan next month.
It’s crazy enough that you mentally prepare to receive bad news, either from expectations in the world or expectations created from others’ experiences or those portrayed in the media. I expected if I were ever told bad news, I would be asked to come into an appointment where I could mentally prepare to receive bad news prior. Instead, I’m slowly and harshly realizing the power of a phone call.