My melanoma depth is 1.37 mm and we learned that anytime it is over 1 mm in depth (for some surgeons, the threshold is anything over .75) they need to biopsy the closest sentinel lymph node to see if the cancer cells are already in there. This crushed any of my "we caught it early!" hopes. We didn't catch it early. And while I try to refrain from using foul language in my writing, who knows how long that bastard has been growing there on my back, undetected. Over the past few days, I have spoken to a few people who have either had melanoma or know people who have, and all are alive and well. But I have yet to hear from anyone whose depth was like mine, or deeper. Most were surface level, and removed in office.
I'm not saying that there are no treatment options if it has spread, but the survival rate is poor even with treatment.
If it has not spread, prognosis is good.
So there is a lot riding on this. It really is a matter of life or early death.
My next appointment is the day after tomorrow, Wednesday at 3pm, for a whole body PET scan. We should receive these results the following Monday the 9th when we meet with my oncologist. The scheduler expressed empathy for my diagnosis and was explaining what to eat the night before and day of (protein, but nothing after 9am). I was dutifully taking my notes, and wrote down that it was at the "Advanced Technology Pavilion" on the lower campus of Hoag hospital. "Oh, is that by where they do the gamma knife surgery?" I asked? "Yep! Same building!" She responded, and I just unexpectedly lost it. I could barely compose myself enough to thank her and quickly get off the phone. That's where we took Mom for her gamma knife procedures. I'm going to the same place that I took her to. Without her.
That's the thing - I can be doing (relatively) fine and something unexpected triggers sadness. Or anger.
My thoughts go to the worst so often, even when I'm trying my best not to let them. One of my current favorite things to counter them with is planning for Autumn's 1st Birthday party. This has been working, as my husband was kind enough to let me order us our matching outfits for her party and a lot of the decorations on-line. But the thoughts still creep in. Like when I was pulling into the parking lot of Hobby Lobby and thought "What if this is the only party I ever plan for her?" I had to sit in the parking lot for a good ten minutes before I could compose myself enough to go in.
Displacement of anger has also started coming out at unexpected times. Just because I have the training to recognize that's what it is, doesn't mean that I can stop it from happening. But it does help me get it in check. Just having learned that sugar feeds cancer cells a few years ago, I was livid after I left Starbucks and found out that my unsweetened passion fruit ice tea that I ordered was loaded with sweetener. Two illegal u-turns later, I was really upset with the person behind the speaker. But it wasn't their fault. By the time I made it to the window for the exchange I just sat there, Can you imagine what the employee thought? Jeeze lady, it's sweetened instead of unsweetened, get ahold of yourself!
This coming Friday, I check into Hoag and will be given radioactive liquid to drink to help them map out and find my sentinel lymph node. It sounds like an involved process that can take awhile. Since the radioactive dye is invisible, my surgeon said that he will then sometimes use a Geiger counter or blue dye. Once that biopsy is complete, they start on excising the skin on my back. He said they take a lot, and sometimes grafting is involved. I asked if he takes into consideration the patient's wishes to take even more, and he smiled and said yes, he would remove more.
I'm trying to increase my faith during this time because I so desperately need it. I'm also trying to be in the moment with Autumn, which of course comes naturally to her; what babies worry about the future? Seeing what a joy she is becomes hard because my thoughts again turn to not wanting to leave her as a young child. We had a busy weekend, but made time for mass, and I emailed a priest from St. Michael's Abbey who gave the Mass and I really like. He said that he can meet with me and also perform an anointing of the sick.
Though I do not currently have a positive attitude, my husband is being incredible and tomorrow is a new day. This is by far the toughest trial I have ever faced. But it's not as tough as what Mom faced, and I have her toughness in me.