My Encounter With A Sneaky Melanoma

Melanoma, the very word can strike fear, into the heart of anyone who knows even a little bit, about this form of skin cancer. If not caught early and removed, it can spread throughout the body. There is no cure or effective way, to treat melanoma at this time, making it the most deadly skin cancer. On December 30, 2015 I was admitted to the hospital for infusion treatments, for a status migraine. The hospital I use is a teaching hospital, so I am very familiar and comfortable, dealing with residents.


During my physical exam one of the residents noticed a small mole, above my left knee. He questioned me about how long it had been there, had it looked like this for very long, had anyone else been following it? The mole had been there for some time, yes it had looked like this for quite a while, and yes it had been followed by the Cancer Screening Program at our local hospital.


The resident did not like how the mole looked at all, he asked the nurse for a measuring tape and then took a picture of it with his cell phone. He asked me if I was okay with a Dermatology consult, which of course I was. This is the mole that raised the concern of the resident. As you can see it is quite small, almost an inch. The reason I call this a sneaky melanoma, is because it looks nothing like the horrible pictures, you see hanging in your doctor’s office. But the edges were a bit abnormal and that is a warning sign. Another reason I thought that I would be the last person to get skin cancer, is being a migraineur I avoid the sun like a vampire. Some of my medications make me more sensitive to sunburn and I always use sunblock.

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December 31, 2015 the Dermatologist came in to do the consult and removed the mole, he was an extremely kind person, who talked me through every step of the procedure. He told me that he would call within one week, with the pathology results either way. This was a promise that he kept and the results were melanoma in situ early stages. I have to admit, this shook and scared me some, as it does most people when the thought of cancer looms in their mind. The next step was to excise the tissue around and under, from where the mole was removed.


This was done in clinic January 14, 2016, once again he explained everything he would be doing and why. Before doing the procedure, he did a complete skin check, making sure I had no other sneaky moles. At the time, I had toenail polish on, he told me to check my nail beds the next time I removed my polish, because there can be problems areas there as well. He also told me, that in the majority of cases, women tend to get melanomas on their thighs, which is where mine was.


During the procedure, the doctor made an excision about 3 inches long and 1 ½ inches deep. He said this was necessary to make sure to get all the tissue surrounding the area. Once again, he told me would call in about a week, when the pathology results were back. He again kept his promise, everything was clear, what a relief! I was to return in six months for a skin check, earlier if I noticed anything unusual. I’ve since had my six month, skin check with no problems and my next one year check is coming up.

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Faint scar left from excision!

THINGS TO DO TO AVOID SKIN CANCER

Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
Do not burn.
Avoid tanning and UV tanning beds.
Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Don’t forget your lips, use a lip balm with SPF. 
Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.

If you had even one bad sunburn as a child with blistering, it can double your chances of getting skin cancer. The number of moles you have also make a difference, in your chances of getting skin cancer. This being fifty or more, just continue to be aware of your body, we know it better than anyone. If you notice a mole that looks strange or different to you, make an appointment to see your doctor right away! They would rather see a hundred false alarms, than to miss a skin cancer! Be aware of medications that you are on, some can cause sun sensitivity. My husband and I took a trip to Florida, this past June for our Anniversary. I needed a wide-brimmed hat, so starting looking on Amazon. I was quite amazed to find, hats with SPF added into the material of many types of hats. What a wonderful way to shield your face and neck! 

I truly hope you have found my story compelling and will take steps to avoid letting a sneaky mole bring cancer into your life!

Live with hope,
Roni

It’s The Most Wonderful Time

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“It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you be of good cheer
It’s the most wonderful time of the year”

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, I love everything about it! The decorating, putting up the tree, giving gifts, special traditions our family has, cooking and baking things I only do at this time of year. Being with family members, eggnog, punch, pumpkin pie, watching our favorite Christmas movies, all of it! Except wrapping present, I have to be honest, I don’t like wrapping presents. I’d just as soon use a gift bag and make it pretty! 

I’m not trying to horn in on Thanksgiving, some of the tips given here can be used for both holidays. I have much to be thankful for, despite migraine and chronic pain! The holidays will be quite different, for me this year. I’ve spent most of the year, with an intractable migraine, a new experience for me, which I’m trying to adjust and find my footing. Writing this blog has helped me in so many ways, there is always hope and you are never alone! 

The holidays before and after chronic migraine and chronic pain, are two totally different entities, as I have found. But with a few tips, you can make it less stressful and more enjoyable, just what the season is all about! 

  • I do all of my shopping online, thus avoiding any possible migraine triggers, in the Malls, Big Box Stores etc. It also is virtually stress free, Amazon is a great place to shop, if you need a gift wrapped and mailed. They do it beautifully and your gift arrives on time.
  • I’ve learned to do my decorating in stages and even then, I don’t do as much as I used to. Pick your favorites and put those out, if you only the energy to put up your tree, that is perfectly fine! It isn’t a contest, it’s Christmas, peace, joy and hope! 
  • Any baked goods that can be done ahead of time and then frozen, is an excellent way to stretch that out, over the month. This tip works for Thanksgiving as well! 
  • Make sure your pantry is stocked ahead of time, if you don’t have access to a Costco or Sam’s Club. Amazon Prime Pantry, comes in handy for this also. As does your local Aldi’s, if you have one. 
  • If you’re hosting any holiday dinners, try delegating some of the side dishes to family members who will be attending. As it is most likely they know you live with migraine and how it affects your life, they will be more than happy to pitch in! It is the season of giving!
  • This book was given to me last year as a Christmas gift by a dear friend. It is an advent calender for the month of December and is delightful, I highly recommend it!
    https://www.amazon.com/Chronic-Christmas-Surviving-Holidays-Illness-ebook/dp/B01MRHKQZZ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1510158763&sr=8-2&keywords=lene+andersen

I wish you all, peace, joy and hope! I’d love to hear any tips, you may have, goodness knows I couldn’t think of that many! 

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year
There’ll be much mistltoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When love ones are near
It’s the most wonderful time of the year”

Live with hope,
Roni

 

Songwriters: EDDIE POLA, GEORGE WYLE

 

 

What’s Up Doc?

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“The human body experiences a powerful gravitational pull in the direction of hope. That is why the patient’s hopes are the physician’s secret weapon. They are the hidden ingredients in any prescription.” ~ Norman Cousins

The most important thing we need, as we journey through life with migraine, is a headache specialist who is willing to work with us, in formulating our treatment plan. Migraine by its nature and depending on the type and severity, of migraine you have, takes a lot of control, out of our lives. Being a part of your treatment planning, helps put some of that control back in our hands. You will also feel more hopeful, as you learn to advocate for yourself. If your doctor isn’t willing to work WITH you, it may be time to search for a new doctor. I will post a link at the bottom of this blog, of migraine and headache specialists, all over the US. You do have other options. 

I want to talk about my fabulous headache specialist and a little of the history, that brought me to him. I had been seeing a pain specialist, who is also an Oncologist/Hematologist. At the time he was also taking care of my newly diagnosed Iron Deficiency Anemia, that required iron infusions and blood transfusions. I had some blood work come back, that was really wacky. This led to me having to have my second bone marrow biopsy, yeah I’m lucky like! The results showed there was no iron at all in my bone marrow. Thus the reason for the anemia and the need for blood transfusions, since my hemoglobin dropped as well.
The hospital decided they wanted him, to devote all his time to just oncology/hematology, so I wasn’t able to see him any longer. The hospital had a neurologist coming from another hospital, so I was scheduled to see him. Let’s just say, they were the worst six months of my life. He stopped all the migraine medications I was taking at the time, one of them being Nardil an MAOI. Which you’re not suppose to stop cold turkey and started me on three other medication. That first week was horrible, my mood was all over the place, I would start crying for no reason, get angry while watching a TV show! My appetite fell to zero, I lost forty five pounds, in those six months. I ended up in the ER of the hospital he worked out of, when the ER doctor called him. He said he was no longer providing my care. This was the first I had heard of this, but it turned out to be a blessing! I was referred to my present doctor! 

During our very first visit, Dr. B wrote down the names of two medications and asked me, which I would prefer to try. Right then I knew, I had hit the jack pot! He doesn’t ever tell me to take a medication our supplement, without telling me why. He is very patient, compassionate and caring, he never lets my comorbidities or boat load of allergies, which make it more challenging, to treat me, bother him. Never once as he even hinted, that I’m too complicated for him. Believe me, this has happened to me before. Dr. B is soft-spoken, has a sense of humor and he always listens when I advocate for myself. We’ve been through some pretty hairy situation and his calm, steady presence, helped me get through them. When I started having signs of clinical depression, I reach out to him and Dr. B made sure I got the help, that I needed. When psych dropped the ball, Dr. B picked it up. I always leave each office visit, feeling hopeful!

“He is the best physician who is the most ingenious inspirer of hope.” ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Live with hope,
Roni

 

https://www.healthcentral.com/article/why-how-and-where-to-find-a-migraine-specialist