Thursday, April 12, 2012

Melanoma and GPA


In every photo including my right lower leg, you can easily see a dark spot.  A dark spot that I have had for a few years.  Not my whole life, a few years.  It's a spot strangers will ask me about or express concern.

I'm fair.  I grew up on a farm and worked or played outside year-round.  I've never really been a sunbather or "tanner", probably because my success rate on getting a nice tan has always been almost non-existent; but, I was a runner and an avid golfer for many years.  Being outdoors has always been my lifeline to sanity... to health... to happiness.  It is where I feel closest to God... most thankful... most alive.

I have had multiple lesions frozen, biopsied, excised and/or "watched" on my forearms, hands, face.  I've had one mole (that I'd had my entire life with NO CHANGE whatsoever and no concern to me) on my leg removed in a excisional biopsy... because they were concerned (it was benign). 

The ONLY place I have been really concerned about in these years has been this dark spot on my lower leg.  The ONLY spot the dermatologists (2) and the Physician Assistants (2) and the surgeon (1) have NOT been concerned about is this one.  It had never been biopsied, measured, or photographed.  No concern.   At one point, I had asked a dermatologist to remove it and we scheduled the procedure.  45 minutes into an hour drive to have the procedure, her office called and said she was sick and could not do the surgery that day.  I took it as a message that I was just over concerned about a benign spot and decided not to pursue it any further at that time... I decided to go with the "it's nothing" diagnosis.

As recently as February 29, 2012, on a visit to a plastic surgeon's office regarding a basal cell lesion that would need to be removed from my right ear, I whipped up my pant leg to once again say, "No one thinks this is a problem, but this is the spot that worries me."  He looked at it and said, "Well, think of it this way:  if it had been melanoma, you'd be dead by now."  Dismissed... again. 

Strangely, that comment gave me a sense of peace for the first time... a way to let go of the sniggling fear that had been floating so long in the back of my mind.  I did ask for a referral to a new dermatologist, preferably a woman.  They set an appointment for April 6, Good Friday.

Eight AM Good Friday morning found me sitting in an exam chair meeting a bright, young dermatologist.  Very personable and kind.  She examined my face and ears and hands (the referral was for dealing with those in particular).  As she finished this exam and was about to discuss a plan, Evan asked me to show her my leg (AGAIN to whip out this dark spot).  I told her that the other dermatologists (one of them in her clinic) had dismissed it as nothing and I told her what the surgeon had told me a month before.  I had given up.  She said to just let her take a look.  I pulled up my pant leg and her face gave credence to all I had ever feared (she is young... perhaps she will grow better at her "game face" as time goes by).  She stated she was very concerned.  We told her we had been too... for a long time.  We told her that every time we had sat in an office and looked at the ABCD posters for detecting skin cancer, it seemed to have met every one of the criteria.  She absolutely agreed... for the first time.

A biopsy was done.  It is melanoma.  By a miracle, it is still in an earlier stage.  It is right on the border of excision v. excision and much more aggressive therapies.  I see a surgeon (a different one) at 12:45 today.

I don't know what my message to you would be... I want to say:  if you think something is wrong with your body, keep looking until you find someone who will see it with you.  But, after working in health care for so long myself, I know sometimes... as humans... we just look for things.   And, we need to trust that when they say we don't need to worry, that they are right... and we really don't have to worry.  My new dermatologist (note MY, I'm keeping her), told me that she hoped I wouldn't be angry about the missed diagnosis.  I told her it was nothing close to anger that I feel... just a loss of confidence... a loss of trust... and a fear that has left me unnerved. 

Several years ago, one of the worst arguments my daughter and I ever had was over the GPA of physicians.  Stupid thing to have a serious argument over, huh?  At that time she was dating a young man, who wanted to be a doctor.  I was hard core into believing that if I could have control of medical schools, only the 4.0s would gain acceptance or graduate (I worked in surgery 25 years... I had some grounds for having that opinion).  I argued with her that on a test of 100, if you miss two... that's two lives impacted by your wrong answer; if you miss 15 out of 100... that is 15 lives that may be lost or otherwise negatively impacted.   Multiply that by a lifetime of decisions and you see my point.  She took it as a personal insult to the young man... it wasn't personal for me, it was and is how I think.  Seems logical.  The answers and decisions they make are about lives... yours and mine and the people we love.

Yesterday, after calling Amanda with the news and the plan, I was cleaning off my desk and noticed the information packet the dermatologist's office had sent... and, I noticed among other accolades: Graduated Medical School with Special Distinction for 4.0 GPA.  It was like some special message just for me... of hope... and trust.  I know even if you have a 4.0 GPA, you will make mistakes.  We are human.  But I when I see that GPA, I know her work ethic... and I know she's are smarter than the average bear.  And, I still think it was a special message for me... of hope.

I immediately called Amanda back and relayed this information to her.  The lengths a mother has to go to prove her point... to win an argument YEARS later!  Ha!  She did concede and we had a good laugh.  Laughter is good medicine.  ;)

 Maybe that's the advice I'd give... check their GPA. 

blessings ~ tanna

44 comments:

Kerin said...

What a story!

I'm so glad that you persisted and that the cancer was caught. Such a blessing that it is in the early stages and can be removed completely!!

We have had a similar experience with the melanoma on my daughers face, and she being a transplant patient; you know what that means.

She(my daughter) is also a pre-med student. She just graduated with her associates and is continuing with her education this Fall.

We both have the same opinion in regards to getting a second opinion, and the grades of medical students.

There's a reason that they are referred to as 'practicing physicians'!

Susan said...

Blessings to you, Tanna. I pray the timing is good. Having been transcriptionist to a dermatologist for many years, believe me, I have heard all kinds of good and sad stories. We just have to accept the fact that we can fire doctors and search for new ones. You have just pushed me to have my husband insist on a biopsy of a mole on his back. If nothing else, it can be reassurance. And to help you get through this, keep knitting. Prayers coming your way, my friend. Susan

Pondside said...

What a story, indeed. The visit to the new dermatologist (as convoluted as the road to her was)was an incredible gift. Your persistence is a message and an inspiration to the rest of us.
Please, please let us know what happens when you see the surgeon.

TexWisGirl said...

wow, tanna. i am sorry about the diagnosis, but am grateful you HAVE a diagnosis! jeepers! i'm glad you didn't just let it go after so many said not to think twice...

Kim @ Savvy Southern Style said...

Tanna, thanks for writing this very informative post. How awful for that to have been brushed aside all those times. Thank God you found someone smart to see it for what it really is. You have reminded me that I need to make an appointment with my very good female dermatologist. In fact she is a MOHS surgeon. Good luck today!

Janie said...

I agree with you, we know our bodies. Never give up on having any testing, you were so clear about that. I am amazed with this story. Thank you for sharing it with your followers and visitors. Please keep us updated.

Ginny said...

This story is so frightening, and just shows we have to be so proactive about our own health. Research, read, and not just blindly trust doctors, we can't do that anymore. My doctors go into their office while I'm there and look up my problems on the computer, same as I do!!!! I am so very sorry, I cannot imagine how frustrating this is for you, what was WRONG with those other doctors!!!! It does also show that we know our bodies better than a stranger, and have to go with our gut feelings. Please let us know what is happening! I run out church prayer line and am called The Prayer Lady, so you can count on me to pray for you!!!!!

Stitchfork said...

Mom is always right.
Wishing your were not tho on this one. So glad it was still early stage and your new best derm is taking charge. Thoughts and prayers to you. If closer, I'd be at your front door bearing food and such to brighten your day.
xo Cathy

Katherine said...

Oh my gosh Tanna! I'm SO sorry to hear this story. You persuing this spot and numerous doctors dismissing it like nothing! I can't imagine! I'm SO thankful you found a doctor that took the time to exam and review it to the lengths it needed to be! What a blessing she is!

I'm so thankful they caught it when they did! We are the biggest advocates for ourselves and our children. Kuddos to you for continuing to persue this issue! Please keep us posted on what is to follow! I'll keep you in my prayers!

Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

Tanna~ you have shared an amazing story. I too have been there and changed dermatologists.
Melanoma is not something to ignore...I am thankful you have found the right doctor (who was obviously a great student!)

Heal quickly~

Swanski said...

I'm praying for your spot and thank goodness you were persistent. I have found there are good doctors and bad, just like everything else in this world. Your young dr is a keeper :) (I also agree 4.0 is good) Take care!!!

The Little Adventures of LueLee said...

:'''''( I am very displeased with those doctors I wish I could line them up and tell them that their choices are affecting my Aunt and me and the rest of the family so they need to get their stuff straight!!!!! just like I want to scream and yell at the doctors who misdiagnosed papa :( From now on ( not that I go as often as I probably should if at all) i will be looking for 4.0. I guess the Dr had been right the one time sister and I got all our spots checked you know whats unusual and right for your body so you got to let us know.... I love you very much and so truly relieved that it was caught in time!!! I will be saying an extra special prayer tonight thanken God for the lady who cared enough to give the spot and extra look.

Deb said...

oh Tanna...so happy someone finally listened to you...what Docotors forget is we have lived with our bodies all our lives we know when something is wrong...they really should listen to us...just because they have a license doesn't mean they know more that we do...I will keep you in my prayers...

jean said...

Tanna! Please e-mail me how today's visit with the doctor went. I am so thankful that one more doctor looked at it. Know that I am praying for you and yours. I know they will worry. Love you-jean
jeanelledge@yahoo.com

Christine said...

You might have saved someone with this post. I have an appointment this Monday and will take to heart all your words and feelings.

Thank you for being bold, holding on, telling the truth and sharing with us.

We all are praying for you.
(your sweet niece says it all)

AndeM1 said...

Your story is one that I hope people pass on.....I am so glad for you that you were persistent and the treatment is clear. I recently had a mole removed and have an appointment tomorrow with a plastic surgeon to have more skin removed.....uggg...but I am so glad to have it done quickly! Best to you!

Deborah said...

Thanks for sharing your story and I'm just glad it was caught in time. We know our own bodies better than anyone else. Please keep us posted on your progress.

Solar Powered said...

Girl, someday while you are teaching me to knit we can talk about healthcare till the cows come home. Thank you for sharing this...thank you, thank you.

First, I will put you in my prayers that the excision is painless and the end of this worry. Keep us posted. Gosh, it's scary.

I believe in a 4.0 and love your story. I also love when you get that little message from above, the smile you and Him can share together. Those moments are what it's all about.

I believe in finding the nerdiest doctor around and if they have a bedside manner to go with their nerd status and GPA then you've hit the jackpot. But personally, I want brains over charisma. Actually, charisma in a doctor scares me.

I also prefer them fresh out of school for too many reasons to list in this long winded comment.

xoxo
Blessings back to you

nanny said...

I'm sure I cannot put my feelings into words and write them here in this section.

I had a hard time reading after those 3 words.....

I am so thankful you found "your" dermatologist!!! I hope the surgeon you met with today is "yours" too.

It is so true that you know your body better than anyone else....

Please let us know as soon as you can.

We all love you and are praying for you.

Donna said...

Oh, sweet Tanna, you have handled this with your usual calm and open hearted spirit. I have had 2 basal cell carcinomas removed from my arm and watch all my 'spots' closely. You are going right on my prayer list. Keep me posted....love you! D.

Chatty Crone said...

I am so thankful that you found it now!!! My daughter believe it or not is having one mole checked on the 23rd. I have had a basil cell. It is scary because we didn't know about the sun back then. If you don't mind - lol - I will be praying for you. Put you on my prayer list.

My son is a doctor who had a high GPS - but you know what the call a person graduating from medical school with a D is called? Doctor.

Well love and hugs. sandie

Lauri said...

Tanna, I'm so sorry to hear about the melanoma. My Dad had a VERY scary case of it when us kids were little (he's fine today of course!), and his experience with the doctors was very similar. I firmly believe we know ourselves and our bodies so much better than any doctor. I applaud your persistence and will be thinking of you as things progress! Your doctor sounds amazing!

Jen Price said...

Wow! Praying for you! I think we do know our bodies and if there's something that concerns us, better to get it checked out. Glad they caught it in an early stage.

Karolee said...

Here, Here! I have a slightly similiar story with an eye doctor. He kept refusing to believe my eyes were changing - dismissed me as not being old enough. Today I went in to see a different doctor and not only were my eyes changing due to age, but my prescription was underdiagnosed in one of my eyes. I tried to tell the other guy that and he dismissed it as my complaining about getting old. Sigh....

Not as serious as a skin problem, though. You are in my thoughts and prayers. So glad to hear God was good to keep it at a treatable point while you waited for a reputable doctor.

Debbie said...

This is a frightening story to me because so many dismissed it. I'm so glad it is in the early stage still and this very SMART doctor caught it.

I tend to agree with you about GPA. The stakes are too high!

I will be adding you to my prayer list for complete eradication of all disease.

Kelly said...

First let me just say how sorry I am to hear about your diagnosis. I am glad that you were able to catch it early even though you've had it for so long. It must be very slow growing. Thank goodness! You were so lucky to finally have someone that finally knew what they were doing. You know, you should really call those other doctors back (that told you to not be concerned) and let them know what a disservice they are doing to their patients. To me, they should've been more helpful to you and agreed to check it before dismissing it as benign. Melanoma is very serious and is on the rise! I don't tan either and have the kind of skin that freckles and burns when in the sun. I have moles that get checked out and have read what to look out for. It's scary! Glad to know that you have a plan in place and I would NEVER go back to those other sorry doctors again! You should really stick with this new gal. She obviously is worthy of the title DR. She earned it!!

Stephanie V said...

Well, first off, I'm so glad that the latest dismissive dermatologist was so wildly wrong. It means that you have time to treat this. Second, like you, I believe that marks can indicate competence. A friend had to do all his own research on surgeons after being diagnosed with colon cancer. His first surgeon only wanted to do the radical surgery and wouldn't entertain any other solution. Fortunately, the research yielded a young, bright fellow (with high GPA) who worked the miracle. We are very hopeful now.
There are too many stories like this out there.

Jennifer @ Studio JRU said...

Tanna I am sorry to hear this! But grateful that you were heard and this was caught in time. We went through the same thing of 'doctors saying it is nothing' with my husband. He knew that something was not right and we pursued it until he was diagnosed. So important to trust when we know something about our own bodies. You are in my prayers!

Janette@Janette's Sage said...

So, so sorry...praying for you right now..praising God for His timing on the right diagnosis...and blessings and healing on your surgery as He guides the hands...He is the great Physician

I research myself over and over again and then look for the doctor to confirm...so I guess I don't have much confidence...but I do know the one whom I have confidence in and so do you!!

podso said...

Oh my. I'm just reading this at the end of a non-stop day. I am sorry for the news, and the incredibly long route to get to it, but I'm thankful it looks good. We often joke about someone has to be on the lower end of the bell curve and he or she is someone's doctor.

But my heart aches for you having to face this. Will be praying all goes well. My cousin and my aunt are healthy survivors of melanomas on their legs. And my mom had an ocular melanoma 11 years ago and doing well. Keep up a fighting, positive attitude! Hugs!

a happy little life said...

Thank you so much for sharing such a personal and frightening and informative story!
It WILL make a difference in lives.
Blessings to you Tanna!
xo

Tricia @ saving room for dessert said...

Keeping you in my prayers Tanna! My sister had a spot removed that no one was concerned about either. It was melanoma and she is doing great. It was on her jaw line. No treatments were needed, they got it all. So happy you continued to ask for opinions. Going to / finding the right doctor is scary. Thanks for sharing this important message.

steph said...

Oh, Tanna, I'm with you today in spirit and you are with me in prayer.
I also worry about the docs we are letting into the medical field--(I was a medical librarian for years), but I'm also sad about the bright ones who are turned away. A white male trying for a good med school may have that 4.0 (or 3.8 because he spent too much time playing basketball in the rec center....my son) and be turned down in favor of some minority candidates that are then allowed 5 years to complete a 4 year program. NOT RIGHT. Fortunately, this was a life passion for him, and he worked a year and reapplied. He is a hospitalist--and has absolute horror stories to tell of misdiagnoses. I'm very proud of him---as are more than a few patients he literally saved from some of his peers. We all know 'to err is human' and there is a reason they call it the 'practice' of medicine--but I'm just so thankful you found your 4.0 and someone who was willing to listen to your concerns and take them seriously.
Big hug coming your way.
Steph

The Sewing Loft said...

I am so glad someone has listened to you and taken the lead on this. What interests me, is that your cancer came up on the margin of an old incision. My breast cancer came up on the edge of an old biopsy scar, looked like a BB under the skin. I wonder what the connection is between an old scar and cancer?! Good luck to you.

California Girl said...

Reading this AFTER today's post. You are so right to have gone with your gut. Thank God you found a Dr w/ some damn sense. You're in my prayers too (right this very minute) :)

Anonymous said...

Please Please tanna email me!!! I have malignant melanoma stage 4. It started on my leg, I thought you knew! Please contact me, I KNOW about ALL the treatments. Please let me be of some help.

Big big hugs
Leontien
Www.fourleafcloverdairy.blogspot.com
Www.fourleafcloverdairy.com for the email address if you don't have it true the blog

Catherine said...

Dear Tanna, I will keep you in my prayers.
Blessings my dear friend, Catherine xoxo

Emily said...

How frightful.. I am just now reading and seeing what has been going on. Definitely keeping you in prayer.. thankful that someone finally listened to you!

Eclectically Vintage said...

Goes to show that we know our bodies best and if something doesn't seem right, we need to keep on trying til we are heard.

So sorry to hear that it took that long to be heard. My hubs gets spots cut off every time he visits the derm. Luckily, they've never been anything serious.

Thinking of you and glad you can find laughter in this!
Kelly

Anthonystjoseph said...

I appreciated reading your struggle here and understand your plight... I recently had a resident surgeon in a consultation with me who had his hair styled with gel like Justin Beiber and seem to have a hangover AND was wearing CLOGS (a bad decision for a man if you ask me) and I think I saw a faint & fading bar tattoo from spring break on his hand... Needless to say I passed on the surgery with Justin!

Jill from Killeny Glen said...

I am delayed in reading this post but dear Tanna my prayers are most certainly with you.

Dianne said...

I'm finally back online and have just read this initial post about the melanoma. I am so glad this young physician was aware and concerned...and that you are on your way back to health and healing. You're in my prayers, dear Tanna.

vicki said...

Tanna- for some reason I am just now reading this part of your story. It is amazing- shocking-- and a blessing to all of us who have ever had these thoughts-- and haven't we all? I truly believe tgat you will save someone's life by their having read this incredible story. Bless you for sharing this--
Vicki

leeni1176 said...

Tanna...just reading up on your blog and finding out about all this.

I agree with you totally...that you need to keep seeking answers for something you're worried about. I'm so glad you got the right answers finally.

My thoughts are with you and hoping all keeps going well for you.

Take care...

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Numbers 6:24-26

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.