June 29, 2018 at 2:26 am #17714
I’m not really sure what I’m doing with this but I thought I would give it a go.
I found out in December last year that I had melanoma from a biopsy that was done when I was still living in the UK and the doctors in Canada then told me that I would need further surgery to remove more from around where the mole was.
That was done at the beginning of February but whilst that went on the biopsy came back from a part on my arm to say that it was also stage 1 melanoma. Now 30 stitches later (26 in my leg and 4 in my arm) I’ve been told that they have got clear margins and while I know that it’s a good thing I just seem to be struggling with the aftermath.
Everyone keeps telling me that I need to stop thinking about it and that everything is fine but I keep panicking at every little mole I have now and when I can’t remember if it looked the same the previous times I’ve checked then the panicking gets worse.
My doctors are kind and answer any questions that I can think of at the time but I guess I’m just wondering is it normal to still be like this months after the surgeries?
I have 6 monthly check ups that I will be going to in August but that also makes me panicky in case they find further issues or say that it’s back somewhere else. I know that I’m lucky to have caught it early on and that the margins have come back clean but I still can’t believe that I had it in the first place. So yeah, not really sure what to expect but I guess I’m just wondering if there are some people out there going through the same thing?
June 29, 2018 at 9:46 am #17718
We are always sorry to hear about another diagnosis, but as you say, the good news is you have caught both of them early. Do you have a lot of moles? It sounds like you have a great dermatologist to help you spot them early, which is also good as you will need to be followed, at least annually after the next couple of years, for life. Let me say that your worries and feelings are completely normal – I went through similar and we get this type of question all the time. It is still early days for you for such a scary diagnosis so it is quite natural to have a fear of it coming back or another one being diagnosed. Also common to fear appointments and scans or other things like that -it is the unknown, right?. There is no timeline on the fear of recurrence, but generally, it does get better with time. I don’t know that you ever forget, but it will get better over time – and maybe we shouldn’t because it may remind us to check our skin on a monthly basis. I try to remind folks to not it on your calendar or computer for the 1st of each month – then you won’t forget. If you would like to talk to others that have been where you are, then there are cancer support groups running – we have a few across the country if you want to call our office and we also have a peer support option, where we would link you up with another patient at similar staging so that you can chat and get their perspective. Please feel free to contact us should you need additional support. If the fear becomes paralysing – that is, it interferes with your normal routine or daily life, then it is time to speak to a professional who can help – the hospitals have social workers and psychologists who are experienced with cancer diagnosis and can help as well.
We have instructions on this website how to check your skin..granted, if you have lots of moles, it can certainly be more challenging, but get to know the ABCDEs of melanoma (looking for asymetrical moles (one side doesn’t match the other; Borders – irregular edges; colour – multi colours of anything from blue, black brown, red, pink; diameter – larger than 6mm; and most important, change – if the moles is changing, itching, bleeding, scabbing, getting larger – have it checked by your derm, using a dermatoscope – they should use that tool to help them diagnose). Some other options for giving you a bit of comfort and control back is to use your cell phone or camera to take a picture of anything suspicious if you want to monitor a mole. Put a measuring tape beside it for scale and to track changes and try to take it from several angles that you can repeat. This helps you get some perspective on whether something has changed. As far as recurrence, if caught early the odds of recurrence are really low. But I know you likely will be looking around the surgical areas for some time to come, so what may be of concern is any hard lump which could be red (like a mosquito bite) or a black solid bump that occurs inside, around or outside of the margins. Again, very remote chance since they have clear margins on both, but just to give you a sense of what it may look like. You may also want to occasionally check your lymph nodes in the area closest to the original site – for the leg, it is usually the groin and for the arm, it could be the armpit and around the breast. Your are feeling for any hard pea like bumps. Again – this is a very remote chance of recurrence given what you have said, but it may help you feel a bit more in control of your diagnosis. I hope this long explanation helps you and that others will chime in to give their thoughts too. I am sure you will hear how common what you are experiencing is.
July 10, 2018 at 2:27 pm #18048
I have went through (and am going through) exactly what you are…..one year prior:
I can tell you that your feelings are completely the same as mine. Annette is right too, you did catch it earlier than later so that is positive and the odds are in your favor. I just finished my 1 year checkup with my oncologist and came back all clear, and like you am going to a dermatologist and oncologist every 6 months (rotating). But I still think about it, and check for lumps and bumps as well, but less anxiety over time.
Please come on and talk anytime. I found this forum really helped me speak openly to others about how I felt, rather then people I know. All the best in your recovery!
July 12, 2018 at 1:52 am #18053
Thank you both for getting back to me regarding this. The past couple of weeks I’ve been getting a bit more worked up because my first check up is at the end of this month and while I’ve been checking some days I get a bit panicky over any little pain or twinge.
I do feel a bit more relieved that it’s ‘normal’ to be feeling the way I am.
I moved to Canada on my own and all my family are still back in the UK so it’s been a bit hard trying to cope with all the changes and then this on top of it.
Bluejay – I’m glad that you’re first year has come back clear 🙂
Sometimes I get a little frustrated when trying to talk to friends because they keep telling me to just stop worrying about it, “everything will be fine” but when I tried to explain it’s more being scared of it coming back they just told me to stop being silly.
I’m hoping once I have my first check up this anxiety should ease a little 🙂
July 12, 2018 at 1:31 pm #18054
StephieeLBee I can completely relate! And thank you, it is a big deal and yes, even a year later, is on my mind. Also post questions as well…for me understanding the disease from experts helped as well.
July 14, 2018 at 8:32 am #18063
It is a big deal and we can’t just forget about it. Let’s face it – it is a serious disease and very frightening to have a diagnosis – and made worse when you are on your own with no family around to support you. Friends often don’t know what to say and understand very little about the disease. They often confuse it with basal cell carcinoma which is most often easy to treat. It is hard to understand how one feels unless you have had a diagnosis of cancer. You may have these feelings for some time, so go easy on yourself. You have caught it early and the chances are very good you will never deal with this again, but it will take some time to feel that. Good luck with your follow up appointments and feel free to continue to ask questions. Wishing you well.
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