so long, marty mcmole.
The last year or so of my life has really been about cleaning up my act, health-wise. Last Easter (about a year ago this coming weekend), I was in the ER and then the OR–getting my gall bladder removed. That was kind of a wake-up call that I really needed to make my health more of a priority. I mean, I tried to take care of myself–but mostly failed miserably and actively avoided Western medicine for most of my adult life. I didn’t really believe in it, and I couldn’t really afford it. Plus, I didn’t think I was all that sick. I had problems, sure, but I could live with them. I accepted a good amount of suffering as routine and normal–for me.
I guess the whole almost dying thing made me realize I didn’t want to suffer anymore, and that I really didn’t need to. While the rest of my life was getting better, I often lacked the energy and well-being to truly live my life the way I wanted to. So, I started working pretty diligently at feeling better. I went through all kinds of things–some worked; some didn’t. Some, I’m still working towards or through.
In any case, I have kind of been through it this year. But I do feel like I’ve turned a corner. If nothing else, I now see doctors and medicine as tools. And I’m not afraid to go after what I need. I’m getting better at acting on my own behalf. In the past, if I didn’t like something or disagreed, I’d leave with no notice and give up whatever it was I was doing. I didn’t challenge my doctors because I hate conflict and didn’t want to be the problem patient. But I also didn’t want to be a guinea pig. In the end, my inability to stick with it and have dialogues with my physicians probably hurt me. Because I let things go too long. Right now, I don’t feel better (I’m fighting a bad virus that isn’t fun with a missing gall bladder). But I’m happy to say I have a good relationship with a doctor. I’ve stood up to her a few times, and we’re still figuring stuff out, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and mostly know what I need to do to make things better.
When I was a kid, we didn’t really do sunscreen. It was expensive and my mother wasn’t exactly up on such things. She had olive skin and never burned. I, of course, was the palest kid ever. I burned in a blink of an eye. So, I don’t really think my Mama knew what to do with me. Eventually, we got on the bandwagon, but often, I got burnt anyway. Needless to say, I’ve pretty much always thought I’d get skin cancer at some point. My mother, tan as can be, got it on her ear in her 60s. So, clearly, I was in for it.
I’ve had a mole on my eyebrow for as long as I can remember. Then, a few years ago, another mole popped up near the tip of my nose. It was pretty large, but didn’t meet any of the guidelines for big-scary-bad. Most people had no idea I even had a mole there. But I always felt self-conscious about it, and it always made me worry.
A couple of years ago, I finally went to see a dermatologist to get both checked. It was a peace of mind thing, more than anything. She was pretty sure it was nothing to worry about and said to come back if it got bigger, changed, or started bleeding. Earlier this year, the mole on my nose seemed to get inflamed every so often and would swell or bleed–then return to normal. So, at my annual skin check this month, I had my derm look at it again. It had gotten bigger. She still didn’t think it was bad, but did recommend removing it and testing it to be doubly sure. But since it was on the tip of my nose, she recommended I see a plastic surgeon to get it removed.
I NEVER EVER thought I’d end up at a plastic surgeon’s office. The whole thing was pretty terrifying. If you google Mohs surgery, you’ll probably see why. Basically, you clear your calendar, grab a friend, and sit in a waiting room for a good chunk of the day. At least that’s what they tell you. I got there, with my roomie, had him park himself in the room while I checked in. I immediately noticed that everyone had big bandages on their faces. This meant they were waiting on biopsy results and may have to have more stuff removed. They all seemed calm, but anxious–all on their laptops. I didn’t have to wait long, luckily, or my imagination would have been awful.
The nurse immediately said my moles were probably not going to require much. They looked benign, and usually they just cut it off. The doctor came in–immediately said it’s benign–and told me what she was going to do. I decided against removing my eyebrow mole since it’s been unchanged for 30 years. She proceeded to insert a LARGE needle into my nose. That was pretty awful. It immediately went numb, and I felt nothing as she sliced it off. It took about 3 minutes. There was some bleeding, but the bandage was probably the worst part. It kept wanting to fall off. They sent my mole to the lab and sent me home. 10 days later, I got a card saying I’m fine–as predicted. My scar is healing pretty well and looks like I have a red blotch right now. It should fade to white eventually.
It so weird to not have a mole on my nose. I didn’t realize how self-conscious I was about it. I do feel better about myself, honestly, which is odd to say because I’ve never been very vain. It just feels good to not have to worry about it anymore. I used to obsess over every white splotch on my face, thinking another was popping up. At least now I know what to worry about and that the procedure to remove is not that big a deal.
When I’m feeling better, I’m going to celebrate the demise of Marty McMole and Gus the Gall Bladder as part of my celebration of not dying a year ago. Kind of appropriate since Spring is right around the corner.