Sitting in the waiting room I felt very really happy, actually. Even though I didn’t know what the next step would be, I was happy to find out; excited for the next step. I brought my camera with me, as I tend to do. I want to document this journey for me, for my family and for anyone else that may gain from not only just my ramblings, but photos, too. Photos of the good, the bad and the ugly.
I took a picture of Tony and me sitting there in the waiting room. There was an older gentleman there waiting to get his blood drawn. He said “Why don’t you take a picture of me because they will take half of me when I get in there”. He appeared to be a member of the Melanoma Club, too. I am only capitalizing the “M” of Melanoma because it’s something to deal with. Something to be concerned of.
Mr. Older Gentleman in the waiting room had half of his right ear. He was still FULL of personality. As he was bracing for a solo picture, I said “Hey, I’m coming over with you!” We took a great picture, thanks to my lovely camera and two great personalities sitting next to each other. I hope I see him again :)
Amber Vasco? Oh, that’s me! I respond with “I’ve got my crew with me, can we all fit?” My mom, dad and of course my nervous husband were all there with me. I was putting on a happy face for them. Or it could have been the fact that I had actually slept the last two nights prior to this appointment. I had all of the standard doctor appointment things; blood pressure (which was high because I was - ahem - nervous), thermometer reading (which was also higher than normal - I like to think that I ’run hot’) and the scale. This scale was HUGE. It was in the floor, I can only assume for people that are in wheelchairs. I’ve never seen anything like that before. I actually liked it, only because the numbers - aka my weight - wasn’t staring me in the face.
A man walked into the office as the nurse is asking me questions. He introduced himself, “Hi, my name is Mr. B. I’m a volunteer, but also a patient. You will LOVE Dr. Surgeon!" As I move from the new patient questioning area into the exam room, Mr. B follows and he’s talking to my crew about how awesome the doctor is. I asked Mr. B what stage he was and he said that he’s a stage IV survivor! He was given 3-9 months to live and that was almost 4 years ago. He had Melanoma on his head, back and also liver. He had lots of surgeries and lots of chemo. He looked great. He had to have been around 65+ and that made me feel pretty confident about the doctor.
The nurse asks me to get undressed and wear one of those lovely open back gowns, which ladies, we ALL know that a man designed them. My dad not wanting to stick around to see his grown daughter get undressed split and went to the waiting room, even though there was a perfectly good curtain that I could have hid behind. The doctor comes in with his own entourage which included a nurse and a student. The first words out of his mouth where “Shit, there’s a lot of people in here.” I knew this was going to work out just fine, a cursing doctor. Awesome!!
The consultation begins and he shakes my mom’s hand, my husband’s hand and then puts his arm around me and places his forehead to mine. He makes jokes, which helps ease the tension in the room; I think that all of the tension is purely radiating from Tony as he is still not sitting… He pulls out the same pathology report that I had from the Dr. Dermatologist and circles two things - my age and the mitotic rate. Age being good, mitotic rate being bad. He was very confident and quick. Quick, as in witty. I’ve heard before that people that are quick witted are quite intelligent. I tend to agree. I don’t know why ALL doctors don’t have stellar personalities. I’m not saying that I am super smart, but my brain fires rapidly. Sometimes there is no sensor between brain and mouth. Sometimes words fly out of my mouth so fast that I have no time to think if that is appropriate to say at work, let alone in a meeting…
He visually scanned over my body using a nifty Melanoma magnifying glass - no other moles or freckles were of concern. That was a HUGE relief to me because there was a curious freckle at the end of my big toe on my right foot. His term was boring. These moles are boring. Since I am a pasty, blonde hair, blue eyed, primarily German chick, I am a prime target for Melanoma. I will need to go to the dermatologist initially every 3-6 months and then after a few years it will be once a year.
Now for the game plan. The game plan is a wide excision. Due to the location of the mole, the excision will need to be diagonal on my back. They will also need to take out a couple lymph nodes. For some reason when I was talking to Dr. Dermatologist during the phone call heard ‘round the world, I assumed he meant like checking them. Like feeling them through my skin. Or looking at them under some sort of super cancer x-ray machine. Wrong.
They will inject me with a very, very small dose of radiation and also blue dye. The injection site will be where the biopsy was. I’ve read this is lovely, comparable to wasp stings. Stings as in plural. I was stung by a wasp once. I was doing laundry at the last apartment complex that I was living in. I wear flip flops all the time; Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. All of a sudden, I get this quick feeling like I had stepped on something sharp. I kick my leg out thinking that I had something stuck under my toe. I put my foot back down and there it is again, this time stronger. It felt like a hot needle piercing through my skin, aaaaaand it lasted for about 30 minutes. joy.
The injections will take place two hours prior to the surgery so that way the injection has time to flow to whatever lymph node would typically be receiving fluids from the body. There is some sort of radiation “radio”, if you will, and whatever nodes are playing the loudest radiation rock will be removed. I think the blue dye is to assist in the locating them - so they can be seen during surgery. They assume that the nodes that will be affected will be in my left armpit. Although, they did explain that there may be some in my neck, near my collarbone and possibly on my right side.
My surgery has been scheduled and I am excited to get this over with. Let the scars begin to heal and figure out where I stand. I think that’s what I am so nervous about is the results again. I only “think” what I am nervous about because I don’t completely know. I am SO not in tune with my emotions…