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Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Lump

A few weeks ago, during our weekend stay in Canberra, I was looking at a scratch just on the inside of my ear - towards the top - which had been around a while, and didn’t seem to be healing.

Admittedly, I knew that the fact that I had played with it off and on wasn’t helping, but I had thought it a little strange that it in the days I had managed to leave it alone, it wasn’t disappearing at all, and I wondered what on earth had caused it?

The bathroom in the apartment we were staying in had a bright fluorescent light above the mirror - much brighter than our own at home - so I took the opportunity to take a good look at the scratch. It was only then I noticed that it wasn’t just a scratch on my ear after all. The scratch, in fact, lined the top of a small, skin coloured oval-shaped lump on my ear.

I hadn’t noticed it before, and I immediately thought the worst.

I showed Hubby. He wasn’t concerned. He said to book in to see the doctor on the Monday after we returned (two days later) and have it seen to then. "It's probably nothing," he kept assuring me. 

That Monday afternoon, I walked in to see my GP and showed her the lump. She took a good look at it and said, “Well, it looks almost wart-like. I’ll write you a prescription for some ointment.” I was instantly relieved. All that concern for nothing. It was obviously something that would go away with a bit of steroid cream or the like. But then she added, “Which you can put on until you see a skin specialist, and I suggest you see one within the month. If not sooner.”

Far out.

I asked, “Is it something serious, then?”

She replied, “No, nothing too serious. But it could be a small skin cancer.”

In my mind, skin cancer is skin cancer. It’s *whispers* cancer.

I’d gone from thinking I had cancer, to thinking I just had a wart, to thinking I might have cancer…all in the space of two minutes.
On the drive home, I imagined the lump being diagnosed as cancerous, and wondered if it was possible that the cancer had spread? Would I need to have half of my ear removed? Isn’t that what they did with skin cancer?

I berated myself for not discovering the lump sooner. How long had it been there? The scratch had been around for weeks. Maybe months. Presumably, the lump was there too, but I couldn’t be sure. During that time, if this lump was cancer, could the disease have moved throughout my body?

By the time I got home, I had gone from panic mode to feeling rather calm - if not with a light fluttering of anxiety still within me. During the drive back from the surgery, I had reasoned with myself that as my GP wasn’t anxious about it – firm about getting something done as soon as possible, but not anxious – that I shouldn’t be either. In fact, I was probably getting quite carried away with myself. (Something I have been known to do in the past.)   

In fact, by that same night, I was even joking about the possibility that I might have skin cancer. “Honey,” I said to my husband that night, “I don’t think I should do the dishes. After all, I might have cancer.”

He wasn’t buying it.

The following day, I made an appointment with the dermatologist for the following week. I felt immense relief to know that at least I wouldn’t have to wait long to find out whether everything was okay.

For the next few days I went from feeling nonplussed about the whole thing, and jokey about it, to feeling quite anxious and stressed. I was short with the kids. Short with Hubby. I detached from the online world for the most part. I'd log on to Twitter and watch the conversations appear before me, but couldn't join in - apart from a few times when I would suddenly feel all okay about it. 

By the time the day arrived for me to see the specialist (last Wednesday), I was feeling relaxed again about it all. That is, right up until about an hour beforehand. I think I had managed to push it from my mind, and suddenly the realisation that I might hear something I didn’t want to, came to a head.

However, sitting in the waiting room, watching the 4yr old play ‘shops’ with a toy cash register (charging me exorbitant prices for second hand books and broken toys), I was suddenly calm again. In fact, it was probably the first time since seeing my GP that I truly doubted there would be anything wrong. (Denial?) I even texted my friend, Jen, Sure it will be nothing. But if it is, it'll be great blog material. Always an upside. Looking back, I realise just how up and down my emotions were during that time. 

Once inside my dermo’s room, she looked at the lump and said, “Well, I think I agree completely with your GP.” I immediately thought she meant that it was probably skin cancer, and even though I had imagined plenty of times over the past week hearing similar words, I was still shocked. However, no sooner had the panic start to rise, she then added, “It’s definitely a type of wart.”

Oh, the relief!

She then went on to call it by name (which I can’t remember) before giving me the lay term for it – a ‘Wisdom Wart’.


Still, I’d rather a wart that shows my age rather than a skin cancer. The doctor zapped it with liquid nitrogen to burn it off, and within about a month, the old (yet very wise) ear should be back to normal.

This whole experience made me realise two things:

1. Doctors really need to choose their words carefully. I love my GP – she’s fabulous - but perhaps she could have said instead, “It’s probably a kind of wart, but it’s prudent to check it’s not skin cancer. Just to be on the safe side.” I'd have felt a lot more relaxed leading up to my appointment. 

2. The whole thing is a reminder (again!) that I’m not the young 20 year-old I used to be, and seeing that I’m over 40 now, it’s probably a good idea to keep a closer eye out on all this kind of stuff, as well as live a healthier life than I’ve been managing to live as of late. Who knows what’s around the corner?

Don’t forget to have your moles checked regularly if you have skin cancer in your family. The best person to do this is a dermatologist – not just a skin cancer clinic. If you have any concerns about any lump, bump or mole on your skin, get it checked ASAP. Don’t delay it!

Have you ever had a similar health scare? Have you ever had a healthcare professional unintentionally confuse you or frighten you with their words?


stink-bomb said...

holy crap!! you're right, if your GP had chosen her words perhaps a little more carefully, it could have saved you a few days of unnecessary [but probably still not 100% preventable] worry!!

scary though.

so glad that it turned out to "just" be a wart.


Donna said...

Whoa what a rollercoaster you have been on, poor thing! Scares like this certainly put things into perspective, dont they? Thanks for sharing the lesson with us and am glad you are fine (despite losing your wisdom wart!) xx

Megan Blandford said...

So glad it's all OK. It's so easy to forget to take notice of these things - but it's great that you got it checked out. xx

Mum on the Run said...

So glad it's best case scenario - warts n all! :-)
A good reminder, though.

Kirsty said...

I'm really pleased it was nothing to sorry about in the end but yes, it would have been a scary time for you. I have only just turned 36 but i have already had 3 skin cancers removed (2 from my face and one on my back). I have ridiculously fair skin so I didn't have much hope really of avoiding it in our harsh climate. 2 of the lesions were basal cell carcinomas and 1 was pre-cancerous and could have developed into melanoma. It is scary but if you get things early you have a great chance of getting the cancer before it gets bigger and harder to remove or, in some cases, spreads. I now go for 6 monthly check-ups and obviously follow proper precautions when in the sun. As my son has albinism (no melanin in his hair, skin or eyes) I am doubly protective of his skin too! Kirsty @ My Home Truths

Rhonda said...

as both my husband and i have uncles recently diagnosed with cancer, i immediately go there. every single time.

i'm glad you just have a wise wart.

Mrs Catch said...

Glad your story had a happy (and wise) ending. I too am of the age where I have to be more observant and do the right thing, health-wise. Your post is a great reminder to keep up the annual checks. It's so important.

Anonymous said...

Good advice and really glad you're OK.

Brenda said...

Phew. I was holding my breath. Thank God it's not skin cancer.xx

Laura a.k.a rah said...

That would scare the pants off me Jodie! Glad everything's okay :)

Last year I felt a lump in my throat and Dr Joe (beloved, eccentric Dr Joe) was calm as a cucumber when he suggested I go next door for an ultrasound "to be safe". He asked to be there for the ultrasound and was fine until the ultrasound guy gave the all clear and then grabbed my shoulder and said "OH MY GOD I'M SO RELIEVED I THOUGHT IT WAS CANCER".

Thanks, Dr Joe! #sarcastic

Anonymous said...

So glad all is well. Few folk can claim wisdom as an offical diagnosis! I had a sore on my nose that wouldn't heal. Turned out to be a BCC & I needed a skin graft. I was 25. Scary stuff. Soooo ridiculously sun smart with my kids!

Miss Pink said...

We had a cancer scare with Greenie last year. Yes Greenie. My 2 year old (well now he is, then he was only a mere 18months old).
Thankfully just a cyst. Phew!
I lost my Grandmother to cancer in 2009. Before then we had no family history of cancer. (How very lucky huh?).
Any lump, or weird feeling in my body my mind jumps to cancer. I have not once had myself checked out for it. It's that disease you want to pretend doesn't exist, because it scares you so bloody much!

I am so very very relieved to hear you're just warty. No seriously. I was holding my chest reading this thinking you were going to have a more bleak outlook. Congratulations to you!

Kerri Sackville said...

Bloody hell, what a relief!
I had exactly the same thing a while back. It wasn't a wart in my ear though. It was a PIMPLE. Now that was kind of awkward....

Kylie said...

So glad you're OK!!! It's been a sad and scary month for you...

Thea said...

OMG....I saw "LUMP" on Twitter....and couldn't breathe until I read...

“It’s definitely a type of wart.”

Phew...and thank God, Jodie!! xx

River said...

Thank goodness you get to keep both ears.
I had a similar scare years ago with a red flaky patch on my cheek which just kept peeling, so off I went to a dermatologist who looked at it with a blinding light and about a million times magnification, then told me I had Rosacea and recommended stronger moisturiser and 30+ sunscreen year round.
Boy was I relieved! My daughters wedding was happening within a couple of months and I didn't want to appear with a hugely bandaged cheek.
Almost 14 years later there's been no more flaky patches, but the Rosacea keeps my face red a lot of the time.

Gemma @ My Big Nutshell said...

what a relief. thank goodness.

I seriously breathed about three times the entire post.

K.D.Storm said...

I understand where you are coming from. I have two that scared me to death at the time. The first one dated back to my childhood. For years I had to go to the children's clinic to have this birthmark on my arm checked. I would always here the whispering for the C world (watch for cancer) until I was 15 when a doctor asked if I wanted to have it taken off. I asked him if it was a danger. He said no so it still rests on my arm. The other scare was when I was eleven after I was taken off Ritlin.The doctor was listening to my heart and the next thing I know they are telling my mom I needed heart surgery. I went around a whole month with that thought haunting my brain until I had to get and EKG. They stated it was just a mitro-prolapse heart vaule and I should be find. In both classes the over reaction of the doctor in charge scared the crap out of a young girl. So I feel your pain and fear.

BS said...

Please do not scare us like that. Where would we be without our budding novelist.
Seriously, it is wonderful that all is OK.

MummyK said...

Oh god what a huge relief! I had a similar scare a couple of years ago, mole on my back. Phew.

Lorraine The Party Times said...

so relieved for you - was sitting on the edge of my seat while reading as was so unsure which way post was going to end - brilliant description of your mixed emotions!