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.”
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?