Saturday, June 7, 2014

There's a REASON I'm Called "Bossy" in Melaland

And it's because I am. Sigh. I'm kinda "bossy" everywhere I go. It must be in the air I breathe. (Insert annoying smiley face here). But I'm bossy because, as my dear deceased mother-in-law used to say, "I know better." And, often, she did.

I'm also referred to, sometimes, as Hotel Melanoma Chaplain Boss Queen (HM CBQ). Again, there are reasons. I've been around melaland a while now. I've seen a lot. I've heard a lot. Some people are new and I have to repeat, for their sakes, what many "old-timers" on melanoma road have heard from me before. Other people just plain are not listening. So...here we go...

IF you have any place of any concern on or in your body that is changing or problematic in any way...get it checked out. You don't need somebody telling you to go to the doctor. GO! Get it checked. If you suspect you have ANY kind of cancer, not just melanoma (which is my specialty), see a specialist of THAT organ, get the proper testing done, get something biopsied if necessary...usually, especially if melanoma is suspected, a biopsy is the ONLY way to tell what you're dealing with. Find out what you're dealing with. IF you have cancer, it is growing, and maybe spreading, while you're watching it, debating whether or not to see a doctor, and praying that it goes away.

Often, to be fair, we really don't suspect "cancer" of any kind and are completely blindsided with that diagnosis...so, the initial action may not be to see an internist of any kind. But DO see your general practitioner!  Do have someone monitoring you and who will refer you to where you need to go if you do not respond to their initial treatment. Certainly not every ache is cancer of some kind. But you know if your aches and pains aren't responding to what you're doing. And you should know the general signs of cancer such as sudden, unexplained weight loss. Simply put, be proactive now so you won't have to, possibly, be reactive later. It's your health and your life we're talking about. Keep that in mind. YOUR health and life...not your doctor's! And, a huge BTW here...being "proactive" also includes making any lifestyle changes you may need to make such as having a healthier diet, exercising, stopping smoking, no tanning beds, safe sun practices, drinking in moderation (if you drink at all), etc. Many things are linked to cancer diagnoses and many have to do with unhealthy habits...genetics and the great unknowns of cancer are another matter and ones we can't help, so, help and change what you can.

Skin is our largest organ, so in melaland, you need a dermatologist who makes melanoma and skin cancer the focus of their practice. Not all dermatologists do. Dermatology, like all areas of medicine, are specialized now. That's their prerogative. If you live anywhere within a couple hours or so of a hospital that's large enough to have a dermatology department, you can begin there. If you prefer a dermatologist in private practice, they can also help you find one. You're online, you can find one. Call their office and ask if they do full-body skin checks. If they do not, call someone else. (NOTE: in the USA, now that insurance is mandatory, you may have to go to a dermatologist that is ok-ed by your insurer and you may need a referral...check). You'll also want your dermatologist to remove your place of concern.

Even if you find a dermatologist who focuses on melanoma, that doctor is still fallible. Not all melanoma presents as the changing mole that obeys the ABCDE's of melanoma. So....trust your gut and insist that your dr trust your gut as well. Be prepared to be your own best advocate! Be prepared to find another doctor. Seriously. Do what YOU HAVE TO DO!

And, remember...not all melanoma will present itself where it can be seen! Many people don't have a known primary and many are diagnosed at stage 4 (it is internal). If you're having headaches that won't go away, or internal issues...see the proper doctor...you may not have melanoma...but you need the right doctor to find what you DO have.

Be prepared to be your child's best advocate! Pediatric melanoma (and other cancers) are on the rise. Know your child's body. Scalp to toes and soles of feet and palms of hands and all their finger and toenails. Trust your parental gut and, again, if you have to change doctors CHANGE DOCTORS.

Don't play the watch and wait game. Yes, you may win. But you may also lose and lose big time. If you are concerned and want something removed and pathed...get it removed and pathed.

Be prepared to fight for what you need. Be prepared to change doctors. Be prepared to go places you never thought you'd ever go. Be prepared to do what YOU HAVE TO DO. I cannot say that often enough.

Some cancers are on the decline...but people will still get them. Some are on the increase, like melanoma, across ALL demographics, worldwide....people WILL get melanoma.

Oh. And when it comes to melanoma, "When in doubt, cut it out." That's a mantra in melaland. Don't shave, freeze, or burn off a suspected melanoma...CUT IT OUT. For the record, a dermatologist does not have to be the one to do it. A PA at an Urgent Care facility cut out my melanoma mole and because that facility was in the Duke system, I was in the Duke system immediately upon my diagnosis. The doctor there KNEW to get me in the hands of a Duke melanoma specialist...I would never have known to do that.

SO...if you get a melanoma diagnosis...YOU need a melanoma specialist! THAT is CRUCIAL! IMPERATIVE! Your LIFE may well depend on it! A general oncologist is NOT who you need! An oncologist who specializes in another cancer is NOT who YOU need!

Aim at Melanoma has a list of melanoma specialist oncologists in the USA and Canada. Where you find them you'll also find surgical oncologists who are mel specs as well as dermatologists who focus on melanoma and skin cancer. Here's that link.

If you are outside the USA or Canada, you are online. Find the melanoma organization in your country and contact them. They will help you find one as well as navigate your system.

Blessings! Now listen to me.

charis!