Okay, boys and girls, I hate to be the grinch who stole Christmas, but! I’d rather put out something not joyous today than read something really sad next year.
For those of us in late-late middle age, maybe even a bit younger, we have these things called wisdom bumps, age spots, or some other innocuous name. Sadly, as I found out a few weeks ago, not all of them are harmless signs of the fact one is closing in on his or her final years.
For the record, I am not one to avoid doctors because he does not want someone to tell him he is overweight, eating poorly, or indulging in vices that may shorten one’s life. I listen patiently, read the doctor’s suggestions, and then follow the ones with which I agree. That does not mean I ignore them completely, but I do no obsess about the fact my fiftieth birthday is a fading memory. Okay, my fiftieth is not even a memory, but I have pictures of my sixtieth.
What I am trying to say is this. I go to the doctor and add doctors as it seems appropriate. One of those optional docs in my book was the dermatologist, but I finally agreed to see one regularly a few years ago. If nothing else, it is amusing to sit in a waiting room watching clerks, nurses, and other staff members who all look like they could have been on the cover of some fashion magazine, and most of them can still smile without straining.
All right, I went for a cheap life there. Still, it is interesting to see how attractive the staff is at offices such as this. Anyway, my doctor is great, snide remarks about plastic surgery aside. She has helped me fight the effects of years in the sun, no interest in keeping my skin moist, and other male shortcomings when it comes to how one looks, other than our hair and waistline, in some cases.
Well, even the most health-conscious of us with great doctors can miss some danger signs. Mine was a small brown spot the size of a dime just below my left knee. It seemed to be a large freckle or small age spot. It was there for years, and I only thought about it when I went to the dermatologist. In fact, it had been there so long, neither my doctor or I checked it regularly.
Then one day in the reading room, it caught my eye. The brown spot had paled a bit, and it was no longer a solid spot. In fact, it looked a bit like a splash of coffee that dried on a countertop. An oval spot with little spots splayed out in front of it. Since my regularly scheduled visit to the skin doctor was just a couple of weeks away, I did not worry about it. I did, however, remember to show it to the doc. She was not happy but said it was probably nothing. To be on the safe side, she sent a piece of it to the pathologist.
My suspicions of trouble began when we started playing telephone tag. Normally, if she had not reached me directly, she would leave a message on my phone saying everything was okay and see me next year. This time, it was please call back, and it took several tries to connect. I was certain it was not good news, and when she returned my last attempt after hours, I knew what was coming before she told me.
Okay! I did not know the exact diagnosis. I did know it was not going to be a good one. Yet, as these things go it could have been a lot worse. The spot was a melanoma in situ. If you clicked on the link, you know this is the least dangerous stage of melanoma. In fact, my surgeon said it was essentially a pre-melanoma. Whatever one calls it, it is something that needs to be addressed.
The spot on the left is similar to the spot on my leg as it had existed for years. The spot on the right is similar to the change I noticed and is a possible indicator the spot is degenerating into something dangerous.
Just so you know, fixing something such as this is not a walk in the park. They must treat it as real cancer, and that means some real surgery, depending on the location. In my case, I had four procedures for this one spot.
First, was the attempt to remove it in my regular dermatologist’s office. She got a lot of it, but knew she did not have it all. So she referred me to a surgeon. He cut a hole in my leg just below the knee that was a bit bigger than a quarter, removing the skin all the way down to the muscle. That sample went to the pathologist, who found he did not get it all. The third procedure enlarged the hole to about the size of a silver dollar, and when that report came back clear I had a fourth surgery to close the wound.
So, I have another scar to add to my collection. If anyone remembers the commercial from some years ago of two old codgers standing on the edge of a swimming pool comparing scars, I can be their buddy if they want to do another one.
To wrap this up, I will go back to what I said earlier. I hate to publish something like this just before Christmas, but I’d rather have you a bit worried about those age spots now so you can schedule an appointment after Christmas than have you wake up in the spring one day, saying what’s this thing on my leg, or wherever, and finding out simple surgery will not fix it.
I’ll be praying for all of you to have a great Christmas and New Year, and that your age spots are just that.
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