Back in April 2011 I had a fierce cough and finally went to see an internist I occasionally would see (last visit had been nearly 3 years), and he complained to me I should see him more often since I’m 59 years old. He checked out my breathing but did not ask me to remove my t-shirt under my dress shirt, prescribed an inhaler, and insisted I schedule a physical exam. So I went back to his office May 2011.
At the physical exam in May, with my shirt removed, I asked him about a dark black spot on my left shoulder. He specifically said he didn’t think it was cancer, but he gave me the name of a dermatologist to have this looked at if I was concerned about it. I called that day for an appointment because I just sensed something wasn’t right because it would bleed every time I would dry myself after a shower. The appointment was scheduled for mid-June.
I can’t mind-read what the dermatologist was thinking, but he looked serious and said immediately the spot needed to be biopsied. So a couple of days later, I have phone messages on my cell, office, and home phones to call the dermatologist’s office immediately. When I called they said I need to see a surgeon right away to have this removed as they determined from their initial pathology report it was a state 3 melanoma, although after the surgery it was called Stage II.
I had the surgery right around the 4th of July, with about a 7-inch scar from the top of my left shoulder going down my arm. The oncologist felt things went pretty well, I’m in otherwise good health with normal height and weight and take no medications, and he felt there was no need for chemotherapy or any other invasive treatments. The only problem though is that, as I write this in August 2012, my left arm tingles and still feels numb, probably because of some nerves that were severed, and the area where the surgery was done looks like I lost a fight.
Since then I’ve bought a couple of hats to wear outdoors and try to stay out of direct sunlight. In retrospect, I believe this melanoma may have developed due to often reading outside when I was in my 20s, and I was doing this during the summer months while not wearing a shirt or using sunscreen. Never thought reading magazine and newspapers outside would lead to melanoma, but if I had a chance to do this over I’d either read inside or wear a shirt and use sunblock.
Feel pretty good now, but this just kind of hangs around my mind about possible recurrences, and I go in for follow-ups while now much more respectful about the shortness of life.