Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dermatology For Dummies: So You're Having A Biopsy...

This week I went back to the dermatologist to have a biopsy on a suspicious mole that turned up during my full body check a few weeks ago. Actually, it didn't really "turn up" then, it was the reason I went in for a full body check to being with. As much as I hate doctors on general principle, common sense has a way of compelling you to get over your fear and loathing when you think something really COULD be wrong with you. The body check was the first step in confirming my instincts were right to be concerned. The biopsy would determine just HOW CONCERNED I'll have to be moving forward.

I wasn't really that nervous about the appointment, but I also didn't know what to expect other than having a patch of skin cut off to be tested. On the drive over, I kept chuckling thinking about the scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when Aunt Voula talks about her "bibopsy." But when I arrived at the office, I also remember Annie Lennox's song "Why" playing in the waiting room as I went in for the procedure and hoping the lyrics didn't come back to haunt me after it was all over.

The first thing I had to do was sign a release form confirming I was aware of the "side effects" of the procedure -- you know, little things like bleeding, infection and scarring. At that moment things got a little scarier since I hadn't really thought through HOW MUCH skin I'd be losing or exactly how it would get removed. Turns out a biopsy involves taking enough skin -- and deep enough -- to require a Novocaine shot and some stitches. My doctor joked that everyone at work should be nice to me and let me leave early since I started the day with a "surgical procedure." My doctor is a very nice lady, but I was having a hard time laughing. The reality sunk in.

As the doctor was taking a chunk out of my shoulder she commented that the "base" looked good. I had no idea what that actually meant but she seemed positive so I felt good about it. Only later when a friend asked me "Well what did the rest of it look like?" did I realize I probably should have asked some questions. But when you're the patient face down on a table in the middle of a "surgical procedure," it doesn't really occur to you to ask. This is one reason I'm convinced you should always take a friend -- a smart one -- with you when you see a doctor. For anything. Your friend is capable of being a little more wise and objective while you're trying to forget what's happening to you.

Thanks to the Novocaine I didn't feel a thing afterwards besides the outer bandage tugging slightly when I moved my shoulder. Then I was sent off with instructions not to soak the incision site (so no hot tub....darn) and not to work out that day (finally, a legitimate excuse!), along with an appointment to come back in 2 weeks to have the stitches removed and to get my lab results.

I spent the rest of the day acutely aware of the taped spot under my clothes. I was even more acutely aware that it would be a long two weeks until I got some answers. I was a little depressed the rest of the day, to be honest. I kept checking the bandage to make sure no blood was soaking through, indicating the stitches were pulling. There wasn't, but somehow that didn't make me feel better. And then I realized that until I hear the doctor say, "No, you don't have skin cancer..." I probably won't feel any better.

Now that the outer bandage is off, I look at the small pieces of surgical tape remaining over my stitches every day, wondering if everything will be OK.

There is nothing left to do but wait and see...

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