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What Is Going On? A Life Update

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What IS going on? It has been a month of big life changes and some serious health scares. We are exhaustedly trudging along.

In August, we spent two weeks with my family in Kennebunkport. We came home relaxed and refreshed and feeling ready to take on the school year.

But then things got complicated.

There was a major medication situation involving a family member that got very scary. Things are much better now, but it can be very stressful living far from family in times of crisis.

Charles got sent to Europe for two weeks for work, leaving me to care for Gwen solo during her second and third weeks of school. Not a big deal, but there were a couple of mornings when Gwen was tearfully pried from my arms at drop-off.

I started to settle into my new routine. It’s been so refreshing to finally have some time to focus on my own projects. I’ve completed several paintings and had some doctor appointments that I put off for far too long.

You shouldn’t put doctor appointments off because you are busy. You should make your health a priority, but I felt like I had too much on my plate while I was parenting during covid with limited childcare.

I finally made it to the dermatologist for a skin check, something that I should have done yearly… but hadn’t done in years. The doctor saw one mole that he didn’t like on my shin and offered to take off a mole that Gwen has tried to rip off a few times. Having moles biopsied is something I am familiar with and in the past, none of the test results have been too worrying.

The mole on my shin came back as melanoma. It was stage 1a, so we caught it quickly enough that it just needed to be excised with clean margins. The second mole was abnormal, so it needed to be excised as well, but without such large margins.

After two trips to the dermatologist this week, I am melanoma-free (pending confirmation from test results). I am not in too much pain, it’s just inconvenient. I am not supposed to lift much of anything with my left arm, a tough instruction to follow when you have a toddler who wants to be picked up.

I know that I am so lucky. In terms of medical issues, a few trips to a doctor’s office and a pair of 30-minute outpatient surgeries aren’t a big deal.

While my doctor was stitching up my shin (he stopped counting after 12 internal stitches so it seems like I have a bunch), I asked if he thinks that sun exposure caused the melanoma. He said my big issue is genetics. I have a genetic predisposition to melanoma since it runs in my family. I need to be more careful. He explained that yes, you can certainly get skin cancer from sun exposure regardless of your genetics, but usually, those cases impact people who have lots of sun damage and “skin like leather”. He said that since he doesn’t see sun damage on my skin, genetics are to blame.

I need to limit physical activities for two weeks while I heal and then I go back to get my stitches out. I will have skin checks every three months going forward to keep a close eye on things. I am also going to get skin mapping done. This is when you get photos taken of your moles and freckles so that you have a record to refer back to, making it easier to track any changes.

Gwen has been putting improvised bandages on her shin and on her doll. The words, “Mama boo-boo” are used frequently… and sometimes are accompanied by investigating my bandages.

Please take this story as a sign that you need to get a skin check if you are due for one. Stay safe and healthy everyone.

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