May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.       Do You Have Skin Cancer? I Do!

On 3/20/17, I had my consultation with a Oncology surgeon (Dr. S). Had I not had the experience of being seen in a Cancer Center for my iron infusions or escorting my mother to a couple of her chemotherapy appointments (may she continue to rest in peace),  I probably would have been overwhelmed by the various faces of cancer. I wasn’t.

Everyone at the Cancer Center was pleasant and accommodating. When the surgeon walked in,  I felt a sense of calmness come over me. He asked me all of the same questions. How long have I had it? Does it hurt? Have I noticed anymore bumps? Any color changes? He checked me for additional bumps. He also felt my lymph nodes for swelling. He then performed two fine needle aspirations to obtain cells for testing.  A week later I was notified that no cells were found in the samples and I needed to have an incisional biopsy to remove a portion of the bump for examination. The incisional biopsy was performed on 4/5/17. My follow-up appointment was scheduled for 4/13/17.

A day before my follow-up  appointment I received an email reminding my of my upcoming appointment. A couple of hours later, I received another email informing me that another appointment had been made for me on 4/19/17 with a different doctor (Dr. M). I called Dr. M’s office and questioned the receptionist about the appointment. I was told that Dr. S’ assistant made the appointment and that I’d have to call Dr. S for an explanation. Before calling Dr. S, I googled Dr. M and learned that he is an Oncologist, specializing in gastrointestinal oncology, clinical trials, novel therapeutics, cancer and genetics. Needless to say, I assumed that I have cancer. I then called Dr. S’ office and spoke with his assistant. I asked why she made me an appointment with Dr. M. She told me that Dr. S requested the appointment be made to hold the spot in case I needed it. 😒😑 Really?!? Yeah right! But, okay. I played along. I was seeing Dr. S the next day anyway.

Mentally prepared to be told I had cancer, hubby and I arrived at the Cancer Center the following day.  However, we weren’t prepared for the type of cancer in which I was diagnosed.

Dr. S told us that I have a rare aggressive skin/soft tissue cancer named “Merkel Cell Carcinoma.” According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 1,500 cases of MCC are diagnosed in the United States per year. Whereas, approximately 87,110 people will develop Melanoma Skin Cancer, the most common of all skin cancers, this year.  MCC is usually diagnosed in white males, over the age of 50, who are exposed to a lot of UV light. The only  criteria I seem to meet is a weakened immune system due to my Autoimmune diseases. Like any other cancer, there’s no cure and it’s generally treated by excisional wide biopsies, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation. One’s treatment depends on the stage of the MCC.  Since mine is on my forearm,  I need to have a skin graft performed by a plastic surgeon at the same time of the wide excisional biopsy.  He stated that I would first need to have a PET scan to see if there are any other possible tumors.


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