Author’s note and disclaimer: This post discusses medical stuff, but I am using (mostly) lay terms to describe the experience.
When my son John, who is 22, came back from a summer job in New Hampshire, I noticed a mole on his face that looked suspicious. It was on his right cheek, the same place where he’d had a mole removed three years before.
“You should get that checked,” I said.
“No, it’s fine, I just cut it shaving.” he replied.
I have a lot of moles (sorry for the visual), fair hair and skin, and my three son have inherited these traits as well, so we are (fairly) vigilant about sunscreen, and monitoring the moles.
After some nagging from me, pointing out that the shaved mole was not healing, John finally had it checked about a little over a month ago. A biopsy of the mole revealed that it was a melanoma. It was a deep, fast growing type said the dermatologist (in so many words).
John did not have the same fear of melanoma that I had. When I was growing up, a man in my dad’s office, Mr. Mollner, died of melanoma and it happened really fast. Then when I was in college, a classmate, the quarterback of the football team, died of melanoma just a few weeks after graduation, only a few months after being diagnosed.
I’d had a melanoma when I was 50 (about 9 years ago) that they caught before it got into the lymph system, which is how melanomas spread. Still, the surgery was traumatic for me as it required a wide excision, and it was on my neck. The long angry scar has faded with age, but I wore scarves for a good five years.
It was clear after reviewing John’s pathology report with the dermatologist that his melanoma was a lot scarier than mine was. He needed a sizable excision around the area around the melanoma (by a plastic surgeon) and a sentinel lymph node biopsy to see if cells from the melanoma were spreading around his body. Other medical types that we shared the pathology report with winced visibly when reading it.
Which scared the hell out of all of us, including my sweet son with the beautiful face who is a friend to everyone.
This surgery happened last week. We are waiting for results. Some results came back that look hopeful but they sent them to Stanford for another look. We are optimistic. I will keep you posted.
By the way. You will notice that John has very long hair. I have been suggesting that he get at least a trim. Or even more than a trim. He smiles and thanks me for my input. He’ll think about it.
But now the hair–or anything else– just doesn’t seem that important anymore.