Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In the flesh, out of the flesh

I'll do another post shortly with pictures of our family vacation to northern Minnesota, but first a brief health update.

Let's begin by establishing the fact that I am wonderful.  I am happy...no, no, that's not quite it...nearly ecstatic on a daily basis to be enjoying life (specifically summer life) with my daughters, husband, friends, and family.  We have gone on bike rides and had sleepovers and listened to bands and grilled on the patio, and it has all been so wonderful.  I have experienced many thankful moments in which I recalled my previous thoughts of not being alive for summer 2012.  At diagnosis almost 2 years ago I faced the very real potential of not surviving this long.  And here I am, in the flesh, enjoying every minute of it.  My bathtub could use a cleaning, but let's not disrupt the grace of this paragraph with the extended list of neglected chores.

Speaking of flesh, mine has two doctor-made wounds in it.  Last Friday I saw Dr. Dermatologist, on the recommendation of Dr. Oncologist, to check out two unusual areas on my skin.  Near my right shoulder I have small patch of 5 contiguous raised bumps.  They do not itch or hurt.  I first noticed them when I arrived in San Francisco, so I presumed that my backpacked had rubbed during traveling and had caused an irritation.  A week or so later I realized that they were still there, so I put some hydrocortisone on them.  This is the stuff previously prescribed to me for my post-surgery eczema.  But the hydrocortisone made the rash spread in a painful way.  I remembered from a different, post-radiation chest wall rash that hydrocortisone aggravates fungal infections, so I treated my rash with the remaining anti-fungal from that episode.  The hydrocortisone-induced rash disappeared, but the original rash remained.  The I thought that maybe my supposed fungal infection was either resistant or insensitive to this antifungal, so I applied a different antifungal leftover from the childrens' diaper-rash days.  When it was clear that this third attack was being ignored by the rash, it was time to call Dr. O.

You might be wondering why I did not call a doctor sooner.  I elected to try my own treatments based on my own experiences because the first thing that doctors tell you is to watch the (fill-in-the-blank) ailment and look for changes.  I do not as a rule recommend such cavalier patient behavior, but since my rash was not getting bigger or worse (hydrocortisone treatment excepted), I gave it some time to resolve so that I could report all of the data at the time of the appointment.

And that is what I was able to do.  Less than two months after noticing the rash I sat in Dr. Dermatologist's office and recited the history of my rash.  He said that it could be a rare form of eczema that occurs near joints (the name he rattled off completely evades me), but that he'll take a small sample (biopsy) to be sure.

Excellent!  This type of firm decision-making via informed prescription or biopsy is exactly what I was looking for!

That is the story of biopsy number 1.  The cause of biopsy number 2 is actually what motivated me to make an appointment (indeed, a different way to interpret the above story is that I was procrastinating taking action on the innocuous shoulder rash).

Cause #2 used to reside on the outer flank of my right thigh.  I noticed it nearly three weeks ago when scratching an itch.  It was raised and rough, like a scab, and the size of a pinhead.  For a few days I thought it was a scab.  But then I realized that it wasn't behaving like a scab by, you know, falling off.  Upon closer inspection it was black in color rather than that rusty scab color.  The one thing going in its favor is that it was quite symmetrical, and the ABC's of melanoma start with Asymmetry.  At any rate, Dr. Dermatologist's possible explanation for this non-scab scab was that a cluster of blood vessels burst under my skin awhile ago, and now that the burst had reached the top it appeared black.  But he decided to biopsy it anyway, and unlike the shoulder rash I think that the entire troublemaker was removed.

I'm moderately terrified that I will be embarrassed when I am obligated to post that the results of the biopsy indicate "blackhead", but I suppose it would be Dr. Dermatologist who should be embarrassed for biopsying said blackhead.  

All in all this is excellent timing for my flesh samplings because the dreaded PET scan is next Thursday (8/23).  Rooting for a second clean one, marking two clean ones in a row, which MUST be OUTSTANDING news for ME and my FUTURE after IBC.  I suppose I'm also rooting for good flesh biopsy results, but at present I am (perhaps naively) unconcerned.




  2. Fingers crossed for good news on all fronts. Love you H-bomb!