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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Seductive Musings

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dodging bullets



Sorry to have fallen off the face of the earth. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, and not necessarily in a good way. I’ve been busy dodging bullets. Allow me to explain...

I grew up in Boulder, Colo., and spent most weekend of my childhood hiking in the mountains or noodling around among the grass, chokecherry bushes and prickly pear cactus while my dad bouldered or practiced rappeling. It was a great way to grow up, and I learned to love the mountains. Imagine waking every morning to the scent of ponderosa pine and seeing the Flatirons (above) every day of your life.

Back then, no one talked about sunscreen, and I got sunburned — a lot. I had a permanent sunburn on my nose as a child, and I got two blistering sunburns. In fact, I seem to remember being sunburned a lot.

When I was 35 I was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma on my face. It was kind of a surprise because I figured old people got skin cancer.

Since then I’ve gone to the dermatologist twice a year for exams to check for skin cancer. Having one kind puts one at higher risk of getting something serious, and I don’t want that to happen.

My last exam was on Dec. 21. The derm took a couple of biopsies, one of which was of concern to her and one of which I asked her to remove because I thought the mole was growing. She said she expected them to come back as nothing. That was reassuring.

Christmas came and went. New Year's passed. I hadn’t heard anything, so I thought I was in the clear.

Then the dermatologist called to say that the mole I had thought was growing had come back as a serious and rare form of pre-cancer, something she’d never actually seen before. I read about it online, which only upset me more. (Note to self: Never seek medical information online.)

Since then, I’ve had surgery to excise what was left of the mole and all the surrounding tissue. The biopsy results came back Thursday, and the good news is that they got all of it.

The not-great news is that now I have to have additional tests to make sure there are no more of these on me. If there are, I’ll have to have each and every one excised and go through this again. Not really on my list of things I want to do.

On the other hand, I’m very glad this was caught before the prefix ”pre-” no longer applied. I’m very glad I’ve taken the time to go in for these checkups. If I had let this go, things could have been ugly.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when something like this happens, I lose any desire to do anything but curl up and sleep. I lost my writing mojo and couldn’t even read while I was waiting this out. I’ve watched a lot of Star Trek, but I haven’t finished the proposal for Natalie’s book yet. I hope to be back in the swing soon.


The moral to this story: Wear sunscreen!

And don’t hesitate to tell your doctor exactly what you want her to do. If I hadn’t insisted my derm biopsy that mole, it would still be on me now, growing. The thought gives me shivers.

I had lots of fun ideas for 2010 for my blog, so let’s hope I’m back to being my busy self soon.

18 comments:

Wildcat78 said...

Very scary stuff. Glad to hear your insistence caught it early in the "pre" stage. I grew up in a desert climate and go in once a year for a skin check for my own peace of mind. It's funny, but being in Seattle now, the concern is lack of sun and the negative health effects of that. One extreme to another!

I can never Google symptoms or anything medical! It just makes me really anxious, then I Google anxiety...vicious cycle.

Linda A. said...

Pamela, what a scare! I'm so glad it turned out as it did. Your number one priority has to be to look after yourself.

One thing we seldom have to worry about here on the coast is too much sun, but you've made me vow to wear sunscreen. And you're right, we need to be our own best doctors!

Debbie H said...

I'm so glad you had her check that mole. We of the fair skin group really need to take extra care of our skin and pay attention to any oddities. My father was very fair skinned, freckles and red hair. He had skin cancers from being out in the oilfield. He used sun screen all the time but was in the sun (and vehicle) 10 hrs a day, 6 days a week. My DH has had pre-cancerous lesions taken from his forearms for the last three years.

You are fortunate that the lesions can be taken off and you don't have to go through any of the nasty chemo, etc.

Hugs!

Ronlyn said...

(((((((((((hugs))))))))))))
I'm glad you got it checked out and it's clear.

we need to catch up chick. Lots to talk about.

Wendy said...

I have 3 healing mole biopsy scabs on my body right now. This is the first time I've had this done, and the results for 2 came back "abnormal" and I'm supposed to go back for deeper incision when they heal.

...And now that I know what is suspicious, I plan to point out two more my dr. missed because they are in my bikini area, and she didn't make me remove my panties. I'm already deeply, deeply embarrassed thinking about asking her to look. LOL!

She told me to wear sunscreen all the time - even in the car because the windows don't protect you from harmful rays. I didn't know that.

Glad yours was caught early Pamela. Still counting the days 'til Naked Edge. Happy New Year!

RitaSV said...

Praise the Lord you were so firm about the biopsy! And yes, the 'pre' part is so good. I look back on my childhood and realize that I seldom wore sunscreen and if I did it was not a very high SPF. Geez. It is hard to look that far ahead when you're a kid. So glad to hear they got it all, though. I'll keep you in my prayers that that was the only problem spot.

Hi, Wildcat — Good to see you again. Yes, you have moved from one extreme to another. Did it give you whiplash?

And you're so right about Googling symptoms or medical issues. If you do that, you find out that you have fourteen different fatal diseases you never even heard of. Best to stay away!

Hi, Linda — Yes, it was a scare. I was really taken by surprise, even though I had been worried about this particular mole. I'm so used to them saying, "It's probably nothing" and then having it come back as nothing, that this was very unsettling. But I'm lucky it was caught now.

I know that even if you live in a cloudy area you still get lots of UV -- not as much as those of us who live at altitude in the sun, of course, but you still need sunscreen. Or that's what I've heard, anyway.

Hi, Debbie — Yes, we pale folks have to take care. I think I'm in the highest risk group BEFORE any sunburns — light hair, light eyes, light skin and freckles...

Hi, Ronlyn — Thanks for the hugs. I appreciate them. Yes, we much catch up soon. I haven't felt very social lately, but I'll pop out of hiding soon.

Hi, Wendy — It's good they caught the abnormal moles early. Even the worst kind of skin cancer is easy to cure if they catch it early.

And YES you must ask her to examine your "bikini area," i.e., private parts. About 5 to 10 percent of melanomas in women happen in the crotch area, and that's not an area we can check very easily.

My pre-cancerous mole was in that area. In fact, I spent most of this week feeling like I'd had a baby from this surgery. I have eight stitches... down there. And the the dermatologist checked it and removed it only because I insisted she look there and that she biopsy it. Yes, it was awkward and a bit embarrassing, but it was worth it.

Hi, Rita — Thanks. You know I don't think it's a child's responsibility to think of sunscreen. That job belongs to parents. But my parents really didn't know. Back when I was frying every summer (in the 70s) we talked about "suntan oil," not sunscreen. I appreciate your prayers very much. I've done a lot of praying myself.

I'm just hoping all goes well on Wednesday and that I can put this behind me soon. I'm also looking forward to being able to sit without wincing. OUCH!

JennJ said...

Oh honey you are in my prayers! I am so so glad to hear that they caught it and that they got all of it! Here is hoping that was all of them as well. (((BIG HUGS)))

I'm like you when something like that happens I have to kinda shut down to deal with it. You will be back on track in no time hon. And if I can help in anyway you know where I am.

Cecile said...

Oh Ms. Pamela... please know that I will keep you in my prayers! That is a scare, but I am glad that you made it known what you wanted her to do. I mean we pay the medical bills right?? So, go with your gut and do what is right for you!

Yea, I have learned never go to the internet to look up medical conditions. Sure the internet is a great tool of information... but still...

I will second what Jenn said, here if you need hon!

Jane said...

I'm happy to hear they got all of it. Will be keeping you in my thoughts, Pamela.

J. said...

I'm happy to hear that you've caught the problem and fixed it right away! =]

Hi Pamela, I'm sorry to hear about the rough time it must have been for you. Am glad it seems to be under control and under watch. Take care.

Casee said...

What a scary start to the new year. I'm so glad to hear that you're in the clear. I hope you get your mojo back (writing and reading) soon!

xoxo

Mary G said...

Hi Pamela
So glad you're fine. I really missed you & wondered if you were okay. Smart that you insisted they check these things out. We have to be our own health advocates sometimes.

Hi, Jenn — Thanks so much for your prayers and support. They really mean the world to me. If I can just get good news from this Wednesday's tests, I'll be sooooo relieved.

Hi, Cecile — Thanks so much! I really appreciate the prayers. I wish I'd been this forceful three years ago, you know? But we trust doctors when perhaps we shouldn't. Fortunately, the doctor I'm working with now is really on top of things and very caring. I haven't gone to a male doctor for, oh, centuries, but he's worth it.

Hi, Jane — Thank you so much. I'm trying very hard to keep a positive attitude and not sink back into the panic I felt when I got that first phone call.

Hi, J, darling — Thanks! Got the email and the photos. LOVED them. Will get back to you!

Hi, Allison — Thanks! I sure hope it is. I will definitely be paying close attention from now on, and I think the doctors will, too.

Hi, Casee — Thanks so much! I HOPE I'm in the clear. I have another set of tests to get through, but I'm hopeful they'll find nothing. But, yeah, heck of a way to start the new year.

Hi, Mary — Yeah, I kind of vanished, didn't I? I just didn't have the energy to write anything or even log onto the Internet. I am feeling better now, though. Thanks. :-)

Tabitha said...

What a scare! So glad that you insisted on getting the mole checked out! Small or not, anything that catch our eye when it hadn't before is worth checking. Thinking ahead is better than thinking too late!

Anonymous said...

I hope everything is okay. I am from Tucson, and I unfortunately know some girls my age (20 years old) who were diagnosed with skin cancer, or pre-cancer because they never wore sunscreen, and the sun is so dangerous here. I have skin that always burns so I always make sure to wear sunscreen.

Anonymous said...

I know I’m REALLY late with this, but I’d just like to lend some support.

Being from Australia – and we well and truly have the highest skin cancer rate in the world – I know a lot of people, including family members, who have been through things like this. It’s really common here for everybody to have yearly checkups.

The sun can be such a pain – especially if you’re like me and naturally as white as a ghost!

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