So the initial appointment, and the biopsy and mole removal were done, and I was told I would have to wait a little while for the results once I had the stitches removed.
All good, all understood.
What I didn’t anticipate was having to wait 9 weeks(!!!) to get any results!
I rang the hospital around the 4-week mark to see if I should have heard something, and the receptionist told me the consultant would be in touch when there was something to report and I just had to wait.
So I waited.
And I continued to wait.
It got to 9 weeks, and I started to think something was amiss. I know the NHS is under pressure, but surely I should have heard something by 9 weeks?!
I wasn’t too worried given that I’d had the Basal Cell Carcinoma (or at that point suspected BCC) for 4 years, but I figured I did need to start treatment sooner rather than later, surely?!
I chased up the Dermatology department again who confirmed that 9 weeks does seem a long time, and that they would chase it up for me. The only saving grace I thought at that point was at least it can’t be that serious if they’ve kept me waiting this long. If it were something bad, I’d have heard by now, surely?
FINALLY – RESULTS TIME
A day later on Thursday evening, I received a letter (in the form of a text and email because that’s how things are in 2022) inviting me to an URGENT appointment on the following Tuesday morning.
Well, I can’t lie. I panicked.
An urgent appointment, in person, on Tuesday?! I’ve waited 9 weeks, what could suddenly be so urgent?!
I called the secretary and asked her about the appointment, explaining that when I saw the consultant the very first time, they told me they would give me the results over the phone to save me having to drive back over to the hospital, given that I have since moved to another city. I asked if this appointment was for those results and reiterated that I am more than happy to consent to having the results given to me over the phone.
She became very shifty, almost anxious, and said to me, “All I can tell you at this stage is that the doctor has explicitly requested that you come in early next week, and that the meeting has to be done in person.”
Oh my christ, Mick! (If you’re not a fan of Gavin and Stacey, please move swiftly on!)
I was really digging deep to remind myself of all the research I’d done to this point and how what I have is super common, super treatable, and so on. But I can’t lie, I was panicking.
Up to that point, I’d been expecting three things.1) That the freckle they removed was not a melanoma (in which case great, well done anyway for being cautious, better safe than sorry!), 2) that the freckle was a melanoma (in which case also great, well done for going and getting it checked and removed!), and 3) I would likely need to proceed with chemotherapy cream for the Basal Cell Carcinoma once it was confirmed.
But with this sudden urgent appointment that had to be in a few days’ time that suddenly had to be in person instead of over the phone, my mind started going a bit wild, throwing up all sorts of scenarios I hadn’t otherwise considered.
What if I needed chemotherapy?
Surely not; this is a non-dangerous, non-spreading, non-life-threatening thing, isn’t it? Why would I possibly need chemotherapy?
What if they found something that wasn’t what we’d discussed or they’d told me to expect?
What could they have found?
What else could there be that you’re not already expecting from your extensive research?
What good is worrying about it now when you’re clearly not going to find out until Tuesday?
Why does the appointment need to be next week and why is it suddenly in person vs over the phone?
Perhaps a better question might be if it was something to worry about, wouldn’t they have got me in right away?
If it was something to panic about, surely they’d have gotten me in on the Friday morning instead of the Tuesday morning? Maybe Tuesday is simply the next available routine appointment?
I was now worried silly at 6pm on a Thursday, knowing I had 4 whole days before I would get the results, but I had a weekend with friends ahead that had been arranged for months, and I knew it would take my mind off everything and that I would be doing nothing but laughing all weekend (wonderful friends make everything feel less worrying!)
Once the initial panic had subsided and I’d contacted my mum and a few other loved ones to gauge their thoughts, I was able to develop my calm and rational brain, and simply wait for the results, expecting that everything would probably be fine.
I took James with me this time because I didn’t know what the hell to expect, and thank god he came because I honestly barely understood a single word the consultant said to me that day.
I got to the appointment feeling a little nervous and met with a different doctor than the one I’d spoken with originally. She had a trainee doctor with her and asked me to strip off and do another full body scan, using it as an opportunity to highlight all the areas of “severe sun damage” across my body (which was surprising to me because it’s literally just my skin!) to the trainee doctor. She also highlighted all the moles and freckles that she felt would be of future concern. I did wonder whether this mole removal would be the last or whether this is all going to be an ongoing thing for the rest of my life now, so I guess I have my answer.
And then we got down to business.
As suspected, the Basal Cell Carcinoma is a Basal Cell Carcinoma, and the decided course of treatment was chemotherapy cream. I was prescribed Aldara and told that I needed to apply it to the BCC every Monday to Friday for the next 6 weeks, taking the weekends off to give my body a break.
But the next part was perhaps a little less straightforward, more confusing, and to be honest, I’m still none the wiser about what the next stage is going to look like. So that’s great.
Apparently, the mole they had removed from my arm had them all flummoxed. She told me that they had even had one of the top consultants working on my case to establish what it was (before namedropping him and looking at me expectantly, like I would have any bloody clue who the hell this guy was?!), and the truth was, they still couldn’t say.
This little unassuming mole defied the boundaries of what is “normal” yet nobody could figure out if it was dangerous or not. It wasn’t a melanoma, but it wasn’t not a melanoma either. As a result, the only option would be to treat it as what’s called a melanoma-in-situ.
At this point I knew from my extensive research that melanomas are what we DON’T want when it comes to skin cancer. Basal Cell Carcinomas are largely treatable and not all that bad, but melanomas are where things get problematic.
In my case, because they couldn’t say for sure that it is not a melanoma, further surgery is now required on the same site as I already had. They originally removed 1.6cm from my arm and they now need to take 5(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)cm out.
Plastic surgeons will be involved in helping reconstruct the skin around this section of my arm, but because they are sure they have the main part of the potential melanoma out, this surgery is not urgent, and it will be at least 6 months (from that point – November 15th 2022) before I hear anything or have more of my arm hacked out. In the meantime, my focus should be on treating the confirmed skin cancer, the Basal Cell Carcinoma, for the next 6 weeks, and then they can assess whether I need surgery there too once I finish the cream treatment, or whether it has responded well to the treatment.
So I left both relieved that this wasn’t more serious and also confused as to why it took them 9 weeks to get those results and why it suddenly warranted an “urgent” appointment and why they couldn’t have just told me that over the phone, but I guess because of the nature of the confusing results and that I was told 50 times “it’s not a melanoma, but it could be a melanoma”, that they just had to have me there in person to go through it all.
And if I thought I was confused at that point, wait until I tell you about the absolute FIASCO I’ve had with this bloody chemotherapy cream!!!!