The signs….how it all began

Melanoma image from google
Some argue Penfold was a hamster I like to think he was a mole it makes sense he wore glasses and was a spy

So, when you hear melanoma or skin cancer what’s the first thing that pops in your head? I bet you’re imagining some sort of obscure mole (not the type from Danger Mouse…I loved that programme) but the type you find on your body that has become misshapen or changed colour is some way, right?

 

Well unfortunately this wasn’t one of the tell-tale signs for me. For me I can specifically remember the moment when it all began, I was having a one of those run of the mill chats in the kitchen at work whilst waiting for the microwave to finish. I was talking to a colleague who said they had had a cold and sore throat for a while and I happened to mention probably more to keep the conversation going than anything that I hadn’t been feeling great either and that I had a golf ball type lump in my throat they said that doesn’t sound right and another colleague using the microwave turned around and said no it doesn’t. It was this I know and some spotty type fungal rash on one of my hands that finally made me book an appointment with the doctors.

See I am one of the types of people that don’t visit the doctors very often or is ever sick. If I am I tend to just sort it out myself or phone my mum who despite over 45 years of medical experience as a nurse the general prognosis would be “have you had a poo?” (sorry mum). This time in addition to the lump in my throat I also happened to be feeling quite tired, I was always cold, I often struggled to lose weight despite generally eating healthy and being fit and I had noticed by hair was in really poor condition and quite thin. So, I discussed this with my personal health care advisor (mum) and this time the nurse’s prognosis was different and we agreed that we didn’t think a poo would solve it. In actual fact both my mum, husband and I all thought it was my thyroid so I phoned the doctors for an appointment.

I had been to the doctors some years ago with what I thought was my thyroid but blood tests came back as normal. This time I was prepped with what to say from my mum so to not get ‘fobbed off’ as she put it. I was more concerned on the small blister type lumps that were appearing on my hand at they had been there for a while and became quite itchy. See I like to get my money’s worth at the doctors and tend to come with about 3 ailments then it’s worth your while and I also like to think it makes the doctors time worthwhile too.

This time the doctor who was only young was extremely thorough he looked in my throat and he arranged for some blood tests and for me to be referred to the ENT (Ear Nose Throat) clinic straight away. As for the blister type things he wasn’t as concerned with them and suggested it could be down to stress or a fungal infection. I can’t remember when these spots did finally disappear as everything else took over from that point on.

A bit of a blur

So, I’m not sure what order things happened from then and it’s not something you can summarise in a few short words so bear with me. I remember I had an ultrasound on my neck in which they said there were a number of nodules which they didn’t know what they were so they arrange for a CT (computed tomography) scan. I also had a camera up my nose which is an awful experience especially when one nostril isn’t big enough and I remember thinking I really don’t like this lady at this moment in time. Looking back maybe her previous experience was shoving computer cables through those holes in the back of an office desk. See the only way you would be prepared for a camera up your nose and in your throat, is if you were one of those weird kids at school that could put a strawberry lace up your nose and pull it through your mouth, then you were born for it. I also had a CT scan at some point and a small biopsy which was really quick and totally painless.

At some point I also had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan in which they forgot to put on the music so I had to endure the screeching of the machine for the duration of the first half of the scan. If you’ve ever had an MRI you will know what I’m talking about if you haven’t the noise is like something they put on one of these SAS stress tests to see if you will crack. Either that or they had put some Radiohead album on at some point. (sorry Radiohead fans don’t be offended two of my favourite songs are ‘High and Dry’ and ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ and Ste thinks they’re fantastic but I think there are a couple of screechy ones which aren’t to my liking). 

The next appointment I can remember at the ENT they mentioned that it wasn’t my thyroid but the results had come back and they wanted to take a larger biopsy for further investigation. The ENT doctor tried to do this but he pressed down on the lump so hard that I couldn’t breathe and nearly passed out so it meant I had to be referred to have the lump removed. I felt pretty pathetic at this point. The lump was inside my submandibular gland (salivary gland to joe public – sorry Joe) which apparently you don’t need so they arranged for a minor operation to have it out.

All these tests and appointments happened pretty quickly and I remember being told that I would be admitted to hospital for just one night and would be off work for a couple of weeks. I was told at that point that I might have quite a big scar on my neck which at the time was my biggest concern. Today it’s pretty irrelevant and in fact I you can hardly notice it.

Ste was there when I was due to go for my operation and whilst waiting in my rather fetching gown one of my relatives came to see me as she was one of the scrubs on duty at that time. She asked if I would mind if she was there in the operation which I totally didn’t and thought it was nice of her to check. When I woke up from the operation she was actually the first person I remember seeing and she said everything had gone really well. I remember her holding my hand and smiling she has one of those big infectious smiles that make you instantly want to smile back. I also remember the surgeon coming around the ward the next day. He said the operation had gone well. See operations on the throat and gland tend to have a risk that there could be some permanent damage to speech and the nerves surrounding your mouth etc. I have a bit of a dodgy smile and do get numbness near my jaw but nothing that is too worrying.

I was taken back to the ward and stayed overnight. I remember Ste coming but can’t remember if he brought the kids and I don’t know why I think now this stay gets merged into my other stay in hospital. From this point I remember being in quite a bit of pain for a while. I went home and rested in bed for a few days.

After the operation I was told I would have an appointment to discuss my results. I got a phone call about a week later and asked to come in for an appointment early on. I asked was it serious the receptionist just said “no it’s just a follow up from your operation”. I didn’t bring anyone to this appointment much to the shock of the ENT doctor when I arrived little did I know this would be the appointment that change my world as I knew it.

Coming round after my minor op
Healing nicely

 

 

 

 

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