EDIT: Apologies for all the very many typos. My keyboard battery was dying.
So, here is what happened to me today (NO FRETTING, it has a good ending):
2 months ago, my friend Clio noticed a fairly prominent mole just above my bikini line had got bigger while I was pregnant, and if I was concerned. I had kind of noticed it too, but more in an ‘ewwww… gross’ kinda way, that a ‘what is wrong with this?’ kinda way. But, Clio noticing it was enough for me to mention it to my OB.
My OB took a look, and said “it doesn’t look too bad, and we don’t deal with things like that while in pregnancy, but I’d like you to get it checked out 6 weeks after birth by a dermatologist, just to be sure”. I agreed, but really, I wasn’t sure how likely that was to happen.
Fast forward 2 months, and my OB says to me “Hey, I was at lunch with a dermatologist and I mentioned your case. She said they *do* check people out in pregnancy – so here is her card”. She made me agree to call. Knowing I would be ‘checked up on’, I called, and got an appointment in a week’s time: today.
Ugh, the dermatologist was an hour late, at an extremely busy time for me. Honestly? I nearly just walked out claiming another appointment, and honestly? It was because I really don’t worry about my moles. Sure, I know the warning signs, and I look out for them, but it just didn’t seem like a likely, or an urgent, health concern. Anyway, as I was about to high tail it, they called me in.
The dermatologist looked at my mole. Her verdict? “Eh… doesn’t look worrying to me. It is the size we routinely remove, but not in pregnancy. Although the procedure is safe for pregnancy, we really don’t like to mess around with the body at that time, so I’m happy to leave this one”. As I was about to get dressed, I said “Oh, my husband noticed a mole on my upper back had changed – could you take a look?”. She did, and said there were no moles to worry about. She noticed (but was kind enough not to say!) that I a very mole-y person, and said “you know, there are some moles that could be checked on. But we really don’t mess with pregnant women’s bodies, if we can help it. Come back after the baby is born, say December… no rush… whenever… and I’ll do a full skin map for you. We can then just have a baseline for any future changes”.
Sounded good. I doubted whether I would really, actually make it back. Pressures of work and all, you know? I mean, she had given me a few months’ pass… whatever. Not a health concern. Then she suddenly said “Stop”. She bent over my lower back and said “Yes, this one comes off. Now”. Slightly dumbstruck I looked at her and said “Right, in December? When I am not pregnant, yeah?”. “No. Now. Today. It goes to pathology”.
A quick sharp intake of breath (lidocaine injection), a scalpel (100% painless) and a band aid later – the mole was removed and apparently I’ll have a fairly unattractive scar.
So… I am not really worried about this mole and the results. I mean – no one likes waiting for such results, but I am not especially concerned. But, it was a wake up call. I take my health very seriously. I always have. I was less than 5 when I informed my parents I wasn’t getting enough Vitamin C and there might be too much fat in my food (for the record, my parents are pretty healthy eaters, all things considered). I was under 12 when I banned all artificial sweeteners. I exercise regularly, I watch my BMI, I stick to a reasonably healthy diet, I try to get my 8 hours of sleep, on average. I do love Diet Coke, but I restrict it and I drink it with guilt when I do 🙂
To me: health is a personal responsibility thing. With the upcoming election, I hear the Republicans talk about this a lot: when it concerns finances. How people on welfare are just not taking responsibility for their lives, and it costs others. In fact, an old tape of Romney’s has just been released in which he says exactly that:
“”There are 47 percent of the people [those who do not pay income tax] who will vote for the president no matter what. … who believe that they are victims, These are people who pay no income tax. … [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Whether you agree with Rommers or not, I do feel the same health wise (although I sorta think my ‘job’ is to help people take responsibility for their health, not to give up on them). In my opinion: We all have a personal responsibility to take good care of our health, or it costs others: be it costing $$ to those on your insurance plan, $$ to those who contribute to your welfare, or more worryingly to me: be it a huge emotional cost to your friends and family.
Do you have children you have a duty to be there for? Do you have a partner you promised to look after? Then you have a responsibility to look after your health, in my mind. Do you feel a responsibility to your parents – to be around for them? Again: then a responsibility to look after your health to your best ability.
I really feel that strongly about it. It enters into the quasi-religious to me as well: God gave me this body, and I am grateful, and so I should look after it. Yet, yet, I have had “get moles checked” on my list for years. YEARS. And done nothing about it. Why? I don’t know: apathy? fear? ‘it won’t happen to me’-ness? All of the above. Ignorance about who to go to and when? Sure. Reluctance to dole out a $35 co-pay when I moved to the US and it was no longer ‘free’ [prepaid]? Yup. The feeling that I know enough about health care to know if something was really wrong? Bingo.
And what happened? A mole got to the stage where a dermatologist who is clearly very against any interference in pregnancy wouldn’t wait 2 months to deal with it. A very cautious specialist believed it needed action: NOW. Not in another 3-4 years when I finally bothered, not even in 2 months. Now.
I maintain: I am not especially worried, but I also maintain it should not have got to this stage. I am annoyed at myself for not taking responsibility for my health.
So: please, look after your health. Get outside, eat well, wear sunscreen and do all that. But also: go and see your healthcare professional. Get a mole map, get your pap smears, do your breast / testicle examination. All of those time consuming, money eating (if you are in the US… although perhaps not so much now, after ObamaCare), slightly boring, probably embarrassing, and quite awkward things. Learn the warning signs of stroke and diabetes. Get to healthcare provider if you are at risk of any of them.
Look at it this way: we KNOW preventative care is cheaper and more effective than emergency troubleshooting (why do you think Romey practically invented ObamaCare? It wasn’t out of love for the health of people of Massachusetts…). We know it is financially more cost efficient, and emotionally too. We know it saves lives. And we are so lucky to be able to access it. Lucky to have it open to us (if in the US without adequate – or any – insurance then my heart goes out you), and lucky to position to perhaps prevent an illness others have thrust upon them. Not all cancers are preventable (as an example) – some people have no choice but to battle it. You may be lucky enough to be able to prevent that.
So please, please use the best preventative care offered to you at the moment, in every way that you can.
I’ll keep you posted on the mole results, but know that I am sleeping well 🙂