Dealing with health issues – on your own

I have to have regular medical checkups and the 24 hours leading up to them are times when I REALLY wish I wasn’t single.

Nearly five years ago, I had a mole removed and it turned out to be an early-stage malignant melanoma. I was very lucky it was caught so early and didn’t need any nasty treatment – just had a chunk of flesh from around the original mole cut out of my chest (I tell anyone who asks that the scar is from a boob job gone wrong – LOL!). But it REALLY freaked me out. Cancer? At 31? This wasn’t part of the plan!

I’m blessed with an excellent medical plan which connects me with outstanding healthcare providers, who have taken good care of me since. I go for check-ups regularly – to check for any recurrence or spread of the original melanoma (unlikely), but also general skin checks as I’m very fair and in a high risk category for skin cancer.

If you’ve had something similar happen to you, you’ll know the sense of dread that starts creeping in a few days before your checkup. For me, I start getting edgy, a bit snappy and start self-diagnosing all sorts of things (“headache? must be a brain metastasis! oh hang on – maybe it’s because I’ve been sitting hunched up at the computer all day… hmm, ok, that’s more likely…”) The times when this coincides with PMS are doubly exciting – add a dash of paranoia and pinch of patheticness… back away slowly…

The evening before a checkup is the worst – lots of time to think (note to self – schedule dinner with friends next time) and worry and play scenarios over in my head. I try to schedule my appointments as early as possible in the day as (a) I can never eat anything beforehand (tummy to churned up with nerves) and (b) I would go bananas sitting around all day waiting for it.

Today I went to a new dermatologist so that added some extra nervous-sprinkles on the top of my freaked-out sundae. I wonder if all her patients greet her with a shaky, ice-cold handshake? Probably quite a few of them do. But all went well and my scar, skin, lymph nodes and liver are in tip-top condition. Yippee! If you’ve ever had this sort of checkup you will also know the IMMENSE sense of relief (and post-adrenaline spike wobbly feeling) when you get the all-clear. After a good check-up I have an almost uncontrollable urge to go shopping (and I don’t mean for groceries…) – for me that seems to be my default ‘affirming I’m alive and well’ setting. (Champagne comes to mind too.) Today I did limit it to groceries but they did include some chocolate treats.

Anyway, to cut a long story short (bit late now, I know… excuse the ramblings…), it’s when I’m faced with a medical situation that – despite usually being very happily single, feisty and independent – I could really do with a partner to distract, reassure, love, hug, pray for and support me. Fortunately I am blessed to have extremely supportive and close parents and several good friends who I know send positive vibes my way too. I am also religious and knowing that I’m in God’s hands helps me immeasurably. He’s done an excellent job of taking care of me so far 🙂

How do you cope with this sort of thing? Who do you turn to? Or doesn’t it phase you? I’d love to know if anyone feels like I do.

P.S. With any cancer diagnosis, the magic ‘you’re in the clear’ mark is 5 years with no evidence of disease. I am THREE MONTHS AWAY from that and am planning on having a HUGE party to celebrate!

P.P.S. Melanoma is no fun, people. No suntan is worth gambling your life with. Fake it rather and keep away from those rays. See a dermatologist annually (or twice a year if you’re as fair as I am) and keep an eye on your skin and if you see anything changing, go get it checked out. Melanoma is curable if caught early enough; if not, it is usually fatal and is the most dangerous of all skin cancers. This site has some excellent ‘safe sun’ advice. PSA over!

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4 thoughts on “Dealing with health issues – on your own

  1. I have chronic health issues too–though not melanoma thank goodness–and I used to think that it would be nice to have a partner to hold my hand at times. But then when I *did* actually have partners, they did not do nearly as good a job supporting me as my family and friends did. I guess it all depends on the partner you get, eh?

    Christina

  2. Christina – sorry to hear you have health problems. As I think most of us singles feel, it’s about the calibre of that partner, not just a partner for the sake of having one 🙂

  3. I’m 37, long-term single and had stage 3 melanoma this year, chunk out of my leg and right groin lymph nodes out. There were a couple of occasions where I too thought it might have been nice to have a partner through it, to hug me at night. On the whole, I just got on with whatever I needed to do and surrounded myself with supportive family and friends. Like you, Christina, I get snappy and irritable before a check up now, and having had a ‘scare’ in the last week, I know I’ve been a pain at work. I don’t know if have a supportive partner would help that, or whether it would be another person to have to explain to and apologise to. Indeed, it would be the calibre of partner – I suspect if the relationship had any issues before the cancer, it would be highly excassibated during it. Certainly it affected some of my family relationships. I think if you were in a good relationship, it would help to have someone around, but yes, any issues in one would magnify hugely. My sister and a friend provided absolutely unconditional support in this time – so it more than made it for sleeping alone in this vulnerable time. All the best to you, keeping the disease at bay.

  4. Hi Emma – sorry to hear what you’ve been through… I think you’re spot on that a partner with cancer ‘baggage’ could find it tough, and that can apply to friends and family too. Happy to hear that your sister and friend are so wonderfully supportive. With any illness, attitude and positivity are perhaps just as important as treatment. Sending *hugs*, prayers and positive thoughts to you.

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