Walking past the TV recently, I caught a portion of a news story of a woman who battled skin cancer during the pandemic. Initially, she did a tele-visit while medical offices were closed for a spot of concern on her face she had concerns of. During this tele-visit, she was told it was of no concern and only a beauty mark. This response did not sit well with her and thank goodness this woman followed her intuition. After medical offices opened for in-person visits again, she scheduled a biopsy and learned she did in fact have skin cancer and immediately began treatment. She is now on the road to recovery but wanted to share her story because she wanted others to not take no for an answer when they feel something isn’t right with their bodies and to seek the proper medical attention until the proper diagnosis and treatment is found.
This story hit me…hard! I too battled with a skin cancer diagnosis during the height of the pandemic and I too initially received poor medical attention. My appointment was in-person, but the doctor was afraid to get near me or allow me to remove my mask for the exam. She performed the exam of the spots of concern on my chest and face from an arm’s distance away and sent me on my way with a prescription for a chemotherapy ointment. I always knew skin cancer was a possibility. But I am careful, and sunblock has been a must on my chest and face for nearly a decade, but it was too late. The damage was done earlier in life. So, here I am sitting in my car with a prescription for chemotherapy a brochure outlining the worst-case scenario (graphic photos included) in my hands. I had so many questions, but no words would come out. The tears were so real as I called family and friends for support. Afterall, I knew the next few months, I was going to need them more than ever to pull me through.
The treatments were painful and ugly. As if 2020 wasn’t isolating enough, this took it to a whole new level. I only allowed 4 people to see me in-person and on the rare occasion I actually left the house, I hid behind a hat and mask so only the bottom of my eyes could be seen. Fast forward to my appointment after the treatments and a couple weeks into the healing process and I received the same, if not worse medical attention. The same doctor yet again kept her distance and did not allow me to remove my mask for the exam. She did this time touch a few of the spots but she left her medical gloves on. Anyone who knows anything about cancerous cells knows that the texture says a lot about the cells. I knew there was no way she could feel anything regarding their texture through the tip of her latex gloves (insert eye roll). She was basically just going through the motions of a medical exam. But this was my chest and my face! The same areas of my body that I see daily in the reflection of the mirror and I wasn’t willing to risk her changing that reflection because she has a fear of seeing patients. The doctor proceeded to tell me that the treatments did not work, and I would need to go through a second round on my chest and see a plastic surgeon to have the spots from my face biopsied and removed. How could she even tell that I had the cancer initially and still now that the treatments were completed? I was skeptical after the first visit but after this follow-up, I had officially lost all trust in her as a medical professional and my frustration was at an all time high. But I took her advice because I knew seeing a plastic surgeon meant I would get a second opinion.
Fast forward again, I finish the second round of treatments on my chest and a couple weeks into my healing, I see the plastic surgeon. Sitting in the room, I am surrounded by a variety of medical tools prepped to cut into my face. The surgeon enters, removes my mask, touches, measures and take photos of all the areas that received treatment on my chest and face and tells me that I am still too inflamed and need more time to heal but feels confident I do not require any biopsies. Wait?? Did I just hear her right? But I still had to wait a few more weeks to jump for joy because I needed more time to heal. After a few more weeks of healing and yes, another visit with the surgeon, my chest and face are considered cancer free! I was so excited with the news that I wanted to hug her (I didn’t of course because that would be violating social distancing 😊, but I told her I did). I was so grateful to be in the care of this surgeon. She put the pandemic aside and did her job as a medical professional and gave me, the patient, the care I needed to save my life.
My advice to all of you reading this is to not allow your health and overall well-being to take a backseat during this ongoing pandemic or at any point in your life. We must all continue to care and provide the best for ourselves and we must not settle when it comes to receiving medical attention. While our stories differ, the underlying message is the same -follow your intuition, you know your body better than anyone and demand the best medical attention until you get it. Your health is too vital of an asset to compromise and the pandemic isn’t a free pass for medical professionals to not give the medical attention they are obligated to do so.
This is by no means a one-size fits all post or intended to be negative toward those in the medical field. I respect all you do and the way 99.99% of you have stepped up during the pandemic.