Monday, May 25, 2015

Another delightful tale from Dr. Sally Burbank!

An Embarrassing Misdiagnosis
Melanoma runs strongly in my husband's family. In fact, two relatives died in their forties of the dreaded disease and my father-in-law requires regular mole checks with his dermatologist. Thus, when Nate showed me an ugly, new, black mole on the back of his upper arm, I was concerned. It displayed all the signs for malignancy: size greater than one centimeter, black color, ratty border, and an irregular pigment.
I immediately did what I do best in a crisis: borrow trouble. Mentally, I had him diagnosed with Stage IV malignant melanoma, thus facing a bleak (and expensive) future of Moh's surgery, chemotherapy, and hospice care. He'd be dead by fifty-four, (just like his uncle and cousin) and I'd be left alone, a lonely widow trying to fund two kids through college all by myself.
I yanked his arm toward me again, hoping it was a mistake. But no, it looked worrisome and needed a biopsy. Not wanting to upset my husband, I pasted on a professional veneer and told him I'd schedule an appointment with a dermatologist as soon as possible.
As luck would have it, the dermatologist had a cancellation for that very afternoon. Did I want it? You bet!
Nate jumped into the shower to clean up before his appointment while I tried to quell my panic by deadheading petunias. Others have survived cancer so you can too, I re-assured myself. Jesus said, "I will never leave you or forsake you." But no amount of self-talk or scripture quoting removed the worry curdling in my stomach.
After Nate climbed out of the shower and dried off with a towel, he informed me his "melanoma" had disappeared in the shower! Turns out, he had eaten a couple of spoonfuls of Nutella, his favorite vice, last night and must have somehow rubbed some accidentally on his upper arm. It dried in a way that looked exactly like a melanoma. I felt like a fool. Some doctor I was-- I couldn't distinguish malignant melanoma from Nutella?? Thank God it was my husband and not a real patient. Imagine if I'd sent a patient to the dermatologist to biopsy Nutella—I'd never live it down.
The American Dermatological Society needs to add new criteria for diagnosing melanoma: doesn't scrub off with soap and water!

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1 comment:

Laura said...

That is a great story!