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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