Lessons learned from potential health scare

By: 

Lorna Marquardt, Leader Columnist

While showering, I noticed a mole on my midriff had grown larger. I knew that might not be a good sign.

After a very quick shower, it was off to do research on my computer. My first search was non-malignant moles. I learned most moles appear in early childhood and during the first 20 years of a person’s life, although some might appear later. It is normal to have between 10 to 40 moles by adulthood.

It also said most moles are benign. Well, that certainly made me feel better! However, that statement was followed by “if you notice changes in a mole’s color, height, size or shape, you should see a doctor.”

I looked at pictures of non-malignant moles. Some looked similar to mine; that was good to see.

The next search, malignant moles. The site talked about the ABCDEs that are important signs a mole could be cancerous. It further stated if a mole displayed any of these signs to have it checked immediately:

Asymmetry: One half of the mole does not match the other half.

Border: The border or edges of the mole are ragged, blurred or irregular.

Color: The color of the mole is not the same throughout or has shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white

or red.

Diameter: The diameter of a mole is larger than the eraser of a pencil.

Elevation/Evolution: A mole appears elevated, or raised, from the skin.

My mole had several of the characteristics described.

Next, I viewed pictures of cancerous moles. That didn’t go too well. A picture of a melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer resembled the one on my midriff, or so I thought. Learning one person dies every hour from melanoma heightened my concern.

I wonder how many of you, like me, have gone to medical books or a computer and have concluded you have a serious medical condition?

Going to the clinic is an infrequent occurrence for me, generally twice a year. However, as a realist, I knew a visit was imminent, and I made the call. I was already mentally planning a course of action. To my surprise and relief, I was able to see my physician later that day.

My physician only needed a quick look to tell me the mole I had was non-cancerous. He gave me the name of the type of very common mole I had, but all I heard was “it is not a melanoma.” He then looked at my other moles.

I almost forgot to show him a small mole on my arm. It was circular, smaller than a pencil eraser. It was a solid color, black. It had regular edges and did not give me any concern (according to my own diagnosis). However, my doctor said “We need to take a closer look at that one. I will remove it and send it to the lab. We will have the results in a few days.”

Those five days waiting to learn if it was cancerous seemed incredibly long. The word “benign” echoed in my ears. Praise be to God!

Through this health concern, I learned a few valuable lessons. First, I am not a doctor and should avoid self-diagnosis. Second, I should not read medical books or search symptoms on the internet. Third, the sense of relief one feels when one hears the word “benign.” Fourth, the empathy we should all feel for those who hear their results are positive. Fifth, and most importantly, I need to remember Psalm 56:3: “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.”

If you are currently dealing with cancer, or have a loved one who is, never underestimate the power of prayer, the amazing medicines and treatments currently available, and the very skilled medical professionals. The number of cancer survivors continues to increase.

This Dr. Seuss quote seems relevant: “I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind; some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat, I’m all ready you see; Now my troubles are going to have trouble with me.”

Early detection of cancer can greatly improve the odds of successful treatment and survival. Cancer treatment depend on the type of cancer, the stage of the cancer, health status and personal conditions.

If you have symptoms, call your doctor and stay away from your computer. That is some advice to consider from the voice of experience!

Answer to last week’s question: The largest employer in Shawano County during 1974 was Eagle Knit-Division of Zwicker Knitting.

This week’s question: When was the Pine Acre Motel established and who were the founders?

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.