I don't suppose there is anyone still checking this blog regularly since I have not written anything for over two months, but I will tell you why (just in case).
Four days after my last post in May, I went into hospital for day surgery to remove a mole on my right forearm that was growing and changing. I had a mole in this location all my life. It was large and I had had it removed once and tested (results were clear) and, when it grew back, I had it checked out on two separate occasions by skin cancer specialists and dermatologists (they said it was a "navy blue keratosis"). It kept growing -- the last specialist I had seen knew it was still growing -- and was getting so large that people I hardly knew would comment on it. I decided to have it removed, mostly for cosmetic reasons, and the surgeon sent it off to the pathology lab.
The results were scary: sometime since the last time I had it checked out it had turned into a melanoma, and (because I had been told so often there was nothing wrong with it and therefore not done anything with it) it had already grown to intermediate stage -- that is, it had grown down into the subdermal layer where tiny capillaries could have picked up the cancer cells and spread them around my body.
I had to immediately schedule more surgery to remove more skin from around the area, plus scans on my lymph glands to ensure that the cancer cells had not already spread. They removed as much skin as they could without having to do a skin graft, so I've got an impressive scar! The prognosis is reasonable: at the time of diagnosis, I had an 80 per cent chance of still being alive in five years' time. Since then, I've had the extra surgery -- including the removal of lymph glands from my elbow and armpit for testing -- and the pathology on the extra skin and the lymph glands was clear of signs of cancer, so my chances of still being alive in five years are now even better than 80 per cent.
I was invited to join a randomised medical trial that the Sydney Melanoma Unit are running with the John Wayne Cancer Institute, and I am still waiting for the results of an extra test on my lymph glands that is part of that trial.
It's been six weeks since the surgery and I am only just regaining full use of my right arm -- you can imagine it has been pretty trying for a right-handed person to be so restricted! But thanks to the Dude, His Dagginess and Ms Nominative Determinism we managed to keep the household running and I even got some work done, typing one-handed and mousing with my left hand. So that's where I've been. Did you miss me?