Occasionally, the fact that I no longer have a car presents itself to be a real challenge, and not merely an inconvenience.
To see my favorite dermatologist here in Utah, it is an all day adventure. When calculating the amount of time it takes traveling on the bus and the train, combined with the actual length of the appointment, nearly six hours have passed. Taking an entire day off from work to go up to Huntsman Cancer Institute for my annual full body skin exams, is a challenge. My boss would likely be supportive (especially since I'm known at work as the so-called "skin cancer guru"), but I decided that it is probably a good idea to be referred to an equally qualified, board certified dermatologist who is closer to home and/or to work.
The AAD recommended Dr. Richard Parkinson and his partner Dr. Carrie Jackman. When I looked them up, I discovered that their office is but a mere 10 minute walk from work. After interviewing the receptionist, I then looked into whether or not my insurance would cover the cost of the appointment. (By the way, this is the first time in my life that I have had health insurance - it just kicked in this month!) When everything appeared "good to go", I officially booked my appointment with Dr. Jackman. (By the way, even if my insurance wouldn't cover my dermatologist appointment, I would have paid for it out-of-pocket, as I had done previously, because I was due for my yearly skin exam and I have numerous dysplastic nevi - "abnormal moles"- plus a new one! And there simply is no excuse to not go get your skin checked out, especially when you spend your days teaching others about skin cancer prevention!)
So, this morning at 9:30 AM, I walked from my office at Prosper, Inc., fashioning my well worn wide-brimmed Skin Cancer Awareness hat, and slathered in Blue Lizard Australian Suncream, over to Dr. Parkinson's office just 10 minutes away.
I filled out some paperwork, sat down on the couch, read my scriptures, and waited for my new dermatologist to call for me. Suddenly, a voice called, in a pleasant voice, "Danielle, I'm Carrie. It's nice to meet you."
We walked into the exam room; I proceed to take my clothes off and change into a pink medical gown and seat myself atop the exam table. When my new dermatologist came into the room, she asked me: "So, I see that on the paperwork you just filled out that you have a family history of melanoma. Is this new information?" I told her that, while doing family history/genealogy work (it's one of my geeky hobbies), I had found death certificates for my great grandmother and great grandfather (my mother's grandparents) and that said they had suffered melanoma (not at the same time, though, in case you were wondering). I told her that it was rather "interesting", if not ironic, for me to discover that I had a family history of melanoma; I first started doing cancer work - specifically breast cancer - because my mother passed away and that melanoma/skin cancer became a focus only after I met my friend, and fellow Cancer Crusader, Natalie Johnson. Natalie lost her 21-year-old brother, Eric, to complications associated with a malignant melanoma - the deadliest form of skin cancer. I had no idea, until very, very recently, that melanoma ran in my family.
My dermatologist then excused herself (she wanted to go check something on my records). When she came back in a short minute later, she asked me, with a big smile on her face, "Do you know Margaret Merrill?" My reply: "Well, yes! Yes, I know Margaret. The whole world knows Margaret!"
(Note: my friend Margaret, who is a board member here at The Cancer Crusaders Organization, is notorious. She knows everyone on the planet. Whenever we go somewhere together, she runs into someone she knows. And now it appears that I'm running into people that know her, as well).
Talk about the perfect ice breaker. Here I am, sitting naked under a paper thin gown, waiting to be examined by a brand new dermatologist (which, actually, didn't phase me too much but it was still slightly awkward because it was a new environment), and I discover that her and I have a mutual friend.
"It took me a second to realize that you're THE Danielle White from the award-winning Cancer Crusaders organization. It makes sense, though. That Skin Cancer Awareness ribbon on your hat, and the fact that you told the receptionist the reason you were coming in was to have your 'numerous dysplastic nevi examined'. It is really rare that I hear a patient using medical jargon."
So, all the while Carrie is conducting a full body dermatological examination of my skin, we laughed and joked. When she cut off three moles off my back, we were chatting about the scar on my back from when I shattered seven-and-a-half vertebrae due to a sledding accident gone awry (another story, for another blog), and about our concerns with the fact that more women in their 20s are being diagnosed with melanoma.
"We really appreciate people like you, Danielle, and all that you are doing to teach other people about skin cancer prevention. I try to talk to the girls at church who, like you and I, are in the 20s, but they don't really listen because they expect a dermatologist to tell them to get their skin checked out regularly; to take proper precautions. Yet, when you teach people about skin cancer prevention, you are really making a difference. So, we really appreciate all the wonderful work you are doing, and I know the AAD does, too!"
How kind of Carrie to say such things.
More importantly, I genuinely appreciated the fact that she took the time to answer ALL of my questions. She wasn't offended when I asked her about the process by which the moles she took of my back would be handled and biopsied; whose hands would they be in, when would I hear the results of my biopsy, what is the accountability/quality check process and how it is enforced, et. al. Truth be told, she rather enjoyed the fact that I asked about the pathological processes that would take place regarding the three suspicious moles she excised from my back. And when I asked her about the six others that she wanted to surgically remove, she was so forthright and open about EVERYTHING.
"We have to do some surgery on a few other moles, Danielle, and I am going to ask Dr. Parkinson to help me just so that there are two of us making sure we're taking care of you as thoroughly as possible [...] Danielle, with you having so many moles, particularly suspicious ones, and with your family history, we need to make sure that we nip it all in the bud and catch any melanomas in their really early stages. Is it okay that I bring Dr. Parkinson in so that we can give you two pairs of eyes? And can I have you come back in to our office in two weeks?"
OF COURSE IT IS OKAY FOR YOU TO MAKE DOUBLY SURE THAT I'M SKIN CANCER FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
After I got back into my clothes, scheduled my next appointment, and joked around with the ladies at the front desk, Dermatologist Carrie came out and asked about the Skin Cancer Awareness pin on my jacket lapel. She asked for one. I gave everyone at the office a pin, to which each of them promptly affixed it to their lab coats.
"Thank you, again, for all that you are doing, Danielle. You are changing the world for the better. Even if you convince only one person to wear sunscreen, do their self skin exams, and come into the dermatologist's office, you are making the world a better place. You are changing people's lives, for the better."
I realize that the lyric - it's a small world after all really rings true (even at the dermatologist's office). I have a new dermatologist who is professional yet personable, who just so happens to be good friends with one of my friends.
It is, indeed, a small world. What a blessing it is that we are all connected to each other in such pleasantly simple, but wonderful ways!
SO, WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO THE DERMATOLOGIST FOR YOUR ANNUAL FULL-BODY SKIN EXAM?
Don't have a dermatologist? You can find a board certified dermatologist nearest you at www.aad.org. Simply, enter your zip code and a listing of qualified, licensed dermatologists will be electronically generated for you. Again, that Web-site is www.aad.org - it's the official site of the American Academy of Dermatology, which is the leading resource for accurate dermatological information, and is representative of more than 14,000 dermatologists.
Wishing you all abundant health, happiness, and an outpouring of love from good friends!