When you are focused on one particular thing in your life — in my case, my job search —- you tend to forget about the other things that are going on about you until you are reminded of them. Some of them come as gentle nudges: you discover you need milk for the morning’s breakfast, you look at a calendar and realize you have to call your mother to wish her a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, or you learn you need to take your suit to the cleaner’s while looking in the mirror before heading out for your interview. At other times, some things you thought were settled and long forgotten suddenly come back at you, and not in a gentle way.
We have a great health care system here in Canada. It’s not perfect and it needs improvement (particularly the issue of wait times), but it’s paid for through the provinces, and there’s no excuse not to go to the doctor if you notice something amiss.
I regularly check the moles on my body for anything that looks out of order, and I have gone to a dermatologist twice in the past when I saw what appeared to be a mole change. Those two concerns turned out to be false alarms and I was commended after each doctor’s examination for taking charge of my health. During the first week of March, I was trying to check out a mole on my back that was in an awkward place. It looked perfectly fine, but it was really getting on my nerves. Have you ever seen a dog chase it’s tail? Have you ever seen a stupid dog chase it’s tail? That’s what I looked like, while standing in front of the mirror, twisting around while trying to get a good look at that mole. I finally said, “This is ridiculous, I’m going to have a doctor look at it close up before I injure myself”.
I went to the medical clinic up the street, where a GP examined me. He said there was nothing wrong with it, but he referred me to a dermatologist just to be safe. 10 days later, I went to that dermatologist, who examined me and said it looked fine, but he recommended removing it because it was over 1 cm in size. He froze the skin on that part of my back and removed it (I didn’t know exactly how and I don’t want to know if he is freezing me). The procedure took just five minutes and he slapped a bandage there, telling me to keep it clean and put PolySporin on it. He then said I would be contacted later if anything came up in the biopsy report.
That part made me worry. “Biopsy report?”, I asked him. “I thought I was fine!”. He said it’s just a precaution to make sure the tissue removed was not undergoing any changes that could indicate cancer. Because I had “job-search-on-the-brain”, I asked him if I should perhaps throttle back on my looking for work until the results come back. Don’t be surprised by that question: the last thing you want to do is apply for a position and later, if hired, explain to your new boss you need to take a leave of absence or even resign if you have to undergo medical treatment. He replied to me that would not be necessary, since he felt the mole was likely non-cancerous but he can’t be positive until the biopsy report returns. He would know the results in three weeks.
So, two doctors tell me not to worry, with the latter removing it as a precautionary double-check for a lab to look at. Fine by me: no more looking like a dog chasing his tail in front of the mirror. Weeks go by and I forget about the mole. Granted, the wound made by the removal of the mole is taking a while to heal, but it does not hurt at all and only bleeds a bit during the changing of bandages and the application of Polysporin, but three weeks go by and no call from the doctor.
Just after the start of the fifth week, I get the following message on my answering machine:
(I edited the name of the clinic and the doctor out, so that is why it skips in some places. Sorry.)
Not urgent my you-know-what. I’ve gone to many specialists in the past, including dermatologists as I mentioned before, and not one has ever called me back just to tell me “You’re fine! Thanks for coming down!”. I called the clinic staff person who left that message, asking her what the reason was for having to come back. I might as well have tried herding cats in an alley with the runaround I got:
“Hi I’m calling about my test results. The doctor needs to see me?”
“Was it a positive?”
“He didn’t say, he just needs to see you”
“Well it must be bad news if he wants to see me”
“Why are you saying it’s bad, sir!? How can you say this as fact? He just wants to see you!”
“Well, what does he want to see me about, if you know it’s not so bad?”
“Sir I don’t know! It just says here (where exactly is here…on a screen? paper?) that he wants to see you!”
I have a great deal of respect for doctors and anyone else who work in the medical field. They work long insane hours, take care of people like myself, and do not get thanked for their efforts. But I always hated the fact it was a “Snakes And Ladders” game when came to getting test results. I waited 10 days to see a dermatologist. I waited just over 4 weeks to get this answering machine message. Now I have to wait 3 weeks more to see the same dermatologist again for something I can’t be told about over the phone. It’s supposedly not urgent, but the doctor still has to tell me in person rather than make the results available to staff to tell me over the phone.
Now I have this angel of uncertainty yammering in my ear for the next three weeks while I continue with my job search and my course at George Brown College. It’s going to be a distraction for both, but as I said, this blog is supposed to chronicle my job search and distractions like this are a part of the process. It’s a reminder that the world still turns no matter what I’m doing, and sometimes the world can suddenly roll right over you without warning.
I’ll update this blog post on May 3rd once I come back from the doctor with the results. Wish me luck!
Update May 3, 2012: I have the results and I wish I can tell you the news is good, but it is not. I will require a second biopsy to ensure the mole is not cancerous because the sample was incomplete. This is likely because it was a deeper mole than expected, and deepening moles are typical of melanoma, or skin cancer. I have to wait for a local plastic surgeon to contact me to schedule an appointment for a deeper extraction and biopsy.
This will of course affect my job search, as I cannot apply to full time positions while this health scare hangs over me. I have an obligation to ensure I am capable of holding down a full-time position before accepting any offer. I would appreciate hearing from cancer survivors how they are handling their employment situation, especially if they are out of work. Please feel free to drop me a line.
In the meantime, I plan to apply for part-time and temporary positions for now, and the college course will complete as scheduled.
Update May 31, 2012: Finally! Someone from the Health Care Clinic calls me back while I was out job-hunting. A staffer left a telephone number and extension for me to call to get information about my appointment date and time. When I call, however, I get an answering machine saying they are either dealing with another patient or away from their desk. WHAT?! I left a message on the answering machine to call me back. A call-back has confirmed a time to see a skin surgeon. I’ll keep you posted through updates on this page.
Update June 22, 2012: The plastic surgeon at Toronto East General removed the last of the mole, and has my final biopsy reports. All negative. Huzzah!
…..now…if I can only get rid of this meibomian cyst that just popped up. Yeesh. Never a boring moment at Chez David
Update June 26, 2012: Another reason why we need a computer system that shares patient data between doctors in Ontario: I just received a phone call from the dermatologist office who sent me to the plastic surgeon, asking if I have gone to that plastic surgeon yet. WHAT? Health Minister Deb Matthews really needs to work on this. On second though, heck with that. I could probably write one for the Ontario government. Hire me!