It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
I do not have a melanoma.
I learned a long time ago that my skin reflects how much stress I am experiencing. It happens in different ways, and rarely repeats itself, but in times of heavy stress, my skin reacts badly. I'm not saying this is unique to me, just that it's true for me.
When I exercise, I flush so red people think I'm having a heart attack. Years ago, when starting my first professional YMCA job, I broke out in little splotches head to toe. Doc said it was pityriasis rosea, a harmless rash that appears randomly and never repeats. Took 6 weeks of turtlenecks and long pants before that went away.
When I gave birth to my first child, I developed another rash--this time it itched worse than chicken pox, worse than mosquito bites, worse than mosquito bites mixed with chicken pox. This time Doc said it was PUPPS: Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy. Again, there are many theories about why this rash forms, but not much is known. It clears up a few weeks after delivery. In the meantime, mami is miserable.
So it should not have been a surprise to me that in the last few weeks one of the moles I've been watching suspiciously for years began to grow. It seemed to be growing quickly and forming a round, raised bump where the mole was. By this point in my adulthood, you would think I would know better than to google skin rshes, but there I was Sunday night on the interwebs worrying over this bump.
Being the accomplished googler that I am, I discovered a rare, fast-growing melanoma that looked exactly like the bump on my neck. It was clear that I had a nodular melanoma and would be dead in 4 weeks. (For more on how I come by a touch of hypochondria honestly, see my post "Abomination Unto the Lord" on the use of aspirin in children.)
Even while my rational brain was arguing disgustedly with the part of my brain that still believes in fairies, I began to think through these last weeks of my life. What would happen with the children? Did I still need to pack my house for our move in August? Should I still take French? I searched for the insurance card and the doctor's phone number so I could call on Tuesday and make an appointment.
Brains are funny things. I could feel myself short of breath, which I was sure meant that my lungs were filling with fluid. It was hard to swallow--the tumor beneath the mole, perhaps. The bump itself was painful to touch, and the skin all around hurt too. I was very sad.
I facebooked a friend who said, "You don't have a melanoma. But just in case, I will give your eulogy." I had coffee scheduled with another friend for later in the week, and I was glad I would get a chance to see her one last time.
In the meantime, my rational brain hijacked my body, told the fairy loving part of me to shut up, and went to sleep. By morning it was obvious to me that this melanoma was, in fact, a gigantic zit. The largest zit known to humankind, but a zit nonetheless. I still have an appointment to get a checkup with the doctor, but it was still just a zit.
My friend over coffee confirmed for me: "You don't have a melanoma, Katie. It's not even the right color." I tried to explain to her that in rare cases a melanoma does not have pigment. She looked at me like I had completely lost it and laughed. I'm grateful for my friends who keep me planted on the ground.
As I've settled into the fact that my skin has once again played tricks on me, several insights have come to mind:
1. Never google "skin rash" of any kind. Never. Just make an appointment to see the Doc and use your mother's home remedy.
2. I am under way too much stress.
3. This melanoma zit reminds me of the church and the various Fellowshippers, Nexters, Laymanners, Unicorns, SillyWalkers, etc. worried to DEATH about the future of the church. Certain that we are dead in four weeks or less, many people in our denomination have taken to reading stats and blogs on the interwebs (and thank you for popping by here, btw), and diagnosing gloom and doom for Christ followers of the Presby type. It's over. It's done. It's dead, Jim.
I'm asking if all the hoopla about the certain and ugly-painful death of the church isn't just a gigantic zit instead of a melanoma. I wonder if we aren't so incredibly fixated on this admittedly hideous zit that we don't see the rest of the body. Every person I've talked to in the last few days has pointed to this dreadful zit on the front of my neck and asked, "What's that???" It's easy to get fixated on something like this. But if I want my skin to stop breaking out, I will need to tend to the stressors in my life causing that. I've been around a while, I know how to do this.
So tomorrow I will get an eyebrow pencil, and I will draw a butterfly on my neck using the zit as a spot its wing. And I will go about my day doing the things I need to do to lower my stress and be more productive. I'll get to my doctor appointment next week, and focus on eating right, exercise, and getting enough sleep.
And that's probably what the church needs to do, too. Draw a butterfly around our gigantic hideous zit, stop calling it a melanoma, and get about the business of being church. Exercise, eat right, get enough sleep. Take care of one another, love the stranger, love God.
Posted by Katie Mulligan at 1:04 AM