By Terrah Baker
It started with a bump on my nose. And if you’ve kept up with my columns in the last month, you’d know it ended as a diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma — or a somewhat malignant form of skin cancer.
Before my scheduled surgery to remove “any possible cancer that may be left” after my biopsy, I got ahold of my own medical records. What I found there, and the subsequent conversations with doctors, has been enlightening.
When my biopsy was first completed by the doctor in Fayetteville, the results were inconclusive — either desmoplastic squamous cell carcinoma or desmoplastic trichilemmoma, a benign hair follicle tumor. On the phone, he told me in a frantic-like voice that while this is normally a cancer that does not grow into something serious, a small percentage of cases do, and if that happens chances of survival are slim.
“I’d hate for you to let this go and in five years come back to me with a tumor on your neck and have a 50/50 chance of living,” he said. “I know it’s hard to understand when you’re not in the medical field, but I have a bad feeling about this one and I recommend you get it taken care of,” were his words, basically.
He assured me the doctor who I would see next, and who would also perform the very expensive surgery, would take care of things. He also made the very clear point that he did not “gain anything” by recommending me to this other doctor and the surgery. My first thought was: Well, sure, if professional relationships within your field isn’t “gaining anything.”
So, I went. I hesitantly met with the new doctor, who I was afraid would push me into an unnecessary surgery, being my biopsy didn’t exactly say I had skin cancer. I explained to him how much of my life was spent earning $3,000 — the cost of my deductible for this surgery — and how much it meant to me that I did not spend this large chunk of cash if it was not absolutely necessary at this time. Then I asked: “If it’s the benign hair follicle tumor, what would I need to do then?” “It would need to come off as well,” the doctor said. (Strange, since the mole had already been taken off in the biopsy and benign hair follicle tumors don’t grow, or become deadly, in 99.9 percent of cases.) Then I decided it was time for a third, out of this derma-friend network, opinion.
I decided to collect my records to take with me, to ensure the next doctor I saw had to answer my very direct questions. My records showed that the biopsy, analyzed by a nationally-renowned specialist from California, were most definitely inconclusive, with no real proof that it was skin cancer or the alternative. And that “a deeper skin biopsy” was needed to get any conclusive answers.
From my own research, I found the benign hair follicle tumor mimics squamous cell, and my mole resembled much more closely that than skin cancer. Then I saw my records, where the knowledgeable doctor had written on my records “confirmed squamous cell carcinoma.” Strange again, since I, in fact, did NOT have a confirmed case.
Dr. Tom Lambert from Hull Dermatology in Rogers, immediately answered my questions, the ones the first doctor didn’t think I would understand since I wasn’t “in the medical field.” I made my decision to cancel my surgery, do a complete body detox, and check back in with Dr. Lambert in three months based on this doctor’s humble opinion: He would not risk a surgery on a young face that would leave a permanent scar, and cause temporary financial hardship, for the diagnosis I received. It’s much more sensible to wait three months and have the spot examined for regrowth or changes.
The two things I will take from this experience:
1. When we eat too much sugar, fatty foods or carbohydrates, smoke, drink, don’t exercise, the fungus and bacteria that live in our body thrive, while our immune system works to keep our bodies functioning properly, it is not equipped to deal with killing the additional mutated cancer cells. Eating healthy, regular exercise and taking in as few chemicals (through drugs, food and water) as possible, is our best bet against stopping and even curing cancer.
2. Our health industry is set up to make money on fear and a perceived lack of power over our own health, by both patients and doctors. In the future, I will be sure to do my own research, get a second and third opinion, and when I find out a doctor has misled me into an unnecessary surgery or health scare, I’m calling them out, so they too can learn a lesson. You are there to help us get better, not create hardship in our lives. So as for the dermatology place in Fayetteville, while they too may be a victim of a greedy and twisted system, and even working in what they see as the “safest” parameters, I wanted answers, and what you gave me was misinformation and pressure to have an expensive and possibly unnecessary surgery, so, I will never be receiving or recommending your services in the future.