|My hand after the initial surgery|
Throughout the life of this blog, I have shared my thoughts and experiences in the hope of educating others or offering a chance for others to avoid my own negative experiences. Other than a brief post on Facebook, to date, I have said little on what has been going on for the better part of the last month in terms of what became a frightening personal medical issue. I have learned a great deal, not all of it good. Now, I want to share some of what I've learned.
First, the background. For a number of years I had what appeared to be a wart on one of my fingers. It seemingly responded to at home treatments and finally, last year my dermatologist did an in-office freezing treatment. At first, the treatment appeared to work, but then the spot began to significantly increase in size. The dermatologist sent me to a hand surgeon to remove it and all thought it was a simple procedure. The surgery seemingly went fine, but then the pathology report suggested a benign growth with possible "malignant transformation" and recommended full removal with "appropriate margins." That's when things became very scary. What I had was very rare - an incidence of 0.005%. The local physicians recommended removal of the entire finger - something unacceptable from both a vanity perspective - I am a gay male, after all and from the perspective of on dealing with clients almost daily where my hands are in view as papers are executed was truly appalling.
Thankfully, after a round of bitchiness, the local oncologist referred me to specialists at the Medical College of Virginia ("MCV") hospital complex in Richmond - a surgical oncologist and a hand surgery specialist who does reconstruction work. After a number of nights with restless sleep at best, the husband and I went to MCV today. Not only was the pathology report considered an overstatement, but removal of my finger was not considered necessary. Yes, as a precaution, I will need an additional surgery and a likely skin graft in three weeks to address the additional tissue removal, but the entire situation is far less frightening and life threatening. I will sleep far better tonight than over the last week or so!
As for the lessons learned, here's a run down.
1. Always have anything out side the norm checked out early and get a second opinion if you have any questions whatsoever.
2. Even with "really good" healthcare insurance, many families can quickly face financial Armageddon. Between deductibles and maximum out of pocket provisions, even with fairly top of the line coverage, you can be looking at a $10,000 financial outlay for a single year (the same limits would hit again in the following policy year). While it will be a strain, the husband and I will survive the cost. Many families raising children could not. Hence my renewed conclusion that we need a single payer health care system akin to what they have in France. Needed healthcare treatment should not drive families into bankruptcy.
3. Always seek out specialist, preferably at a top teaching hospital. The local physicians meant well and one was very kind and caring, but based on today's visit and assessment, they were simply wrong. By insisting on a second opinion, I have in all likelihood avoided an unnecessary extreme "solution."
4. Rely on your own intuition and seek out others who will be supportive and encourage you to seek more answers and look for specialists outside of the local area. I thank the husband and certain of his clients who went out of their way to be supportive and to encourage me not give up.
5. Treasure those who are supportive of you. This entire ordeal has reminded me of how lucky I am to have a wonderful man as my husband and best friend.