Hi everyone 🙂
As some of you may already know, in my most recent post, I talked about how I was becoming anxious over my moles and the probability that some of them may be skin cancer. This was all prompted from reading that Tamra Judge, reality star from Real Housewives of Orange County, announced that she had melanoma from a freckle that would appear to be normal. One of the many forms my anxiety manifests itself into is hypochondria, so this automatically triggered me into thinking about my moles. This isn’t a bad thing of course, but for me, the problem is I obsess over it and read all these different articles that terrify me and take me to worst-case scenario destination mode. I then noticed a mole on the side of my arm that I hadn’t noticed before. Whether it is new or not, I don’t know, but it was new to me and the internet convinced me it was a red flag due to its asymmetry.
Like my many anxiety triggered health scares in the past (from convincing myself I had a brain tumour to ovarian cancer), I scoured internet forums for people who found something similar to me (a suspicious mole in this case) and desperately sough reassurance that I was overthinking things. This time, I did not find the reassurance I wanted. I found very logical answers along the lines of: “it’s probably nothing but if you’re really worried you should get it checked to put your mind to rest”. In all fairness, these are usually the most consistent logical answers you’ll get with any health scare, but in the past I would tend to focus on the “it’s probably nothing” part until my anxiety would eventually subdue. Fortunately, these past scares have been nothing, and the symptoms that lead to my fear are generally aggravated by anxiety.
This time, however, I took a different approach. While these skin cancer articles on the internet did scare me, I thought: I am never going to get the self-assurance I want from the internet, and unlike my irrational brain tumour and ovarian cancer scares in the past, this feels like something I need to check out. I shouldn’t alarm myself, but I better be safe than sorry. I am 24 and have never had a skin check, and I grew up in a hot tropical country where I was constant exposed to the sun until I was 18. Suspicious moles or not, it is worth having a professional check this and to educate myself on this matter versus scrambling for tranquility on Google.
Instead of booking an appointment with the GP, I decided to book an appointment with a clinic that specialises in analysing moles. I thought, if I am going to do this, I want a head-to-toe check up.
I booked with the Mole Clinic in Oxford Circus. To be honest, I did not do much research into the different clinics in London (I didn’t really know where to start looking). This clinic had great reviews though and had appointments available almost instantly that coordinated with my time off work, so it worked out perfectly for me.
So this morning, at 10:15 AM, I had my first mole check.
I arrived to the clinic and was greeted by a really kind and friendly receptionist- this immediately made me feel calm and at ease. I have to say, I didn’t go into the appointment feeling very anxious. I was eager to get everything checked and was happy to be putting my anxiety to the side and taking a rational approach when it came to my health.
The nurse who did my checkup was really lovely, she took me to a private room where she asked me some standard questions. How easy do I sunburn, how many sunburns I’ve had in the past, have I used any sun beds, and what prompted my visit. She then asked me to strip down to just my underwear (you are behind a curtain while you are doing this) and she made friendly conversation during this time.
She first asked me to show her the moles I was concerned about. I showed her the one I discussed on my arm, and another one in my boob that came up in the past few years. She said the one on my boob wasn’t cause for concern, but she flagged the one on my arm as one we’d come back later too. Normally, this would scare me, but I remained calm and trusted that I was in good hands. She then immediately got to checking the rest of my moles with what looked like a microscope with a bright light. She said everything looked fine. She found a mole on bottom of my foot (which I hadn’t noticed as I have never thought to check my feet for moles) and flagged this to.
So by the end of the session, she flagged two moles. She said that she flagged them as I wasn’t sure if they were knew, and because there were some characteristics to air on the side of caution with (the one on my arm due to pigmentation and asymmetry) and the one on the bottom of my foot because of diameter (6mm is concerning and mine was 4, but as I wasn’t sure it was new she wanted to flag it). At no point did she make me feel alarmed while she was explaining this.
What she did next is take a photo of each mole and then explained she would send it to the doctors for an opinion- they will either tell me to come back in 3 months to check if there have been any changes or to get it removed. The nurse explained that the biggest risk with these moles is if they change and potentially become nodular melanoma. Again, this did not scare me, it all seems rational and like the best thing I could do for myself. The nurse at no point made me feel like she was alarmed, and the worst case scenario is that I get the moles removed with local anaesthesia.
I now have to wait another day or two for results. Again, in the past, this would have driven me mad and I wouldn’t be able to think of anything else until I have the results. It’s not to say that my anxiety isn’t trying to kick in with irrational fears (and it has at certain points), but I have been strong in pushing it back and thinking the worst case scenario is actually not bad, and it benefits my health.
My biggest lesson out of all of this is, when it comes to health anxiety, go to your nurse or doctor. I know it’s difficult as we can psyche ourselves out into thinking we have a deadly disease for no rational reason, but even in cases where it may make no sense, there is no harm in going to your GP to put your mind at ease. If there is something to be concerned about, it’s best to get it checked early versus it potentially developing into something harmful. Ultimately, if something is truly bothering you and causing you so much emotional distress, talk to someone or see someone who can give you a professional opinion. Anxiety is not a choice, but we can choose how we manage it.
I know all of this is easier said than done, but I feel it is important to give acknowledgement to the hurdles I have overcome throughout my anxiety, and I want to express to anyone struggling with it that we can overcome our fears.
I would like to end this post by thanking Tamra Judge for raising skin cancer awareness and ultimately motivating me to get myself checked.