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Staying alert when it comes to your body

Staying alert when it comes to your body

This saga began when I read the article on health enews on how your nails can be an indicator of your health. I’ve always paid attention to my nails, so I read the short article. That’s when the message turned serious.

The article said, among other things, a persistent dark streak in a nail could be an indicator of melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer. Yikes!

I had a toenail with two dark streaks in it. They had been there for about three years, and I had assumed I had hurt my toe causing the dark streaks (although I didn’t remember any toe injury.) Now I was learning it might be melanoma. Having had breast cancer three times, I was not about to ignore the possibility I had another form of cancer.

A dermatologist and a plastic surgeon both said they could not rule out melanoma without a biopsy. I was scheduled for a biopsy at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Illinois. Dr. Otis Allen, a plastic surgeon removed my great toe nail.

Beyond the visible nail in the nail matrix he found two tiny brown places that he biopsied out. He then grafted normal nail bed tissue into the two “holes” in the matrix so it wouldn’t grow a split nail. Finally, he stitched the old nail back in place as a protective shield.

The pathologist delivered good news that the brown spots were not melanoma. Whew! That was a relief. The plastic surgeon thinks that the brown spots were seborrheic keratosis as I have on the trunk of my body. I despise those brown spots, and now I really despise them in my toenail.

The plastic surgeon removed the stitches a couple of weeks later. I remained very careful about my foot, wearing sensible shoes. It took a few months but I grew a new nail and had no pain, no tenderness, no problems. And at the four month mark, I could to wear high heels again for a special event.

The point of telling this story is to pay attention to signs about your health. I was lucky, but it could have been melanoma.

No melanoma. Back in high heels. Life is good.

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  1. Judith A. Carlson May 27, 2014 at 11:59 am · Reply

    I am and always have been alert when it comes to my body. Unfortunately, when I’ve mentioned “atypical” problems to doctors they’re usually sloughed off as being inconsequential or diagnosed incorrectly – until something serious occurs. One example: I had had vertigo attacks on and off for awhile, was told it was benign paroxysmal positional vertigo and of no consequence – very common, in fact. One day I passed out during an attack, which is NOT at all typical with BPPV, my partner brought me to the E.R., they tried the Epley maneuver a few times but it made no difference – I didn’t get better, didn’t get worse. After about six or seven hours in the E.R., when nothing helped I was admitted. When the neurologist examined me he found on performing the Dix Hallpike maneuvery that I had rotatory nystagmus (not typical of BPPV) and sent me for a head CT scan. That showed something questionable, so an MRI was taken. It showed cerebellar atrophy and the possibility of my having had an “ischemic event” although I don’t think that was ever confirmed. I have vertigo 24/7, from so mild that I hardly notice it to being awakened at night from it, but there is nothing they can really do as it’s from cerebellar atrophy not BPPV. At least, however, I know what the problem is and can deal with it. Next – I’m on a medication for my emphysema that anecdotally, all over the internet, is connected with weight gain and inability to lose weight even though that is not mentioned by the drug company as a possible side effect. I’m gaining weight despite a 1000-1200 calorie diet, yet I’m being patronized as if I’m self-medicating depression by eating. My husband is a nutritionist (although not practicing for about 20 years except on a personal level), is monitoring my diet, and I exercise on the treadmill at least four days a week at 2.5-3.5 mph (total of at least 20 minutes every day in two or three increments), but I’m still gaining – and still being patronized. So, frankly, staying alert when it comes to my body has done zilch because the doctors just don’t seem to believe me and, I’m sure, have labeled me as a hypochondriac so they patronize me – but do nothing until they’re forced to which is usually after I end up in the emergency room as a result of things I’d complained about but had been ignored. Another example – I had about three days of sharp pain on and off over my right hip bone radiating to my back, with a little bit of nausea, went to the doctor, and was diagnosed as having muscle strain and was told that the nausea was probably from something I ate. I told him I had done nothing to strain my muscles, but he gave me a muscle relaxant anyway. I took it and, of course, it didn’t help. The pain became excruciating late that night and I began vomiting profusely. My husband brought me to the E.R., and I was found to have a ruptured appendix. So I don’t think that doctors like it when patients are alert when it comes to their own bodies and can describe exactly what’s occurring, especially if the symptoms don’t fall into the “gold standard” diagnosis. At least, that’s been my experience.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story! Glad it turned out to be a false alarm!

  3. Katie Renz

    Thanks for sharing! This is such a good reminder that we need to pay attention to our bodies and have our health needs addressed if we think there’s a problem.

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Sonja Reece
Sonja Reece