It wasn’t for a good reason (although it all turned out OK), but I got to see my older kid last week on a rare trip home from St. Louis, where she typically spends summers with her dad.
It all started a couple of months ago when Ruby yelled to me from her room that she had a line on her thumbnail and the internet told her it was cancer.
I was on my way out the door to a work function – like I literally had one high heel in my hand and one on my foot while trying to simultaneously straighten my pantyhose – so I admittedly did not take it all that seriously.
“The internet says everything is cancer,” I yelled back. “You’re fine!”
I know whereof I speak: I have, with the “help” of the internet, self-diagnosed horrific illnesses in myself and loved ones multiple times and yet, thankfully, it has never actually been anything more serious than an armpit abscess or strep throat or indigestion or a migraine.
I had completely forgotten about this exchange and moved on to other things to catastrophize and fret over when I got a text two weeks ago from Ruby’s dad, telling me he thought we should get the line on her thumbnail looked at. (This is a man who would avoid going to the doctor with a severed limb, basically, and the last time he told me he thought Ruby should see a doctor, she ended up at Children’s for four days, so when he is worried, I take it seriously.)
He sent me a picture of her nail, and I regrettably commenced to Googling, right there in the Trader Joe’s parking lot, where the internet did, in fact, say this was not just cancer but a rare and aggressive form of cancer (subungual melanoma) with a pretty bleak survival rate.
Before I went too far into an anxiety spiral, I sent her pediatrician a picture and asked for advice, and although she was calm and reassuring, her doctor still said it needed to be looked at by a dermatologist, and definitely sooner than later.
So she flew in for a dermatologist appointment last week … and that’s how I came to learn everything there is to know about subungual melanoma, including punch biopsies, the Hutchinson’s sign, the definition of “longitudinal melanonychia,” and the prevalence of this particular type of cancer in adolescents. By the time I picked her up at the airport the day before her appointment (and immediately demanded to see her thumbnail), I was pretty sure she was OK, although I still took half an Ambien the night before just to stop myself from lying awake perseverating.
Luckily, blessedly, thank God, thank science, thank everything … she was fine. We have to go back in six months just for a follow-up, but overall, she was in the clear.
Once we had that out of the way, we were able to enjoy the rest of her impromptu visit, including a drive by the Lakefront at sunset and dinner at her favorite restaurant, before I put her on a plane Sunday to finish up the summer in St. Louis.
It was great to see her … and I’m so relieved she is not sick. And the next time she tells me she thinks she might have cancer, I promise to take her more seriously!