Nothing to worry about...Issue 15
Her regular GP was fully booked for the week, so Joy took an appointment with a fellow GP in the practice. The GP performed a thorough examination on the spot, which was not sore, elevated or uncomfortable to touch. Thankfully the doctor pronounced, “it’s not cancer, it’s nothing to worry about!”
With a big sigh of relief, she headed on her merry way, still thinking it was unusual given she had never had a mole before, nor a random spot on her skin like this.
Two months later, in preparation for an overdue vacation to the Gold Coast, Joy met with her usual GP to organise her repeat prescriptions and a general check-up. One of her close friends insisted she have the spot re-checked, particularly given it was starting to ache, however she wasn’t concerned, given she had received the all-clear a few months earlier. In passing, she mentioned the spot to her GP, who referred her to the Skin Institute for a closer inspection.
The specialist ordered the urgent removal of the spot and organised a biopsy to establish the nature and reason for the sudden appearance of the spot on her neck. A small incision was made, the skin removed and only 1 stitch was required to close the wound. The specialist said that it “looked good”, which Joy took comfort in, on the assumption that melanoma wasn’t present, and she had avoided a cancer diagnosis, her worst nightmare.
One week later, she returned to the specialist for the removal of the stitch and a final consultation. She knew something was wrong, when the receptionist asked her if she had already spoken with her GP about the results of the biopsy, which she hadn’t. After having her name called, the specialist took her into his office and asked her to take a seat. “Joy, I am sorry to be the bearer of this news, but your biopsy results have returned a positive result for malignant melanoma, which is an aggressive type of skin cancer…”
The next day, she was on a plane with her husband to the Gold Coast, which was meant to be a relaxing getaway. Instead of rest and relaxation, the vacation was filled with tears and anxiety as they broke the news telephonically to those back home. In Joy’s own words, “the only positive about the trip was it brought my husband and I closer together than ever before. We held hands everywhere we went, we cried together and we enjoyed every second of each other’s company”.
“Our brilliant adviser helped us to file a claim prior to our departure and we were quickly notified that our Private Medical Cover would fund any treatment costs. Partners Life also let us know that they were going to pay out my Trauma Cover, to the tune of thousands of dollars. When I found this out, I bawled my eyes out. Not because the claim had been accepted, but because I must be dying to be entitled to a claim of this significant magnitude. Silly now looking back at it but stress makes it hard to think clearly”.
On her return to Auckland she saw the specialist again and had surgery to remove two of her lymph nodes a few days later. “Having never had surgery before, nor have I ever been under general anaesthetic, it rattled the family. It was proof to all of us that we aren’t invincible.” The surgery was successful, as was a follow-up surgery to remove more skin on her neck as a preventative measure to ensure that all cancer cells were moved.
“My prognosis is great! I have no further treatment planned, I feel fantastic. I have a scar on my neck, which reminds me how lucky I am to be alive. My husband constantly tells me that I dodged a bullet and I sure do feel like I have. And I am absolutely convinced that my insurances made an extremely difficult journey so much easier”.
Joy, who prides herself on being frugal, is considering spoiling herself with some diamond earrings but plans to put the rest of the Trauma claim money into their retirement fund. The original GP has also sent Joy a letter of apology for the mis-diagnosis, which she has gracefully accepted.