An embarrassing misdiagnosis

Melanoma runs strongly in my husband's family. In fact, two relatives died in their early forties of the dreaded disease and my father-in-law requires yearly mole checks with his dermatologist. Thus, when my husband showed me an ugly, new, black mole on the back of his upper arm, I was concerned. It displayed all the danger signs for malignancy: size greater than one centimeter, black color, ratty border, and an irregular pigment. I immediately did what I do best in a crisis: borrow trouble. Mentally, I had him diagnosed with Stage IV malignant melanoma, thus facing a bleak (and expensive) future of Mohl's surgery, chemotherapy, and hospice care. He'd be dead by fifty-four and I'd be left alone--a lonely widow trying to fund two kids through college by myself.

I yanked his arm toward me again, hoping it was a mistake. But no, it definitely looked worrisome and needed a biopsy. Not wanting to upset my husband, I pasted on a professional veneer and told him I'd schedule an appointment with a dermatologist as soon as possible.

As luck would have it, the dermatologist had a cancellation for that very afternoon. Did I want it? You bet!

He jumped into the shower to clean up before his appointment while I attempted to quell my panic by deadheading petunias. Others have survived cancer so you can too, I re-assured myself. Jesus said, "I will never leave you or forsake you." But no amount of self-talk or scripture quoting removed the worry curdling in my stomach like a platter full of spoiled scrod.

After Nate climbed out of the shower and dried off with a towel, he informed me his "melanoma" had mysteriously disappeared in the shower. No, it wasn't a miracle from God. Turns out, he had eaten several spoonfuls of Nutella, his favorite vice, last night and must have somehow smeared some on his upper arm. The Nutella had dried in a way that mimicked melanoma.

I felt like a fool. Some doctor I was-- I couldn't distinguish melanoma from Nutella?? Thank God it was my husband and not a real patient. Imagine if I'd sent him to the dermatologist to biopsy Nutella! I'd never live it down.

Perhaps the American Dermatological Society should add a new diagnostic criteria for malignant melanoma: doesn't scrub off with soap and water!