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The Big Scare


Before I went to Bologna in May, I had what appeared to be a tiny pimple on the crown of my head. I could feel it when I shampooed my hair, and my hairdresser noticed it when I had my hair cut. Brad looked at it. No big deal.


It seemed a little bigger and wasn't going away, so I decided to have a doctor check it out. Not as simple as you may think. We have Kaiser Health Insurance. I HATE to go to the doctor. Aside from my annual mammogram, I haven't seen a doctor in 2 years. I called to make an appointment with my GP, and learned she has left Kaiser, or the desert, or whatever. Fine. I'll get a new doctor, because God knows I can't see a dermatologist without a referral. Appointment made for July.


See new snippy GP who says, in 2 seconds, "Oh, that looks like skin cancer. You need to see a plastic surgeon in Fontana." (Fontana is 1 hour and 15 minutes from here.)
May I point out that there is a plastic surgeon on EVERY CORNER in the desert. There are more facelifts, etc. done here than ANYWHERE except Hollywood. (She says a regular dermatologist can't do it, because head bleeds a lot, and you'll need a surgeon to "stitch you up".) Appointment made with plastic surgeon in Fontana in August.

I am freaking out, will not go outside in the sun, only swim after dark. Who puts sunscreen on their HEAD (except bald guys)?


I buy a hat in San Diego at Pinot and Ponies. Wear it whenever I am outside. HATE it. It makes your head sweat, and have "hat hair"!

I drive to Fontana to see the surgeon. He is kind and patient and answers all my dumb questions. He says it is NOT Melanoma, and we can wait until I come back from Italy to do a biopsy. They will give me shots in my head to numb it, then take a sample, stitch it up and wait a week for the pathology report.

I might as well interject how I feel about having my head TOUCHED AT ALL!
I won't let my hairdresser shampoo me or blow me dry. It is torture enough to blow my own hair dry each day. I HATE doing it! I won't let Brad touch my head. No one touches my head. I would rather go to the dentist than have my hair CUT!

Then he explains EVERYTHING that COULD happen.

Best case: basal cell carcinoma

They would do the shots in the head to numb me, then cut it out and stitch me up. I could do this in a "procedure room" and be awake, OR in the O.R. with an IV to make me loopy, or they could put me completely out with general anesthesia. I need a valium just THINKING about it!

More serious: squamous cell carcinoma

Then they need to cut a BIGGER, DEEPER margin. He showed me the size of an egg with his fingers. Then the hair doesn't grow back, and there is a permanent bald spot.
Scalp skin doesn't stretch that far, so they would take skin from my NECK, and do a skin graft. YOWEEEEEEEEEE!


I go to Italy and wear the damn hat in the sun. I have "hat hair" at dinner. I hope for rainy, cloudy days. I try not to think about the upcoming biopsy when I get home. I eat well and drink plenty of wine. I have a great trip, but the thoughts are there daily.
I light candles in every church in the Veneto I am near. I try not to be scared, but I AM scared.

September 24:

7:30 a.m.:The doctor's office calls and says he is out sick today, but his PA, Brittany, can do the biopsy. The voice says Brittany is very good, and very gentle, and everyone loves her. She says Brittany did a biopsy on HER. OK, I want to get this OVER WITH! Brad drives me to Fontana at 1:00 They won't let him come in with me. I have two therapy "stress toys" with me: a heart and a brain. I could squeeze the hell out of them. Did I mention that I've never had surgery? (except my tonsils out at age 12).


When I got there, my blood pressure was 165/98! (when I left it was normal)
Brittany WAS a doll and she was very gentle. They covered my eyes with a towel for the bright lights pointing at my head. The shot wasn't my funnest moment, and it burned, but I was fine. My head was numb, numb, numb! The rest, I didn't feel, and the whole procedure took 20 minutes. We went out to lunch. My friend, Roxanne, came that evening and I was sore and didn't sleep well, but no bleeding, and I felt better in the morning. It was great that I had a distraction, and we ate well. I had goopy, greasy, antiseptic junk in my hair for a week while I waited for the results.

October 1:

I had to go to an all day training in Riverside. There were lots of "team-building exercises" (relays, charades, dancing, etc.). I kept my phone on ALL day. In the car on the way home, my phone rang, and it was Kaiser with my results. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Hansen, but the biopsy was INCONCLUSIVE. We will call to reschedule ANOTHER BIOPSY!" WTF?

I tried to speak with the doctor, but he was at a conference in Toronto. I tried to speak with Brittany, but she was "on sick leave". Great. We were back at square one, and STILL don't know a thing. After speaking to 2 advice nurses, and 3 scheduling people, I got an appointment for another biopsy on October 19. I had my stitches out.
I had them print me out my lab report. It said, "NO signs of carcinoma." "No malignancy". I asked everyone WHY I had to have another biopsy? They all said, "They will go deeper this time".

I rescheduled clients for next Tuesday. I rescheduled all my interns' supervision. I worried some more. Didn't we start all this in JUNE? Why do we still know nothing in OCTOBER? It FELT like life was on hold.

October 13

Yesterday, the nice surgeon called.

He said, "Mrs. Hansen, I see we have you scheduled for another biopsy next week."

I said "Yes".

He said, "I'm sorry, but I have been away at a conference. I just got back and am reading your lab report. There is NO CANCER. We don't need to do another biopsy. How is your head now? "

I said, "It is fine. Just a little scab where the stitches were."

He said, "Come and see me in 3 months, or call if you have any problems or questions. I am canceling the biopsy. I'm sorry they put you through this. I'm sure it was no fun the first time, and you don't need to do it again."

I LOVE THAT MAN! WHOO HOO! Santa can cancel the wig shopping! I am SO relieved!

Comments (24)

connie wood:

PTL!!! (Praise The Lord!) It looked like He was listening to all those prayers (and candles lit) while you were away in Italy. Continued blessings as we all celebrate with you this wonderful news!!!!


YEAH! I'm so glad for you! What an ordeal.........I usually just LURK here, but had to say Yeah today!

Oh Palma, I can't imagine the stress of these last few MONTHS!!! Wonderful news, I am so happy for you and Brad! Big hugs!


What an awful experience!I'm glad everything turned out to be fine.

Shelagh (SJ):

Thank Goodness, Palma; I'm very glad you are alright.
But: please continue to wear sunscreen; and hats in the direct sun!!!
We don't want anymore stressed out blog-posts!
(Bossy nurse talking.)
We don't mind you with hat-head!


Hallelujah and PTL indeed!! I remember my biopsy ordeal last year - I can SO empathize with the stress and anxiety while waiting for results. So glad to hear this turned out ok for you!! I will have a drink of wine in your honour this evening...any excuse, eh? ;)

What an ordeal, sorry you had to to through that; what a GREAT outcome. Congratulations on a wigless future.

Barb Cabot:

Palma, held my breath as I read this post. Thank goodness you did not have to have a 2nd procedure and the Dr. called with good news. Go out and celebrate life as you always do. You deserve a special weekend now! Hallelujah is right.

I am SO happy for you. I know how relieved you must be.

Whew! What an ordeal they put you thru. I'm glad that it is over!


I would have gladly given you skin from my neck--lots to share!Would love to know the origin of the head/foot phobia. Again,prayer helps and we catholic girls just need to stick together.
Love you Lots (LYL?)

Nancy Laneri:

My reaction was the same as Barb's. I literally held my breath as I read your blog, and am hugely relieved that all is well.



I am so thankful for your health and good news! I read your blog daily and have since its inception. God Bless, he hears our prayers!

What a long drawn out stressful ordeal. But that god it was negative. Woohoo!

I am much relieved. Not all hats are hot and make hat hair! You need to look harder, because this is your wakeup call. And yes, I do know about wearing block on one's scalp, because I was terribly burned once in the Andes when mountain climbing, and you really can't manage a big straw hat when climbing a mountain. Believe me, the hat looks better than sunblock in your hair.

Thank you everyone for the huge concern and support! Sharon and Cyndy, WELCOME, and thanks for reading my blog! Yes, Judith, I have always liked hats, until it seemed like it was no longer optional! I will wear them in the sun! Going to a dermatologist to have the REST of ME checked out too!


All's well that ends well.

I am so happy for you. I know how much stress waiting can cause... and I also can relate to the "hating to see a doctor" part.

Does Furla make hats? (jk) :)


Glad all is well!
And please, find a new GP you can like and trust, who you won't mind seeing for regular checkups.


Palma, I am so sorry you had to go through this - but happy that the outcome was good, and that you have Brad in your life to support you through stressful days (months!)

Barb Cabot:

Eden lol such a funny comment furla hats that's a perfect one for Palma.

i had to speed read to get to the end. Glad your results were good! This ewns deserves a glass of wine - or another trip! BTW: I made your chicken pesto rolls ups this evening. They were delicious and a big hit. THanks for sharing. Continued good health.

Before I was a nurse I worked in a pathology lab that dealt with a lot specimens from dermatologists. WOW to some of the things that I saw. Glad yours turned out as it did because that's scary! Yeah, Kaiser stinks.


So glad all is well!! What a scare...


Glad you pointed me to the rest of the story, and sorry that the SD hat gave you hat hair, but so glad that the results are what they are. Guess you will have an update in 3 months. Furla hats, love it.

Oh Palma, what a stressful experience! Sooo glad all worked out well.

I have always been worried about the sun on my scalp but also hate hats. I have tried the sunscreen just on my part and it always ends up becoming a greasy glob and I also hate hate hat hair. Hats also give me migraines if I wear them too long. If you ever find a cool hat that is not too tight but also stays on, please let me know.

I have a friend who had the deeper cut with a permanent bald spot and have always worried about skin cancer on the scalp. Glad you are being more cautious now.

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