BY KIMBERLY MOSKOWITZ, MS, MD
I am a physician and everyone knows that doctors are the worst patients…
We don’t bind ourselves to the rules that we insist all of our patients follow.
The day we walk down that carpet and receive our medical diplomas, we receive our hall pass that permits us to not have annual physicals or skin exams, to bypass colonoscopies, and put off mammograms and Pap smears until we “find the time.”
I am also a tennis player.Tennis is how I breathe.I consider it a need and not a want.It is how I disengage my brain from the reality of both business and busy-ness.Those of you that are blessed enough to experience “runner’s high” know exactly what I am talking about.Those of you who “love baseball” like Robert Redford in “The Natural” know what I am talking about.
The addiction is about the simplicity of finding that one thing that allows your brain to escape the conundrums and worries that trespass our lives from sunup to sundown.
Because of this addiction, I have spent about 10,920 hours playing tennis in my lifetime.According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book “The Tipping Point” and many sports analysts, I should be far better than I actually am at tennis.Nonetheless, after I turned twenty-nine and started taking care of other people’s skin for a living, I have applied sunscreen religiously to my face and neck every morning and then again every 2-3 hours on the tennis court for the better part of those 10,000 hours.Unfortunately, as the laws of sunscreen re-application do not apply to physicians, especially those that practice dermatology, I rarely re-applied sunscreen to my back or shoulders during those same 10,000 hours of ultraviolet radiation exposure.
As I found myself more and more compelled to spend precious time photo-shopping the sunspots from my shoulders and back whenever I saw a picture of myself, the “physician heal thyself” anthem played through my mind.At the last minute, I cancelled my Christmas plans to go skiing with my family so that I could finally treat myself to a procedure called PDT (Photodynamic Therapy) that would erase decades of sun damage and even pre-cancerous lesions from my back.As I have performed thousands of these procedures on other people, I knew exactly what to do and what to expect.I took seven blissful days off over the holidays, spent time with my children, and watched the years peel off of my skin.It was dramatic as all of the evidence of those 10,000 hours was replaced with healthy new skin.There was only one spot left. It was different from the others but I didn’t really notice it because it was hiding in a place on my back that I couldn’t see in the mirror nor could I reach it without supreme contortionistic measures.Even if I could have seen it, the dark spot blended in with all of the others, making it appear less worrisome.
Exactly three-weeks after the procedure, my back looked and felt wonderful but I noticed this tiny persistent itch in a very specific place on my upper back.I had someone take a picture because there was still a small brown “freckle” right in the middle of the itch.I already knew from the photo what it was and my heart sank as I stared at the image in my living room.My medical assistants, Jessica and Tracy, biopsied this small irregular spot for me the next day and we sent it to pathology.My phone rang on the way to tennis the following week.It was Jessica and I knew what she was going to tell me.That little brown irregular spot…the only spot left standing, alone, and obvious after a PDT was a stage I melanoma.PDT saved my life.Not because it cures melanoma, but because it wipes the slate clean by curing everything else.More than 76,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma every year.Almost 10,000 of these people will die from it.Taking the time to take care of myself was one of the best Christmas presents ever!
Fortunately we perform PDTs all year round so you don’t have to cancel Christmas to enjoy the benefits of PDT.
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