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The mole patrol - Martha Randolph Carr

This week, I went whistling past the graveyard, and not a moment too soon. I had this mole on my left knee that looked a little hinky. Monday, it was removed by the wonderful Dr. Andrew Lazar at Northwestern, here in Chicago. Tuesday afternoon, I found out I have melanoma, the just early-enough version.

There are two kinds of diagnoses for melanoma. The first one is that it has been caught in time, and some flesh and a few lymph nodes are removed till they find clean edges. The second one is that you have a year left to live. Currently, there is no mainstream chemotherapy or radiation for advanced melanoma.

I was probably months away from diagnosis number two. Most of the time, our defects as human beings still offer us a wide margin for error, laziness or general confusion. However, sometimes in the smallest of moments, everything hangs in the balance. Melanoma is one of those times.

I have a family history with the disease, which gives me an increased risk, and was also aware that for my mother it was on the back of her arm where someone else spotted the mole. That means one thing to all you readers.

Go get checked, all over, and do it now, not even a month from now. I hope they find nothing and you wasted a co-pay, but for the few that get the still bad, but manageable news, thank me later and go hug your family first.

The wonderful Dr. Lazar has made it possible for me to hug Louie for a few more decades. He earned his new moniker for more than just a good bedside manner, which he has in spades. Currently, I'm without medical insurance and don't qualify for Medicaid in Illinois, which limits coverage to parents with young children or people with disabilities. That's it.

Every other dermatologist I called refused to let me in their office without the entire money for visit and biopsy up front. No payment plans available, no exceptions, even though I explained my family history. I'm willing to pay, but didn't have the sizeable amount I was told it would take to just find out if it was cancer, which it is.

Dr. Andrew Lazar, who is the incoming vice president for the American Academy of Dermatology, not only said, get right in here, but added, we'll figure out the rest together. He was as good as his word, and helped me out with the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, which reviews applicants based on financial need, but doesn't make anyone wait to get medical attention.

If I had waited until I had enough money to see any of the other doctors, whom I'm assuming took the Hippocratic Oath, I'd have fallen into diagnosis number two. I was standing that close to the edge.

It scared my son, Louie, enough that he bought me dinner, a first. Half-priced mushroom ravioli has never tasted so good. However, he has said that once the scare is past, we're going back to status quo. Thank goodness for grown children who can put everything into perspective and still get a good laugh out of you.

But it's really saying something about the state of health care in America when it's come down to a simple treatment on one hand, and death on the other, and your wallet will be the deciding factor.

As intelligent as we all are, it boggles the mind that we are having so much trouble figuring out how to provide affordable, decent health care to the most number of our citizens.

So now, surgery in another week with Dr. Jeffrey Wayne, also at Northwestern and then Dr. Lazar and I will become close friends for the rest of my very-long life. I have never been so happy as to say, More adventures to follow.

Martha column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. She can be found on Twitter at MarthaRandolph, or e-mail at Martha@caglecartoons.com, or visit www.martharandolphcarr.com.