My skin is genetically engineered to produce moles. Some are small and light-colored, while others are larger and dark brown. Most of them are perfectly round, but a few have caught my eye with their jagged edges. None of these three are brand new - they’ve been there for as long as I can remember. Just like it’s in my blood to produce moles, it’s also very much in my blood to think immediately when someone says I should get these checked just in case that ohmygoshIhavemelanoma. *heavy breathing*
I scheduled an appointment at the dermatologist for the end of July. Cue more heavy breathing because I’d have to wait a whole month before getting these examined and, if you know me, you know that now I’m thinking that’ll be too late. Just take me now, Lord! Why make me wait! Well, hold on. The dermatologist called me this week to bless me with an earlier appointment - I could have said “THANK YOU SO MUCH you have no idea how scared I am!” over the phone, but instead, I kept it at “oh great! thanks so much. see you on Thursday.” Keepin’ it cool.
Thursday rolls around and I’m in the waiting room. When the receptionist calls my name, she informs me that there is no appointment for Haley Hansen today. Huh? What? “There is another dermatologist office just across the street. Maybe yours is at that one?” she suggests, kindly. I’m not sure if I say anything or if I just run right across the street. Do you think she can tell I;m nervous? Before I go any further, let me just say this: when I’m nervous, I’m NERVOUS. My heart rate rattles my chest and my tongue tingles (that also happens when I have too much to drink). I can’t take jokes and I’m on the verge of tears, usually. And I’m especially nervous in this particular situation because, well, it’s cancer we’re potentially talking about here and I just watched a loved one suffer through that. That’s why I’m nervous.
The PA leads me back into the little room with the big chair I’m told to sit in. It’s comfy, but not comfy enough. What would make it really comfy is if the dermatologist walked in here, looked at my moles, said I have absolutely nothing to worry about and sent me on my way. Ahhh, now I’m comfy!
Instead, a handsome young PA student walks in. Now I’m uncomfortable, twice as nervous, and a little sweaty. My first thoughts are that I haven’t shaved and he will be looking at my legs, that if he tells me I have cancer I’m not sure if it will be better or worse, and that GREAT now my heart is beating faster! We chat and find out we’re both from the Midwest - he had an accent so I had to ask - and he tells me that the doctor, too, is from Minnesota. Okay, this chair is a little bit comfier now that I have some familiar people around me.
Dr. McDreamy and Dr. Minnesota look at my concerning moles with concerning looks on their faces. They discuss the appearances of each - coloration, morphology, and size - and the TV screen next to me shows an infographic with similar information, and that these can be characteristic of cancer. At this point I might have a heart attack before they can even diagnose me. Again, just take me now, Lord!
“Okay, so we’ll remove this one because it’s pretty dark. And the other two we will send off for biopsy - can we have you sign this form to give us permission to shave off a sample of each?” Yeah mhmm sure go ahead. And do I really need to wait seven excruciatingly long days?
I ask exactly how strong the numbing cream was, and she smiles sweetly (probably noticing my obvious nerves) and assures me it won’t hurt. I feel three small pinches and think the whole process is done. “Alright, now let’s get some samples”, she said. Ohhhh, that was just the numbing. Now they’re actually going to cut into my skin. *nervous laughter*
Three bandaids, more intense heartbeats, and a couple minutes of comforting conversation with Dr. McDreamy and Dr. Minnesota later, I let out a good long terrified cry on the phone with Mom in the car as I drove home. Mom tells me she’s had plenty of dark moles removed, too, and that we have no history of skin cancer or any cancer, for that matter, in the family. She tells me I shouldn’t worry, and that I did the right thing by getting them checked out and removed.
Okay, thanks Mom, but I’m gonna’ worry until next Thursday when I get a call from the doctor saying I’m cancer-free. Until then, I’m going to write this blog post. I’m going to walk by the beach and watch the beautiful sunsets. I’m going to try try try to relax. And I’m going to make some browned butter banana bread because, boy oh boy, is baking a wonderful form of therapy for me.
Makes 1 loaf, about 6-8 slices
For the bread:
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup oat flour (certified gluten-free)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp. sea salt
2 pasture-raised eggs, room temperature
2 small extra ripe bananas, mashed
5 tbsp. grass-fed butter
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup roughly chopped walnuts
Oil or butter, for greasing the pan
For the frosting:
6 tbsp. cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup whole milk Greek yogurt*, room temperature
2 tbsp. maple syrup or honey
1/4 tsp. sea salt
Begin by browning the butter. Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat and after about 1-2 minutes letting the pan heat, add the 5 tbsp. grass-fed butter. Let the butter melt completely, and once it begins to foam lightly, reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Watch as the butter turns from an off-white color to a gold, and then to an amber color. As this happens, you’ll notice a nutty fragrance - this is when the butter has browned and should be removed from the heat. Immediately transfer the browned butter to a shallow bowl - make sure to scrape the skillet to incorporate the last few browned bits - and let this cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Prepare the bread batter. Once the butter has cooled completely, whisk the eggs, browned butter, and coconut sugar until smooth. This should take about 3-4 minutes - beating the eggs for this amount of time will help ensure that the bread rises and maintains its structure after it has baked. Add in the mashed banana and vanilla extract and continue mixing for another minute, then set the wet ingredients aside.
Now combine the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, stir together the flours, the baking soda and baking powder, and spices. Be sure that no lumps remain. Slowly add roughly 1/2-cup scoops of the dry ingredients to the wet, and stir after each addition. Next, fold in the chopped walnuts until just combined.
Use just a touch of oil or butter to grease an 8x5 loaf pan. Transfer the batter to the loaf pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick poked through the center comes out clean.
While the bread bakes, prepare the cream cheese frosting. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, whip the cream cheese and Greek yogurt until smooth. Slowly drizzle in the honey and sea salt and continue to whip for another 1-2 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container (you will have just a bit leftover after you frost the bread) and set aside.
Let the bread cool completely before slicing. When you are ready to serve the bread, spread a thick layer of cream cheese frosting on top of the loaf and top with sliced or diced peaches. Drizzle a touch of honey on top, if you’d like.
Serve immediately and store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy!