Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Damn Skin

I honestly don’t know how long it has been there.  David and I both have this sort of weird disassociation with time – him much worse than me.  But both of us really don’t have a handle on how long things are, how far in the past they were, etc.  It is like time blurs or something (which is why neither of us can ever, for the life of us, remember what anniversary we are on until we count back).

So, filling out the blank on the processing questionnaire that asks “How long has this issue been there” is sort of impossible.  But how do you explain to medical professionals that you DON’T KNOW?  So I lie.  “Around a year, maybe a year and a half…”.  I could just write “Your guess is as good as mine”, but that would be even less helpful and harder to explain, so I assign a number. 

So yeah, I have this “bump”.  That’s what I called it.  A “bump” on the right side of the bridge of my nose, very near my eye.  It has been there “for quite a while” – it would come, get dry, peel off, stay gone a while, then return.  After a few cycles of that I suspected it might be something fishy (ok deep down I probably knew it was…) but I didn’t ask a doctor.  But on my 2016 annual physical the doctor asked ME about it, which led to me seeing a dermatologist, which meant a biopsy, which revealed the obvious result: basal cell carcinoma (EDIT - I had the WRONG diagnosis in here before and I APOLOGIZE for the fear that caused!).  The dermatologist said that because it was so close to my eye, he would not be the one removing it (like the one he unceremoniously zapped off my arm (is that heat??  Cold???) ).  He was referring me to a skin cancer surgeon, a specialist in MOHS procedures, to get it taken care of. 

I debated the timing of the surgery – I had a family wedding to attend and didn’t really want to show up with a huge scab or bandages.  So, I booked the surgery for the morning after we returned from the wedding.  Only, when we were out of town I started to get NERVOUS.  I hadn’t really thought much about it, but the more I did, the more frightened I became.  I mean, it is RIGHT NEXT TO MY EYEBALL…  Would I lose some vision??  Would it mess up my tear duct?  Would the procedure make my eye a totally different shape???  Would I have a huge scar?  Someone suggested that I ask the doctor for medicine to help me relax before the procedure so I called and asked the receptionist if the doctor might prescribe a Xanex or something for me to take beforehand.  That message got sent to the doctor (Dr. Liu), who then called me and we had a nice talk, which basically began with, “Why are you so nervous about this procedure?”.  I explained my fear because of the close proximity to my eye, fear of my vision being impacted, and finally, what boils down to VANITY.  She was super sweet and prescribed the meds and also said that she really wanted to consult with me before surgery now that she knew it was so near my eye, and that she might not do the procedure on the date planned.  She wanted to check it all out out and then decide if SHE could close up the wound, or if she would rather an ocular plastic surgeon do the closure.

My eye last night - full of worry, fear, and tears.
That was this morning’s appointment.  Dr. Liu was very professional, kind, and thorough.  I feel like I can trust her, and agree with her decision that an ocular plastic surgeon should do a consult before she cuts the cancer out.  The plan is to have Dr. Liu do the MOHS procedure (which is a process of cutting away pieces of the cancer, then bandaging me up a bit to wait while that cut-off bit is tested to see if they got it all; if they did not get it all (it often takes more than one go at it…) I go back under the knife and they slice away more, re-bandage, re-test, repeat, repeat).  The patient is awake for MOHS.  Anyway, Dr. Liu will do the MOHS and the ocular plastic surgeon will do the closing, which might happen the same afternoon (in a different facility) or the next day.  the idea of going home with a gaping hole near my eyeball is a bit freaky, but it actually seems like doing it in two days might be better because it means Dr. Liu’s office is not rushed to test the pieces and trying to meet my “close up” appointment time.  I am not sure yet if I will be awake or asleep for the closing, I think it depends if they are going to graft skin from somewhere else.  I should learn more about that tomorrow morning at the consult.

My eye today, with the melanoma circled in marker.  
GET OUT.  As I was writing this my cell phone rang (it is 7:30 PM) and it was DR. LIU!  She just wanted to check in and see if David or I had any more questions after the appointment today!  She said that I could call her on her cell number any time if a question came up.  What a sweetheart.

I am not sure why I am sharing all of this.  I guess because it is something I have been thinking a lot about.  A really surprising aspect to me is my lack of feeling GUILTY about it.  Seriously, you would think I was Catholic or Jewish by the amount of GUILT I have in my life, and the “usual Susan” would feel extreme guilt over “allowing herself” to get skin cancer.  But in this case, I am happy to say that I do not feel guilty!  I don’t feel like I could have/should have worn more suntan lotion – the lotion that I wear every single day has an SPF of 15 and I usually have foundation over that that also has an SPF of something or other.  And when I go to the beach, I wear heavy sunscreen.  I don’t think I did something to “deserve” this – I think it is just a crappy thing I have been dealt at the moment that I have to go through. 

The other surprising thing to me was how concerned I have been about how it will LOOK after the surgery.  I am really nervous about that.  I don’t think of myself as a vain person – I don’t wear lots of make-up, don’t have trendy clothes, have a bit of a pot belly, and heaven knows my hair is never “on point”.  But when the thought of having a deformed eye came up, it made me so sad.  I rather LIKE my eyes – their shape and their color.  I think they are PRETTY, and I don’t want one to be messed up.  (Note – this fear may be because David’s dad (Mr. Gaines) had MOHS done on skin cancer on his head.  David watched the procedure and has told me the story many times since then of how HORRIBLE it was to see – his dad’s HEAD was like a FOOTBALL with leather being rippppped away….  Now, years later, I regret listening to those stories…  And I think I can say honestly that Mr. Gaines’ RESULT after MOHS is not what I am hoping for cosmetically speaking…  Here is a photo.  And you should know that pre-MOHS both of his eyebrows were horizontal…. )

This is Mr. Gaines after his MOHS procedure.  LOOK at his bandages!  I remember we giggled and called it his "football helmet bandage".  It is not so funny now thinking of that on my EYE AND NOSE....
Sure, his vertical eyebrow was a CONVERSATION PIECE, but it is not really the look I am hoping for post-MOHS...
 And the last thing I have been thinking about on this topic are people’s reactions.  I am not telling you all of this seeking your reassurance that “All will be fine”.  All probably will be fine, but then again it may not, and I have to be ok with either of those.  And I am not looking for stories of how “Great Aunt Betty had a melanoma removed off her back with MOHS and it was a piece of cake”.  If mine was on my back and not right next to my eye I would have had it done today and be recuperating right now.  I guess I just wanted to SHARE what I am thinking/feeling/experiencing.  Take it for what you will.  And if you want to wish on a star, keep me in your thoughts for the next few days, or do whatever special thing you do I wouldn’t mind the extra juju.

Thanks friends.  

My eyeball circa 2014.  I sure hope it still looks (and functions) something like this after surgery.  


Nancy Wheeler said...

Please keep us updated Susan, I will pray for peace for you
and wisdom for your doctors. If you would like I will put you on our prayer alert at our church..........It's gonna be ok.......... <3

Kirsten Ghatasheh said...

I love you girl. Your thoughts and feelings are so understandable and so beautifully expressed. Big, big hug. I will get Gma Joey right on surrounding you with the right kind of light to ease your soul and speed up the healing!!

Gwen said...

my mom literally got a basal cell carcinoma removed from her eyelid TODAY and had a mohs. She was concerned about it, but they are very frequently done. I hope that it smooths over and is like a mystery of the past, but plus side, if you get a wildly interesting scar, you can tell people that you were defending my honor from a swordsman.

Language, not just speech. said...

Susan, thinking of you with love and prayers. ❤️

Elizabeth A Rios said...

Be positive and patient. FAITH and PRAYERS are the only healing process. You will come out great. Pray to the 3 Puertorrican Kings gift I gave you. Hugs!

Missy said...

You are so awesome, Susan!! I appreciate your honesty...Having this procedure done so close to the eye would make me nervous too. Definitely take a doctor-approved calming medicine before the procedure. While the doctor is doing her job on that day, think of your favorite memories. Not funny instances because you do not want to be laughing at the wrong time.