So, September 7th, 2018 was the day of surgery. It was also the day my father died 15 years ago. So, it was a bittersweet day, and yet I felt like my Dad was with me in spirit all day long. A major source of comfort for me.
Tony and I woke up at 4:00am to get ready to leave to make it to the 7:00am appoint on-time in Riverside, CA. Surprisingly, I woke up very calm and ready for this to happen. We stopped at Carls Jr in Beaumont to grab a couple of breakfast burritos for the 2-hour drive to the hospital. We chatted, kept it light, and complained about stupid California drivers. At 6:00am, I dropped down a 0.5mg Xanax to relax me. We arrived at 7:00am, got my vitals out of the way, met my nurse Kelly and Dr. Dennis Nguyen. Tony went to the waiting room for the beginning of a very long day, Before we started, Dr. Nguyen and I had a serious conversation about the tumor in my nose with a picture of my pre-biopsy nose on the screen.
I asked him “it’s bigger than you thought, isn’t it?” And he agreed yes, it was. He also said, “I also think it’s bigger than YOU thought too.” I told him that’s what I was afraid of. I had explained all the research and reading I have done, complete with analyzing pictures like a mad woman. He asked where I work and I said “NCIS.” He said, well, that explains you not going in with your eyes closed to all the possibilities. LOL! And he was right. The bubbling above the biopsy and new bleeding below the biopsy was HUGE red flags.
As you have read in my past posts, I have expressed fear and trepidation about doing this. I watched the tumor grow while I was waiting to have this done. I knew it was a good sized tumor. I truly tried to express that to people. I appreciate everyone’s optimism for a very easy, piece of cake surgery. It’s amazing how many people have had this done and you would have never known by looking at them. I know there were also a good number of people who thought I was obsessing over it and making a mountain out of a molehill. I understand why they felt that way, but what they didn’t get was the massive feeling of dread in my gut. I just KNEW this was going to be more than a couple of stitches.
Back to the story…..
Dr. Nguyen drew a circle around the biopsy spot for reference and I hopped up on the operation table. Let me just say Xanax is my friend. I was VERY calm and ready to get this done. The only thing I feared was the lidocaine injections. The dermatologist that did the biopsy was really rough with me, slammed that needle in, and depressed the plunger with force. Not Dr. Nguyen. His skills with a needle are outstanding! I can honestly say I didn’t feel the majority of the shots.
He was very proficient and made the first cut and removed a LARGE area in the first stage. It’s not normal to take that much skin in the first stage, but he could see the tumor, so he tried to get it all in one cut. It was not more than 30-45 minutes and I was bandaged up to head to the waiting room to see Tony while they check pathology on the tissue.
After about an hour, I was told that there was still more cancer cells to get so we will have to go to stage 2. Again, it was very fast and I was sent to the waiting room with Tony again.
After the second stage, I was really hoping that it would be the end, and I will be leaving fast after some stitches. It was a 3 hour wait until they called me back the second time. By then, the lidocaine had worn off and I was getting cranky FAST. The pain was intense!
I go back in, and I am told they got all cancer cells out, and we discuss the repair. My worst fear would be a forehead flap. They look outrageously strange and I REALLY didn’t want one. Instead, he suggested a cheek flap to cover the defect in the nose (those fat cheeks finally came in handy.) But first, more shots, LOTS of shots. I would venture to say that I got 70+ shots yesterday. He proceeded to draw out the plan on my face:
You can see his plan was to slice a pencil shape, twist it, and use it to connect it to the hole in my nose. The pencil-shaped piece has a good artery to feed the graft that will cover the defect.
And so he did his magic. He is a true artist with the way he put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I was so grateful to be told, “You are free from cancer!” Best words I heard all day!
One funny part was when he was cauterizing the blood vessels. It smells like burning flesh. From under the blanket over my face, I say “Do I smell bacon?” They had to stop for a second cause they were laughing so hard. Other funny parts were listening to 80’s music on Pandora in the surgery room, and the doctor and I were playing a roaring game of “Name That Tune” while he operated. And he is pretty darn good, but I named the song AND the band. Music runs deep in my soul. Even when I am in the most inopportune place. LOL!
By the time we left there, it was 4:00pm. Nine hours to fix it all.
We left after picking up a script for antibiotics and a very inadequate script for a painkiller.
According to Tony, I slept the whole 2-hour ride home. I was in SERIOUS PAIN. Dropped down two of the tiny Norcos, and I passed out immediately in the car. I am sure that the adrenaline drop also had a lot to do with it.
I slept sitting up last night in the recliner in the living room. I don’t remember waking up, but I do remember the pain, and I am sure I moaned a few times.
All the FB messages of love and support were so uplifting to me.
PS: I go back in a week to get the stitches out of my cheek. Two weeks later, I am having the cheek flap revised and any defective areas fixed and re-sewn. Bandages are not to be removed until then.