2 Month Update

Its been almost 2 months since I have had Moh’s surgery. I feel like I have been through hell and back, but it’s done. I am starting to have shooting pains in my cheek, so I believe that the nerves are starting to grow back together now. Its still somewhat numb and I have a wonky smile. But you know what? I don’t have cancer on my nose anymore. And for that, I am genuinely thankful.

I think that I have come a long way in just two months. It will take about a year until its fully settled, in. At that time, my surgeon and I will make a decision about any revisions that need to be done.

I really thought that I was going to be so much more self-conscious than I am about it. I had it covered under a bandage for so long that when I was finally at the end of using the bandages, I was happy to be done. I had great fun packing up all the first aid tape and bandages into a shoebox and labeling it “Damn Cancer Box.” The chances are pretty good I will get another one within 5 years, so at least now, I am ready for it. And I am not scared. And as for leaving the scar out to the open, who cares what anyone else thinks? I can honestly say that if someone wants to stare, go for it. I can make you feel just as uncomfortable. 😉

So, now that I am at this point in healing, I am just using a good skin care regimen (Roden & Fields Sensitive) and keeping my face as clean as I can. I am using a scar gel named Cicatricure on the nose and cheek. Hopefully, it will help. And as always, sunscreen. Although I will say that I have an intense fear of the sun now. I am sure that will pass, but for now, I am a shadow walker. LOL! 😉

So, that is basically all for now. I am good, my skin is good, and God is good. All the time.

 

4 Days to D-Day

Well, I am four days away from having my MOH’s procedure. I have tried to come up with a solution for everything I can possibly encounter during my recovery:

Leave: I have three weeks of leave on the books for the worst case scenario. I am placing bets with my boss now. I say I will need one week and he thinks I will need two. We will see who wins.

Medical Supplies: I have gotten all the medical supplies that the patient care sheet said to get. Aquaphor, gauze pads, tape, silicone strips and Tylenol. Does anyone really even use Tylenol? I might as well eat M&M’s. Oh yeah, I got some of those too. 😉

Additionally, I have gotten a BCozzy. It holds your head upright when you are sleeping. Apparently, I will have to sleep sitting up for a while for swelling so this will do the trick. It’s actually pretty comfortable.bcozzy

Housework: This long weekend has afforded me the opportunity to get stuff in order so I don’t have to deal with it after surgery. Laundry done, check. Dishes done, check. Bathroom clean, check.

Food: Thankfully my Hubs is good about going to the store when I need him too. So when I am feeling sorry for myself and need more ice cream, he is Johnny on the spot. 🙂

Homework: I am starting a new class this week so I am getting all my assignments done now so there will be very little due after surgery. But I am not worried too much because it will give me something to do afterward.

I am nervous, scared, and anxious. I am not going to lie. I just want this to be over with. I am not sure what the outcome is going to be, but it is what it is. There isn’t anything I can do about it now. I am still looking for a one and done phase on surgery. Cut once, say you got all, and send me on home. Reality says I think it will be more than that. I have a new area that bleeds all the time below the biopsy spot, so I think that the doctor will have his work cut out for him. Cut out. I kill myself sometimes. 🙂

If you can’t laugh, you will just cry. I am choosing to laugh.

 

 

Sun Protection and Your Skin

Well, sun care has become a factor in my life. I have a real fear of being outside now. Since I live in the desert, the sun is brutal. I have become a shadow walker. Home is my refuge, and I look outside a lot at how pretty it seems out there. And let’s be honest. Its 106 degrees out there right now. I am not feeling the overwhelming urge to get out there and frolic. It’s hot, I am fat, and I am good in the house. Our A/C rocks.

I started researching sun care products, and I have come across a few things that I want to share.

First, growing up, my house had a pool. I am blonde hair, blue eyed and fair. But growing up, a deep, dark suntan was what I was always striving for. Baby oil and iodine was my elixir of choice. I would slather that on and let the sun fry my skin. More than once, I would end up with blisters from a nasty burn, and I would be out there again the next weekend. All summer long, I was laying out by the pool or at the beach.

Now, if I knew then what I know now, I would NEVER have done that. I would have never laid out, always put on sunblock, and stayed in the shade. Could’ve’s, would’ve’s, and should’ve’s, right? I could seriously kick myself in the ass now. What an idiot I was!

Most of the sun damage you do to your skin is done when you are a child. It takes years to develop into skin cancer. So, what I am reaping today could have started 40+ years ago. And let’s face it. The 70’s and 80’s were not known for skin protection. And, of course, I always thought “it will never happen to me!” Surprise! Bad decisions still have a way of rearing their ugly heads. And this one seems to be a serpent with a lot of heads.

However, this is nothing I can change. I cannot turn back time, I can’t undo the damage I have done. But what I can do is protect myself from this point forward. When you are diagnosed with skin cancer, you are told that you are now susceptible to getting more. In fact, you have a 60% chance of getting it again within 10 years. And a 61.5% chance of getting it back after having a second one.

According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, “If you’re one of the millions of people who have been diagnosed for the first time with either a basal cell carcinoma or a squamous cell carcinoma (also called BCC and SCC, the major nonmelanoma types of skin cancer), you have better than even odds of getting another. About 60 percent of people who have had one skin cancer will be diagnosed with a second one within 10 years, says a 2015 study in JAMA Dermatology,” (Skin Cancer Foundation, 2018.)

So, here is where I am going to get a bit preachy. SUNSCREEN, HATS, COVER UP! Parents, coat those babies in sunscreen from the first time they will be out in the sun. Coat yourselves when you are outside. Weeding, gardening, and washing your car are all ways to get a burn when you are not even thinking about it. Throw a hat on, use sunscreen. I have found the sprays don’t protect as well as a lotion. Find one with AT LEAST 30spf to wear. I have found an excellent one to wear on my face by EltaMD.

eltamd

I use the tinted and its a perfect match for me. Goes on easy, smooth, and light. This one is recommended by most dermatologists. Its about $27.00 a bottle but it lasts a long time. You don’t have to use much.

And for your body, I like this one from the same maker:

eltamd2

Some clothing that is actually made for sun protection is made by Coolibar. There are some cute things in there, and the hats are adorable.

Coolibar, sun protection you wear

And finally, if you see a spot on you and it doesn’t look or act right? Get to the dermatologist pronto. They can put you at ease and possibly stop something before it starts. If you have a partner, have them look at your back regularly. It’s an area that you cannot see, but they can. Melanoma can kill you. Squamous cell is highly invasive and Basal cell can invade and cause damage. Wouldn’t you want to catch that before more damage is done?

 

D-Day

Well, surgery has been set for September 7, 2018, to have this skin cancer taken off my nose. I have affectionately named it Nelly (after that bitch Nelly Olson on Little House on the Prarie.) While I am relieved that it is going to be removed, I am nervous as hell that it is going to be larger than we all expected.

My ideal situation would be that they numb me up, take the first layer, study it under the microscope, and declare they got it all. The doctor stitches me up, and I am on my way. I guess I am going to know if they come to get me out of the waiting room and say “we need to do it again.” If that is the case, I know I am screwed. I am choosing to think positively and really hope they get it on the first pass.

My field office has been very supportive of me with this situation. Had a good conversation with my Special Agent in Charge and he put my fears at ease about having to possibly take some time off. I love my job and I am already feeling bad for leaving my office in a bind. But, it really helps to have a good supportive team behind me. I am blessed.

Of course, irony always has to rear its head. Sept 7th is the day my dad passed away 15 years ago. Maybe its a sign that he will be virtually holding my hand.

I honestly just want to get it over with. Three weeks from today. Tick Tock.

PS: Here is a site that I frequent for awesome recipes. Mel is a genius in the kitchen. Anyway, she just went through a MOH’s procedure on her nose. Her BCC is on the same side of her nose, same exact spot, and same exact size of mine. And she is as cute as can be about 8 months later, so I have lots of hope.

https://www.melskitchencafe.com/on-a-personal-note-what-happened-to-my-face/

Trust Your Gut. Always.

Well, on day six of the waiting game, my doctor emailed me:

Your biopsy came back, and it is Basal Cell Carcinoma. I am going to refer you to the MOHS Clinic so they can take care of that for you.

Doctor

Have you ever heard bad news before and it was literally like being punched in the gut? Yeah, it was like that.

I have skin cancer.

There are three common skin cancers. In order, they are:

  1. Melanoma – Known to be fatal if not caught early
  2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma – spreads quickly; in rare cases, can be fatal
  3. Basal Cell Carcinoma – Almost never fatal; slow growing; rarely spreads

Of the three, I am very lucky it is Basal Cell Carcinoma. Thank God.

So now, here I am. I am currently waiting to hear from the MOHS clinic to get the party started.

Let me be clear. I am not a vain person. I am not a beauty queen. I am a 45-year-old woman with average looks, on the chunky side, I dress very plain, and I rarely wear makeup other than moisturizer. I would not consider myself ugly, but let’s face it, I am not going to win any beauty contests. I like tacos WAY too much to starve myself for the bikini segment.

With that being said, I don’t want to see my face carved up. I am familiar with my face. It’s like an old friend. I have been staring back at it for 45 years now. I have earned every one of those wrinkles, every imperfection. It makes me….me. To think that it could look vastly different for a significant amount of time is already making me self-conscious. Just having this biopsy scab on the side of my nose makes me self-conscious now. And I am fully aware that this carcinoma is in a tough spot of the nose because it involves the crease. That is where it gets tricky because they may need replacement cartilage if it extends into the outer portion of the nostril. I read they can take it from my ear. Like Mike Tyson. That’s kinda cool.

But, my husband brought up some very good points:

  1. I need to be grateful that Basal Cell Carcinoma is NOT fatal.
  2. It is slow growing.
  3. There is a very real chance that I may have just one stage of MOHS surgery and be done.
  4. I need to think positive.
  5. Screw what other people think.

I am a lucky woman to have such a positive, uplifting spouse. And he promised he will still love me even if I look like Sloth from the Goonies when this is all over. That’s true love right there.

And so I wait.

Tick tock said the clock…

Waiting Completely Sucks

After I got home, the bandaid came off. There is a good sized hole in my nose. I am reasonably sure the doctor used a jagged spoon for that biopsy. And its red, angry and really pissed off looking. And it hurts.

I start pouring over the internet looking for anything I can find on Basal Cell Carcinoma. I learn that if it’s on your face, they do a surgery called a MOHS Procedure. They numb the area with a local (like I had just had) and they take a thin layer of skin off. You are bandaged up and sent to the waiting room while a pathologist looks at the skin under a microscope to see if they got all the cancer cells. If they didn’t, they take you back and take a second more significant area of skin, bandage you up, send you to the waiting room and check it. Each one of those times is called a “stage.” Rinse and repeat until they get clear margins on the skin (no more cancer cells in the specimen.)

Okay, hold up. You are sent to the waiting room each time? YOU ARE AWAKE FOR THIS HELL?!?! These people are sadists!!!

After it is clear, the surgeon stitches it up. If its a significant area of skin removed and there isn’t enough skin to close it, then you are going to need a skin graft. That requires a plastic surgeon, and you will probably be put under for that part. And that may not take place the same day. You may have to come back another day. I am not kidding.

I then make the mistake of looking at pictures of this. I am horrified. Here is an example of a woman who has Basal Cell Carcinoma in almost the exact same place that is on my nose.

Nose

Picture #1 is the MOHS procedure. Picture #2 is with a forehead skin graft (called a forehead flap.) It stays like that until it’s created a blood flow to the hole its covering (usually about three weeks.) Picture #3 is after the graft has taken and the surgeon performs the magic. Picture #4 is the final result (typically about a year after the surgery.)

Of course, that’s the worst case scenario. I don’t even know if I even have Basal Cell Carcinoma. Maybe it is just eczema like I initially thought. Perhaps the doctor was wrong? Only the biopsy will tell. And I am a wreck while I am waiting for the results. I am hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. And my gut is going with the worst.

Why is the biopsy taking so LONG?!?!?

 

 

 

*Picture courtesy of Google Images*

The Second Time In Hell

Fast forward to July 2018. My nose is still acting up. Let me give you a little background about my nose. It’s not a bad nose, but it’s had its fair share of issues. I have broken it before (I was attacked by a toilet seat when I was throwing up. I threw the seat up too hard, and it bounced off the tank and back down on my nose. On my wedding day in 1992. Don’t ask; its a long story.) From that catastrophe, I ended up with a deviated septum and couldn’t breathe out the right side. Had surgery four years ago to finally fix that. Then two years ago, I had sinus surgery for chronic sinus infections. So the nose has been traumatized over the years. Now we have this thing on the left side.

So, I finally make it back to the dermatologist on Friday, July 27, 2018. The nice lady doctor is not there, and instead, I get a nice man doctor. He asks me what brings me there? I started to tell him about the spot on my nose, and he lowers down the special binocular glasses on his head and takes a look. I mention that it’s been bleeding for years. He pulls the glasses back up and says “THAT is NOT good.” He says he is going to have to biopsy it and I think “Awesome! He’s not going to burn me with that can of crap this time. Winning!” Instead, he pulls out this needle from hell and comes towards my face with it as he says “This will sting a little….” HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!?!?! I am literally wincing, which turns into a full-fledged scream. It feels like he is injecting sulphuric acid into my nostril! Imagine this scenario. I am yelling, he practically has me in a head-lock to hold my head still, and every part of my body below my neck is scrambling trying to get to the door to get the hell out of dodge. I am sure it was 30 seconds or so, but it might as well have been an hour because I was losing my mind, FAST… He kept apologizing, but all I heard in my head was “If I punch him, that needle is going to rip my nose open…” I honestly can’t tell you how badly that hurt.

Once I was numb, I could feel him pushing my nose around, but that was it. It was done in just a few minutes. By this time, I have tears streaming down my left eye and snot coming down my nose. HOT MESS. He announces he is finished and I look down and see tears, snot, and blood were dripping on my gown. My hands are shaking so bad as I try to get my glasses back on (I cannot see anything without them; I am blinder than a bat.) He puts something on it that stops the bleeding and a band-aid. He says “I have been a doctor for 30 years and that looks like Basal Cell Carcinoma, a skin cancer.”

Ever heard a record scratch and all of a sudden everything is quiet? Cancer? Like, skin cancer?!?!? It’s just dry flaky skin that keeps getting irritated! It cant be CANCER!

He says the biopsy will take about a week and he will let me know when it comes back. I literally RAN out of that room, through the waiting room, outside to my car. I look in my mirror, and I have a round band-aid on my nose, my face is red, my eyes are red, my nose is red, and I just stare at myself in the mirror. Cancer? Are you freaking kidding me?

A little family history. All four of my grandparents had cancer. Two of them died from lung cancer. One died from liver cancer. One had tongue cancer.  My father died from pancreatic cancer. And I know NOTHING about skin cancer. If there is one thing I am good at, it is research. I have my work cut out for me.

And I look like a complete dork with that round band-aid on my nose.

 

 

The Doctor Doesn’t Always Know Best…

So, I have this thing on my face. Well, technically, it’s on the left side of my nose in the crease where your nostril meets your nose. I have had it for a LONG time. At least three or more years now. It’s like dry, flaky skin and kind of red. I genuinely believe it’s eczema. I would scratch it off, slather some cream on it until it looked better, and rock on. Then, it would bleed if I touched it. Blowing my nose with a Kleenex would piss it off and get it going again. The flaky skin started looking more like a scab from bleeding all the time. I noticed it not long after I turned 40 and thought at the time “So, here is another thing going to crap after 40. It’s all downhill from here!” Figured, I should probably get it checked out.

So, in July 2016, I went to the dermatologist. I had never been to one before. She was very friendly and asked if I am concerned about any areas? Where do I begin? “So, I have this freckle here, this wrinkle here, this mole here, and oh yeah, I have this dry skin, a scabby spot here on my nose. What the heck is that? It seems to always bleed if it gets irritated.” She takes a look at it and says “Oh, that might be precancerous, but we can take care of that right now!” She grabs a stainless steel canister of something, turns around, aims it at my nose and fires it off. I was surprised for a second until the burning and stinging began. She explains that she was “freezing” it off. Lady, you are trying to burn my face off, and where the hell is the door cause this HURTS! She finally stops, I am whimpering, and she says “that should take care of it. It will blister and scab, but it should be fine after that.” She then does a shave biopsy of the mole on my right cheek and says she will email me the results in a couple of days. My nose BURNS like the fire of hell. So, I smile, thank her, and practically run out the door.

Two days later, she emails me that the mole on my right cheek was normal. My nose does precisely what she said. It blisters, scabs, and the scab falls off. Looks pretty good for a while. Not long after, its back to its old tricks bleeding and being flakey, so I just deal with it. It’s unsightly, so I continue to use cream to moisturize the area and try to hide it the best I can. It sure beat the hell out of that lady burning me again because as we all know THAT didn’t work.