If you plan to get some cancer, try to make it the basal cell kind. Not only is it slow-growing and extremely rare to metastasize, it was also a breeze to cure. They just carve it out! (Tiny knock on wood just in case it decides to come back. There’s a 97-99% chance that it won’t according to Dave’s recent research.)
Today was a special sort of Halloween and my nose was the pumpkin.
Only instead of being carved hollow, it got stuffed with healthy skin from another part of my nose! And instead of candy, I got thai food from a tasty place we just discovered in Palo Alto called Thaiphoon. Punny AND tasty! Thanks Dave, for hanging out with me in the waiting room and bringing me delicious and entertaining food.
The nurse began the preparation by applying a big blue sticker on my back and plugging me in.
“So you are grounded” she tells me, “because we use some electrical equipment”.
“Awesome!” I think, “if anything goes wrong I’ll be converted into one of those wacky anti-heroes from Spiderman or Batman who zap people with their electric currents as revenge against all those jerks who made fun of them when they were dorky and superpower-less.”
Between the nurse making sure I’m comfortable, even putting a wedge under my knees so my back is more relaxed, and Dr. Miller explaining everything she’s doing, taking short breaks while anesthetizing, and checking with me to make sure the stinging from the anesthetic needle isn’t unbearable, it turned out to be a pretty painless procedure.
Although they did place a sterile towel over my head with a small hole for my nose and mouth (insert hole in the sheet joke here) I was still able to peer down at the bloody crater right below my eye. I closed my eyes as they cauterized it, but could still smell the burning, which lucky for me, did not smell like burning flesh.
Back in the waiting room for a couple of hours while the lab checked my bit ‘o skin for cancer cells near the border, I met a lovely older woman who was clearly bored. She espoused the virtues of our surgeon, showing me her ear that had been reconstructed during an earlier Mohs surgery and offered me a Diet 7up. Peering curiously at her immaculate ear flesh made me hopeful that children will not run screaming, “the horror, the horror!” after seeing my new nose.
Two hours, some thai food, and a few chapters in a book later I was told I was clear (after only one filleting!) and I was back on the table for the mending. Dr Miller tells me I will be there a while longer this time as “it takes a little longer to put you back together than it does to take you apart”. I’m thinking that seems to be the case with most things, but I sure hope they don’t have any nuts or bolts leftover when they’re done.
After getting anesthetized again and joking that I might doze off, I noticed that if I kept my eyes open I could see most of what was going on. “This is one of the few surgeries I will actually be able to see. I gotta watch this!” I told myself and focused on the scalpel poking around and the newly carved flap of skin being pulled down over the original crater now devoid of basal cells. I’m hoping that perspective made it look larger ’cause man, it seemed huge!
I started to feel a little queasy once my brain connected the tugging and pulling my nose felt to the digging scalpel and bits of skin my eyes were seeing so I took a short break, closing my eyes and thinking about happy things like blue skies, puppies, and Arrested Development marathons.
Once I was aware that they were on to the stitches I began to peer again through the hole in the sheet. That part was just downright entertaining! The needle is a hook shape, like a fish hook, but without the barb, and it’s colorful! I watched as she hooked through the bordering skin and came back up on the edge of the little skin cap covering the wound, pulling through a length of green thread. Each stitch was followed by a brief nose squeeze with a bit of gauze as though I were a child with a runny nose and the nurse was my mommy.
By 2pm I was wrapped up with a massive bandage, given a set of instructions, a prescription for Darvocet, which I suspect was a result of my obvious concern about avoiding ibuprofen for another week, and we were on our way. The instruction sheet described the pain I might feel as mild, but I would have described it otherwise as the anesthetic wore off and my nose felt like I was recovering from a severe sunburn. Coupled with the headache I was bound to have after a couple tense hours of lying on an uncomfortable table with my neck in a strange position, I was ready for the drugs before we even reached Target.
Unfortunately, the Target pharmacy was out of the Darvocet that the pharmacist described as “something we should never run out of”, but she rectified the situation quickly by utilizing a coupon for a $10 gift card with new prescriptions that we used towards a past prescription that had been waiting there for me (yes, I am a complete drug fiend now) and all of the sterile and antiseptic goodies we picked up to care for the pumpkin on my face during the coming week.
I managed to suffer through a trip to Safeway’s pharmacy, which I spent lying down in the car as Dave, husband of the year, fetched painkillers for his poor ailing wife. Four hours of napping and one hour of the Omega Man later and I was feeling fine. Charleton Heston letting loose on vampires with a machine gun can do that for a person.
Tomorrow I head back to work complete with massive face bandage, but sadly without the t-shirt reading, “You don’t have to ask, it was skin cancer” that I had wanted in order to avoid the questioning stares. Now I’m thinking it would be funnier for it to read, “I got bitten by a dinosaur at the Yahoo! picnic” instead.