Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Have Skin Cancer

About a year (or more) ago, I noticed a pink area near the tip of my nose. It didn't seem to change much at first and since it was easy to cover with make-up, I didn't worry too much about it. As silly as it sounds, I suspected that it was from using my new DSLR camera and having the camera body touch my nose as I looked through the view finder. (At the time, I was taking pictures constantly.) After about six or eight months, that area kind of opened and formed a little crater - I think because I started washing my face with a slightly abrasive cleanser. Although it readily healed whenever I quit the cleanser, it seemed to come back pretty easily.

When I saw my doctor in January, I mentioned the pink spot and he suggested I use a retinol cream on it. Then, for other reasons (I thought), he told me to come back in a month. I used the cream which only seemed to make the pink angry but I didn't go back in a month because by then I'd had shoulder surgery. It seemed logical to me to finish with the surgeon before I went back to my general practitioner.

Although the pink spot continued to be a concern, I wasn't terribly worried about it. I had my shoulder to concentrate on by then and my thoughts easily evaded the 'blemish' on my nose.

In fact, I was able to avoid thinking about it until one day I opened my computer homepage to an article discussing the five most common skin cancers. I really didn't want to look at it, but I opened the site. It came with no great surprise, but a feeling of dread, that the picture showing a squamous cell carcinoma on the tip of someone's nose looked exactly like what I was dealing with. Ugh!

I didn't do anything that day but the next morning I awoke to the announcers on my clock radio discussing skin cancer and the importance of not ignoring symptoms.

Within that short 12 hour period I'd gotten two giant wake up calls. There was no doubt I was getting a message that I needed to take action.

That day I called my doctor and was shocked when I couldn't get an appointment for well over a month, despite the fact that I told the scheduler that I was certain that I had skin cancer on my nose. She very casually advised me not to worry about it too much because even if it was skin cancer the doctor would probably just cut it off in his office. I told her I'd never liked my nose very much but I didn't want it cut off and she laughed and laughed. Her casual attitude, though, went a long way toward allaying my fears.

When I finally saw my doctor, he took one look at my nose and said "this is a problem". He checked it again and said, "this is going to be a real problem and you'll need to see a plastic surgeon". (So much for just cutting it off in his office.) And I realized that there might have been more than one reason that he had wanted me to come back in a month way back in January. He probably planned to look at my blemish to see if it had healed.

I went home to make an appointment with one of the two plastic surgeons that my doctor recommended and got another wake-up call. There were no appointments available for well over a month and that was 'squeezing me in'. I did manage to get an appointment with a MOHS surgeon (a dermatologist certified to do microscopic surgeries on carcinomas), and he said he could do the surgery but that, since I already had an appointment with a plastic surgeon, I should probably just go ahead with that. He also felt it was either a basal cell or a squamous cell carcinoma.

Because of what a couple of the receptionists said, I also felt an urgency to get a biopsy done. But once again, the wait time was long. I tried calling my doctor to see if he'd just do the biopsy and was told that 'no, he wouldn't because it was in an area that would never heal'. I asked the MOHS Surgeon and he said I should wait and let the plastic surgeon do the biopsy. Ouch! Things were sounding more and more ominous. And there didn't seem to be a shred of doubt in either of the doctors' minds that I had skin cancer. They just didn't know what kind of skin cancer it was.

I wrote this post about running out of gas the day I saw the MOHS surgeon.

It's hard to believe it was so long ago but on July 18th I finally had that dreaded, but long-awaited, appointment with the plastic surgeon.

Tomorrow I'll share my journey with the plastic surgeon from July 18th until today. Yep, it's still ongoing.

1 comment:

Gentle, strong, kind or true, I'd love to hear what you have to say.
Short or long, it's up to you, your comments and thoughts really make my day!