The Truth Can Be Hard To Face

The Truth Can Be Hard To Face

Another day, another contemplation of an upcoming surgery.

That’s the funny thing about our health, isn’t it? You think you’ve got a handle on it, at long last. After all, my weight is down at the lowest point in decades. I no longer require a CPAP or blood pressure medications. I’ve survived my most recent bout with kidney stones. (Though that is a story in and of itself that I might revisit here at some point.)

And then you drop into the dermatologist’s office and are informed that the mole you wanted to talk about removing is actually a tumor.

Yup. Cancer on the face. How about them apples?

Darkness At The Edge

It started off pretty innocuously – a discoloration on my right cheek, right below my eye. It had been there for years, just another spot on a body covered with them.

Then, two years ago, it started to grow. Eventually, it stood out far enough from my face that I started seeing it in my peripheral vision.

It’s a mole, I thought. No big deal.

Finally, Lor had waited long enough and told me to go get it checked. I misunderstood her concern and assumed (wrongly) that its appearance was kinda grossing her out. I made an appointment with my physician. She took one look at it and told me I needed to see a dermatologist. I grumbled at the delay, took the referral, and made an appointment.

And, once at the dermatologist’s office, the whole tenor of the conversation changed. They needed to take a biopsy. It would take about 2 weeks to get results. After my procedure I would have to come back in to get checked over head to toe.

I left the office in a daze. I remember leaving the parking lot and looking over at Lor, and saying “Wait…so I have cancer?”

Covering Up

The next day wasn’t a good one. I spent some time feeling sorry for myself. I spent a LOT of time staring in the mirror. My face may not be much, but it is the only one I have. And the idea that some surgeon was going to be working on it with a scalpel and an ice cream scoop filled me with fear. I’ve seen the anti-smoking ads featuring survivors of mouth cancer, with half their faces missing. Was I going to go through the rest of my life with a gigantic hole in my face? Covering up the offending wound with a black cloth like a smallpox victim in the 1600s?

As it turns out, probably not. The tumor itself is supposedly not a “bad” one, as tumors go. It is referred to as a Basal Cell Carcinoma. They tend to grow slowly and not spread to other parts of the body. The technique they will be using for my procedure (Mohs surgery) removes thin layers of skin at a time. Those layers are placed under a microscope to look for viable cancer cells. If more are found, they do it again. And again. And again. Until they find nothing but healthy skin tissue.

Of course, they are also looking for non-basal cells at the same time. If they find any cancer cells of the two more serious varieties (squamous or melanoma), then my course of treatment will not be done with the surgical procedure alone. So, you know, a little extra tension to add some spice to the whole process.

At the end of the procedure, they stitch me up, leaving a small linear scar on my cheek. Which, if you’ve met me, you know will probably not even be visible or remarkable given the current condition of my facial topography.

Perpetual Preparation

While speaking with the nurse in charge of pre-op in preparation for my procedure next week, she commented on how calmly I was taking the whole thing.

I joked that the tumor removal was just another item on my “bucket list” of surgeries I wanted to complete in my lifetime. We both laughed. It was a grand jest.

But, seriously now – something ELSE wrong with me? Requiring yet another surgical procedure? Its as if the gods of medical oddsmaking are very unhappy with my stated intention to make it to 50 years old and are just starting to make shit up to throw at me at this point.

On the one hand, basal cell carcinoma is not that bad, as cancers go.

On the other hand, how many times am I going to refer to my latest medical condition as “not as bad as it could be?” How many “not so bads” does it take to add up to one life-altering crisis?

Well, apparently at least one more than I have contracted so far.

Piling On

So, between epilepsy, bariatric surgery, depression, and now cancer, I certainly have a surfeit of maladies to wrap my head around.

I keep asking Lor where I go to trade this body in for a new one. She keeps pointing out that the upgrade process would have to include my broken brain as well, which would just make me a different person anyway. True words, but not terribly encouraging.

So, instead of trading in, I am just going to have to do the best I can with the one I’ve got.

Here’s hoping that my next surgical procedure, my sixth in the last few years, goes as smoothly as the previous five.

We will keep everyone posted via FB and Twitter, as always. And then we will hope for a break between procedures. Is a year between surgeries really too much to hope for?

What’s One More Surgical Scar Between Friends?

  • Jeremy