Friday, June 7, 2024

Cancer of the Uncomfortable Kind

It's not deadly. It doesn't spread. But it is irritating and it's quite uncomfortable to get rid of. 

At first they called it squamous cell carcinoma, but as they got into it they said it was registering as basal cell carcinoma. Either way, I wasn't happy about it joining the other cells on my face. 

It's not my first rodeo with skin cancer and maybe it was because I knew what to expect that I felt a little more nervous this time. The first time I thought it was going to be a simple scoop and dump, but I ended up walking out of the surgery center with stitches in a hideous zig-zag form all the way down the entire right side of a gnarled-up nose and a promise that two black eyes would follow. 

This time I knew that I didn't know what to expect - it all had to do with the placement of the cancer - and so feared the worst. However, I was pleasantly surprised because it was basically the straightforward scoop and dump that I had anticipated for the first one. Hooray.

After I came out of the surgery center, I paused for a little selfie-shoot to show my friends my beautiful nose job.

Turns out I was still very, very numb while taking these photos, and I unknowingly stretched my skin in terrible ways to make these facial expressions. Twenty minutes later and halfway through my drive, things started waking up, and those things were frightfully angry.

It started as a little headache behind my right eye and within minutes felt like a bomb had exploded inside my face. Every time I moved my eyelids- every time I shifted my eyeballs- every time I licked my lips or raised my eyebrows the pain would shoot from the scar to behind my eye and throb there in a most unnatural way. 

An uncomfortable observation:
One doesn't realize how much the skin in that area moves until one is punished for each movement.

I tried valiantly to keep my facial movements to a minimum, but driving a car without moving your eyes is tricky. I still had twenty minutes left in my drive home, and the pain was so intense I considered pulling into the nearest pharmacy to get myself some ibuprofen and sleep until the edge wore off. 

A risky move, because if I didn't get home soon the pain could get worse. 

So I stayed in the right-hand lane and followed the car in front of me until I got home, where I crawled up the stairs and climbed into my bed to sleep.

The next few days were unexpectedly rough. The surgery had been easier, but the healing was more intense this second time around, and I'm sure it had to do with how much that blasted skin moves. I guess I'm a pretty expressive talker (is everyone?) and even with heavy concentration, I couldn't hold a conversation without moving my face. The slightest eyebrow twitch, smile, eyeball movement, it all tugged at that skin and made the tension headache throb. I found more success when I held conversations with my eyes closed- I guess because I wasn't compelled to mirror expressions.

I couldn't read, I couldn't edit pictures, I couldn't watch tv... the safest thing was to sleep. As things got a little better, I could put my phone at the edge of my bed so the screen was tiny enough for me to see the whole thing without any eyeball shifting, so Netflix helped me pass the time.

Eventually the skin began to stretch and heal together, the tension headaches decreased, and after seven days, we removed the stitches.

I stopped taking pictures of the scar after this point, but here is a good idea of how things are healing. 
This is at one, two, and three months. 

I'm grateful for a skilled surgeon.
Even if he jokingly told me to get rid of our boat.
I told him it won't happen.
The sun may be terrible for my skin, but it's so good for every other part of me. 
I'll just keep using sunscreen like it's oxygen, and if I die of skin cancer, at least I'll know I lived happy.

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