Tuesday, June 25, 2013

skin cancer ride.

 We were not prepared for the ride we took yesterday.  We headed to the dermatologist in Lincoln for the removal of a tiny smaller-than-a-pencil-eraser Basel cell carcinoma from Mike's forehead.  It is the thing that looks like a 'bindy' in the BEFORE photo above.  I have had maybe a dozen of these removed from my face over the past five years by Dr. Peter Hino in Dallas.  No big deal.  Just a little scrape with his tool, and my job is to keep a band-aid on the little hole for 5 days.  Mike's "little Basel cell carcinoma" was in a different category... the kind of category that the bigger part of it is hidden under the skin.  The kind that grows legs or tendrils.  We knew that Dr. Heibel planned to use the MOHS method to remove it.  This means that he removes the suspicious mass, then sends the tissue to the lab in the next room, and you wait to see if the margins are clean --- or "if they got everything".  Well, it turned out that Mike needed a second deeper round to remove all the cancer.  In all, there was a hole about the size of a quarter.  (I will spare you that photo.)

What we were not prepared for, were the incisions and stitches made to close the hole where the cancer was extracted.  The day might not have been as stressful had we seen this coming.  I was thinking 'pea sized mass removal, maybe a stitch or two'.   I was thinking, we can live with a half inch scar...

When I walked into the room and saw the massive incision and who-knows-how-many-stitches, you could have knocked me over with a stick.  It seemed to me like it must be some kind of joke or prank.  What were they thinking? Certainly they were kidding.  While I am currently in the midst of researching incision methodology and plastic surgery procedures, I may come to find out that this is genius.  I just have not arrived there yet.

It got worse.  After we left the doctor's office, we were even able to joke about the huge bandage taped to Mike's forehead.  We ate lunch and laughed with the waitress "What, do I have something on my face?"  It wasn't until we were heading for home and I started noticing some serious swelling.  They had not mentioned swelling.  And now Mike was in pain.  A lot of pain.  I called the clinic back.  They wanted us to return to have it checked out.  They suspected internal bleeding and when we arrived they said "Let's open up the stitches, find the bleeder and stitch you back up."  At this point I said, as nicely as I could "Do you have a hospital you work with so we could do it there?"  To which the doctor just turned and said "Why?" 

I wanted to say "Because this is Mike's face, and I would like a plastic surgeon doing the work.  Because Mike is in a tremendous amount of pain. Because something has already gone wrong today, and what if there were further complications. Because I don't have a good feeling in my cc (cancer coordinator) gut.  Because you haven't had a chance to earn my trust yet."  But I didn't say anything because Mike was glaring at me and had asked me not to "tick off the doctor".  I left the room and had a very dark, scary hour and fifteen minutes.  I tried to remember why we selected this guy as Mike's dermatologist.  I think it was because we felt he would be thorough... and a lot of people go to him. I knelt down in a hidden corner of the waiting room and prayed.  And cried.  I called my girlfriend and cried some more. 

At 5:15pm Mike walked back out with a smile on his face, looking like he had been in a car wreck... or bad fight.  We headed home.  But first, we stopped for the much needed narcotics at HyVee.  Up to this point, he had only taken 4 Tylenol, which were not doing the trick.

Mike is one tough guy.  Through Mike's two cancer surgeries in St. Louis for his tonsorial cancer, he never took a single pain pill.  He was asking for it yesterday.  In all of our cancer journey since January 2011, I had never seen Mike in so much pain.  It was hard for me, because pain doesn't usually register on Mike's scale... and I was not used to seeing it.

So there were several factors that made June 24th a scary day.  We were not prepped for the radical nature of the procedure or the possibility of it.  There was serious pain involved.  There were complications.  And all the while I wanted a plastic surgeon on the scene.  All that said, we are thankful that the cancer is out.  I might also descover that Dr. Heibel is in fact as skilled, or more skilled than a plastic surgeon.  We will see how things heal and wait to make that call.   If not and if need be, we can always opt to have his forehead fixed in the future.

This is Mike today. AM on top and PM on the bottom.  He still looks like he has been in a bad fight.  I guess he has.  Maybe we need to ask sister Melinda to write another poem about "Cancer Clyde" and the punches he throws.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your post. I appreciate it. I hope Mike is doing better.