It all started last December, when this little rough patch developed on my nose. I thought it was a blemish that would heal. It didn’t. Finally in April I had it biopsied. Turned out to be a squamous cell cancer—not life threatening, but something that had to be removed because it would grow over time. The dermatologist recommended Mohs surgery, where a surgeon takes out a little skin at a time and sends it through onsite pathology to see if he/she got it all. If not, the doc goes back in and takes a little more. This is a common surgery to have when the thing’s on your face—where you don’t want to cut out any more skin than you have to. And it has the greatest cure rate.
So, hey, no big deal; I’m macho. I just wanted the thing gone. I bopped into the specialist’s office Monday morning for outpatient surgery thinkin’ no sweat. I knew they’d numb my nose, as the dermatologist had done to take a biopsy. This doc would cut a little bit, sew a few stitches and voila. A few days with a Band-Aid on my schnozzle and I’d be good to go.
So 10:30 finds me in the surgeon’s chair. A needle to the nose, and the thing’s numb almost immediately. The doc cuts away. I don’t feel a thing. I do keep my eyes closed, however. I don’t particularly want to see the knife coming at me. I mean, macho is macho, but you don’t have to be ridiculous about it. Then I hear this sound—at first I thought it was something being sprayed. A strange smell arose. “Hey, what’s that?”
“We’re just cauterizing your skin to stop the bleeding.”
This takes a few seconds to sink in. “Cauterizing? You mean that smell is burnt flesh?”
“Yup, that’s what it is.”
Do I dwell on the fact that my nose is burning? Heck, no. The suspense author in me immediately kicks into gear. “Wow, cool. I’ve never smelled this before. What an experience. I’m gonna use this some day!”
Doc makes some comment to the effect that he’s never quite gotten this reaction before.
They tape me up and take the cut piece of skin to the lab. I wait. Thirty minutes later Doc returns. “Sorry, we have to take some more.”
Another shot. More cutting. More cauterizing. I try to memorize the smell.
Another wait. Doc returns. “Just a little bit more.”
Oh, man. This is getting old. “Okay,” I tell him, “but this times it’s do or die. Your reputation’s on the line.”
Despite his nervousness at my dire threat, Doc succeeds this time.
Next up—giving me a mirror to show me the hole he’s created. He’s already warned me that it’ll be bigger than I expected. “The cancer’s like an iceberg,” he explained before the procedure. “You only see the top, but roots go out quite a ways.”
Uh, no kidding. I am now staring at a crater in my nose. Starts at the top and goes over to one side. “Is that thing a quarter inch in diameter?” I ask when I can find my tongue.
He does that palm-down-and-fingers-spread tippy hand motion. “Wwellll. A little bigger.”
I look again. He’s right. Definitely bigger.
Trust me. Over a quarter inch diameter may not sound like much, but a hole that size in your nose looks like you could drive a truck through it. I’m wondering how in the world he’s going to find the skin to close the thing. This ain’t gonna be no two stitches. Boy, howdy, I’ll be scarred for life.
“Man.” I’m feeling a little sick. “Sure am glad I had my publicity photos taken two weeks ago.”
Doc can’t help but agree.
Then comes the worst part—the stitching. Doc’s got to do inside stitches, then outside. First, shots all around the nose to numb everything in the vicinity and then some. Despite this, I still feel a few pokes, and need even more numbing. Doc stitches, tugging enough to pull my nose off. And scrapes something fierce, like he’s trying to clean off dried paint. I have no idea what that’s all about and decide not to ask. The suspense author in me has had enough for one day. Time drags on. My muscles tense and my palms turn sweaty. I’m seriously craving those Lala Land drugs the good ol’ dentist gave me last December. The desire for vengeance on this yanking Doc grows. I start imagining myriad torturous ways I can kill the guy off in my next book. I’m smart enough not to tell him this, however, not when the fate of my schnouzer’s in his frenetic fingers.
About the time I think the Second Coming must surely be nigh, Doc’s finally done. He bandages me up and sends me on my not-so-merry way. “In a year, you won’t even see the scar,” he tells me.
Next day I play good patient and take off the tight bandage to clean the stitches. This is the first look I get at Doc’s handiwork. Oh, man. Eight stitches run right down the top of my nose. Thing looks like a tightly drawn corset. Then a bunch more stitches over toward one nostril. Doesn’t look nearly as neat there. Kinda lumpy. I tell myself this is just swelling.
A day passes. As Doc predicted bruises spread under my eyes and down my cheek. These, along with the swollen, bandaged nose lend me the look of a has been boxer who seriously lost the last fight. Despite Doc’s prognostication of a perfect nose in my future, I have my doubts. I’m thinking scarred forever—right in the middle of my face.
But let’s put this in perspective.
Three years ago this month, God healed me from Lyme Disease. That day I hobbled into the Healing Rooms for prayer, using a cane, unable to stand for any length of time—and a few hours later I was strapping on my running shoes, which had gathered dust in the closet. Since then I’ve continued my five-mile-a-day runs. (Well, except I can’t run for two whole weeks now, because it could induce bleeding. I’m gonna be bouncing off the walls.) I’m healthy and whole. I have the best husband in the world and am so very blessed. In light of all this—what’s a scar on the nose?
All the same, I hope Doc’s right.
Well, I’ve gone on long enough for today. I’ll wait until Tuesday to unveil the publicity photos. (I’ll be taking Monday off.) We did get some nice shots that I’m happy to show you, but the best part of that post will be the dialogue over choosing four shots out of over 200. (That’s a lot of rejected shots.) After that, we’ll get back to our character empathy series.
Happy Memorial Day Weekend, BGs!