Friday, May 26, 2006

My Recent Tale of Woe

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.

A year?

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!


Anonymous said...

Empathizing with you, you character, you. ; ) Somehow, try to have a delightful weekend.

love ya!
yer Z sis,

Illuminating Fiction said...

I take it we don't get to see any post nose surgery photos. ;-)

Oh, well. I'll look forward to the publicity ones.

I'm also looking forward to reading the book where the nose surgeon gets killed. :-0

~michelle pendergrass said...

That smell is a hard smell to get out of a brain!

(((HUGS))) I hope he's wrong and I hope it heals WAY quicker than the doctor's predicting.

Wandering Writer said...

First off, what a brave doctor. Does he know what kind of things you could unleash on him--creepy crawlies, etc.

Now, how about some great stories to tell people. "You should see the other guy" is trite but with your imagination and storytelling skills...well, I can only guess the listeners will hang on every word. Have some fun with it!


Scrambled Dregs said...

I have a feeling you're going to get great mileage out of this.

And what kind of "Let me tell you how I got this scar" stories could you weave if the scar remains?

Oh the potential and promise of pain.

Domino said...

I think you should hang some boxing gloves from the rear view mirror of your car! Maybe print out a fake poster to put in the back window: Brandilyn The Great VS (Your favorite boxer's name here).

Take them down in nine months when the scar is invisible and the nose is perfect again.

Anonymous said...

After my joke yesterday, I felt bad reading this. Then I saw how soft-hearted everyone else was in their comments. :) Anyway, I do hope it heals quickly.

Sharon Hinck said...

Your discussion on creating empathy for your character has been great, but this story was a vivid real-life example. You're facing unfair suffering, you're doing it with panache so that we root for you, and you invite us into the experience with great sensory detail.

I've got so much empathy for you, my nose hurts!
Hugs, Sharon

Rachel Hauck said...


So glad the procedure went well. And so much better to have it taken care of than the alterative.

Looking forward to the pictures.

Have a great, relaxing weekend.


Mary DeMuth said...

There once lived a writer named Brandilyn
Who strummed happy songs on her mandolin
Until her nose it fell off
while her doctor did scoff
Till she covered her gap with some mole-a-skin

OK, terrible poetry, I know. But I wanted to cheer you up.

Southern-fried Fiction said...

Man, that made me want to sneeze! But leave it to you to describe it in glorious detail! LOL You're a hoot. We'll all be prayign the doc's right, and also watching for the revenge. :o}

michael snyder said...

Let me put this as eloquently as I know how...Yikes!

Feel better. Heal quick. Sneeze easy.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

*hugs* God is Good...All the time!

This too shall pass and you will have a glorious healing from the Father. He is always faithful!

I thank the good Lord that he got it all!

Have a happy and safe holiday. I look forward to the pictures!

Sabrina L. Fox said...

Sheesh, you even write your surgery woes great. By the end of the post I was ready for the rest of the story. ;)Anyway, I'll be praying you heal quickly. And ditto to Snyder, sneeze very softly.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Thanks. Y'all are too kind. I shall strum on my mandolin, try not to sneeze, hang boxing gloves in my car, and plot my next book complete with torturous death for a surgeon. I should feel better in no time.

Catherine West said...

Ya knows...
Na, never mind...
I couldn't even read the end of this post, I am so squeamish...
I have had some run ins with the good ole skin cancer myself. If you have any other suspicious looking spots, if they don't have to be surgically removed, ask your doc about Aldera. It's a cream that you rub on the spot. It kills the cells and the spot disappears.
Poof! You're done.
But they only use it for certain types of spots.
Darn sun. Didn't our parents know any better than to send us out there without sunscreen?
{We won't talk about the high school years of baking in baby oil...)
Heal up quck!

Anonymous said...

Just glad they caught it B! and you're so beautiful it won't matter...if it scars,,,you know, they give you character...

Anonymous said...

Praying for you, that the skin will heal surprisingly well. Glad it wasn't melanoma. Take care!

Dineen A. Miller said...

Hey Brandilyn,
I'm sorry you had to go through this. I'm on the way to the skin doctor myself soon, and praying I'm cancer free. Runs in the family. So, thank you for sharing this. It's helpful, believe it or not. I'm praying for your healing, dear lady. Have a great weekend!

Lynette Sowell said...

Ow. That's all I can say, besides I'm praying for you. Oh, that and when a doctor dictates this stuff and I have to type it, it never sounds this interesting. Or vivid.

JenLo said...

Wow, you'd think that since the docs do this every day, they could come up with some type of filling for the nose hole-ya know, like the dentist does when he drills a hole in your tooth--he doesn't just leave it!

Karmyn R said...

Okay - great story and now I am going to wear my sunscreen EVERY DAY!!!

Read this in the B.C. Carnival.

Malissa said...

I'm glad they found it in time and that you can still count your blessings!

Reading the blogging chicks.