I have received my first guest post. T. Edward Westen is a fellow blogger, and a correspondent of my close acquaintance. Although we have never met, we consider each other to be good friends. He lives in the USA, hence some of the spelling differences. This is a genuine account of his experience of skin cancer treatment, written as it happened. He writes about the events with a wry humour, though I have no doubt he faced it with stoicism. If you would care to comment, please do so. He will be able to reply to your comments himself.
If you would like to look at his blog, here’s a link. It is very different to the post he has sent for publication here.
Wrianewstoryfdhd –written contemporaneous to the event(s)
By T. Edward Westen
One has to wonder what I was thinking when I wrote the title a couple of weeks go while waiting for an appointment with my shrink. Not even the Android self-correct/auto-correct figured out anything that makes sense. However, I do have a title now: WAITING TO GET SKINNED. You see I am in the dermatologists’ office waiting for skin cancer surgery to make sure the nurse practitioner removed all the squamous cell carcinoma which was all taken when she removed a mole from my right temple a few weeks ago. So as I wait to get called in for surgery, the title of this record sort of sums up my state of mind: wrianewstoryfdhd.
I followed a young woman back through a maze of closed doors to one that is open. She, a medical assistant, gave me a clipboard with consent and denial of responsibility forms and perched me on a kind of adjustable highchair/operating table which makes for a precarious writing platform. She then immediately left the room. What does one do with the clipboard and pen now that the forms are completed and signed? If I drop either of them, I will fall and break my neck trying to retrieve it.
After nine or ten minutes, a second medical assistant comes in the room and takes the clipboard, pen, and my eyeglasses in preparation for giving me a local. Locals are very similar to bee stings, save locals stop hurting very quickly as they contain one of the many varieties of “*…*cains” which numb one without getting one high. Whereas a bee sting can hurt or throb for hours unless one puts a dab of wet baking soda on it, for bees do not provide any of the “*…*cains but use venom instead. If you think about it, a bee sting is simultaneously attempted murder and suicide by the bee. If a bee were ever to survive attempting to murder a human being, if the bee could communicate the pain of losing her stinging implement to other bees, and if bees were ever to control their tempers, then perhaps bees would devise a new method of attack. But that is a lot of ifs.
The surgeon came in. He was followed by another tall, dark, and white-coated man whom he introduced has his assistant. I wondered if the hole left by the nurse practitioner was big enough for two men and immediately concluded it was not, so the assistant must be an informant from some government agency. The only question is which government. Since the cancer in the mole developed roots the surgeon told me he is going to have to go deeper as well as broader around the nurse’s work. The surgeon assured me that he has done this thousands of times and did not just see this on YOUTUBE. After his initial harvest, it will take up to 30 minutes before he knows if he has to gouge out (my words, not his) more. At the end, I will have an upside down T-shaped scar. I guess having a brand on one’s temple isn’t the end of life as I know it. It could be only a minor talking point. If I were fifty years younger, I would be thinking about ways to get female attention and hopefully their interest, or at least sympathy. Wonder why that thought crosses my mind?
I noticed that the wall clock in this room stopped at 11:49:43. I wonder if that is AM or PM? If it is PM there are 10 minutes and 17 seconds left. Left for what? Left until what?
Aside from this interlude in dermatological hell, it has been a quiet day. The second medical assistant assures me that the shots to administer the local are the worst part of the procedure. She apparently never had to wait fully conscious for surgery with a wall clock mimicking the doomsday clock set by scientists counting down to the end of the world by nuclear holocaust. To take serious liberties with a commercial from the last century for United Nero Colleges, A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING.
The initial surgery to remove around and under where the mole had been took 30 seconds. Stopping the bleeding took another 5 seconds. A third medical assistant then put a temporary dressing on the wound and I am now allowed to sit in a less precarious chair. A chair that allows me to put my feet on the floor and sit with normal posture. This semblance of normalcy is welcome, even if it is to be short lived. Changing positions, however, reminded me of the time of day.
Being at floor level and experiencing the regular afternoon effects of the diuretic I take for high blood pressure, I wandered about in search of a restroom – those little white pills make me want to empty my bladder this time of day: so I know it is near on 3:00 in the afternoon. There are a lot of doors, most of which are marked examination, or are open and show evidence of all sorts of human activities save the one I am interested in. I finally open an unmarked door and find a woman working a computer. Without my having to ask, she said “Behind you.” Sure enough, that door opened to an appropriate venue for my needs so all is well for another little while until the little white pills kick in again.
My appointment here was for 2:30. While I have been here only 30 minutes by my bladder clock it seems like a lifetime. To put it another way “wrianewstoryfdhd.”
Thank goodness for devices. While on airplane mode I was able to write this record of my travails, photocopy the forms I signed and largely distract myself from the fact I could hear crunching noises in the 30 seconds of surgery. It had to be his implements rubbing against each other and not his implements against my skull. It had to be. However, not actually able to feel anything where the surgeon was working, who knows. At least the surgeon didn’t say “OOPS.”
I figure twenty more minutes and they will be back at it cutting or stitching.
I normally use a word processor on a desk top computer for writing. However, I am slowly getting the hang of using the writing app and its anticipation of what I will write next from what I am writing. I would love to see the flowchart for the anticipatory part of the program. It has to have many recursive subprograms.
The doctor’s assistant or informant came back with a smile on his face. The cancer is gone. The surgeon took what I had left away. The second doctor took a photo of the open wound then drew on me for the closing. I think they will cut more to have something to stretch across the hole from where the primary surgeon took my flesh to check to see if he has removed all the cancer.
The local wears off quickly so the second med assistant came in and repeated the bee sting procedure. If anything it was more painful as she had to broaden the area to be numbed.
The surgeon did the underlying stitching and his assistant stitched up the top layer. I knew the hole they dug was deep, but did not imagine they would need two layers of fill to close it. During the stitching I learned they did the research with a couple of engineers on the suitability and qualities of the material used for stitching. Their research updated a 30-year-old paper that was the only published paper on suture materials. The primary doctor got two publications out of it. It seems the fight against dogma (doing thing the way they have always been done) is still ongoing. I remember the struggle of the PhD program at The University of Rochester in the mid to late 60s against both the classical descriptive and behavioral dogmas. Here we are almost fifty years later, and rebellion against dogma is still going on even if the struggle has moved to dermatology.
The third med tech cleaned up the mess, bandaged the now stitched-up, former gaping hole in my right temple, and told me to use Vaseline when I change the dressing with a band aid to keep the stitches from sticking to my skin and necessitating having to tear out my skin with the stitches when they remove them. The stitches come out a week from tomorrow.
I took photos of the hole and the stitching and sent them to my friend Julie who is a nurse specializing in wound care. Julie replied in a text saying I should tell people I finally had my right horn removed.
Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. Did I mention Wrianewstoryfdhd?
EPILOG– one week plus eighteen hours and twenty two minutes, but who is counting?
I got to the dermatologist about twenty minutes early and they took me in right away. A young woman named Katie, the fourth med tech, took out my stitches and did a fine job of it—no pain, a little sensation from time to time, but not pain. I have noticed that when something in a medical office, hospital, or similar establishment is going to hurt like the dickens someone tells you “you will feel some pressure,” or, “this may be uncomfortable.” But my favorite is “take a deep breath.” I would actually rather they tell me the truth, to wit “this is going to hurt like hell” and offer me a wooden stick to bite on, preferably one without bark. Much to my delight, the young woman who took my stitches out on Tuesday morning said, “I may hurt you a little. Let me know if it is too much.” I am very bad at remembering names. I suspect all those years of having to memorize 150 to 300 names for large lecture classes burned out my name memory circuits. However, her name is Katie and I will remember her name and love her for her honesty forever. Even though she has numerous face piercings to disguise how attractive young women can be.
Katie told me I only needed to keep the scar covered at night for about a week, least I mess it up rolling about in the dirt or bed sheets at night. I took the dressing off, finally, this morning and cleaned it up with alcohol pads to get the residue from the tape off. I am sorry to report I do not think I will be cast in a horror film or as a German military officer who once fought duels with swords, unless they apply a lot of makeup to make it look much worse. Once it finishes healing, I suspect it will not even be noticeable. So much for using it in a pickup line.
I was out of the dermatologists’ office before my scheduled appointment—honest.