Monday, May 30, 2016

Skin Cancer Surgery: Then and Now

Disclaimer: There are very graphic photos in this blog. I wanted to add them to illustrate the point on how serious skin cancer can be. If you do not wish to see me after surgery, please back out and do not continue.

Crazy how life works. My last blog entry was in early January. Since then, life has dealt me another blow. This time it was in the form of skin cancer. Under the above Altra buff, in the pic above, I was missing almost half of my forehead. To make matters worse, it was almost a quarter inch deep. I had known about the small, yet growing, spot on my head for over a year before my wife finally made me get it looked at. Never once did I think it would be any sort of cancer. Boy was I wrong!

Call me blind, or dumb, but I should have known. Years of living a few miles from the ocean, growing up on the beach. Follow that up by years of running on hot paved roads without using SPF of any kind. I was a walking poster boy on the "what not to do" when being outside. A small red mark that slowly started growing, then cracking open, and eventually healing. This would go on for over a year. It slowly started manipulating the skin around it. Yet, I did nothing. Just wave it off. "I'm tough", I thought. "It will go away", I would tell myself. It never did. Finally, after months of my wife telling me to get looked at, I did. They knew right away that it was skin cancer. They did a biopsy right away to determine the exact type. Again, I am about to post some graphic pics to show just how bad it was, and still is. Here is a pic of the biopsy.

The discoloration all around the open wound is also cancer. It would take two weeks to get the results back. In that time, I worried...a lot. I'll keep those dark worries to myself. But knowing it was a cancer had me in a place I didn't like to be, with thoughts I didn't want to think. Finally the results came back and I was headed to speak with the doctor. The news was good, yet crushing. I had Infiltrating Basal Cell Carcinoma. And while Basal Cell Carcinoma is the easiest to treat, I let it fester and grow on my head for too long. It had made its way down into the deeper tissues. I was then scheduled for Mohs Surgery. Luckily, I was having one of the very best perform the surgery. But still I worried...a lot.

On April, 7th, I was sitting in a chair while a nurse bombarded me with questions I can't even remember. I was nervous, sweating, and scared. My wife was with me throughout the procedure, but looked out of the window as much as possible. We were told that if they did not get all of the cancer the first time, we would be brought back in from the waiting room to take more skin and tissue. We waited for roughly an hour in a room that could only fit about 8 people. Looking at people that were easily thirty years older than me did not sit well in my stomach. When I was told by the nurses that they had to take more, I really started to worry. During the whole procedure, I was wide awake. With close to fifty shots to numb my head, they cut, snipped, cut more. When it was finally over, we waited for the results. The good news was that they got all of the cancer out. The bad news is that it took taking almost half of my forehead to do so. And because the wound was so big, other problems surfaced.

One idea was to squeeze my head as tight as possible and stitch it together. They wanted to stretch the skin to lessen the size of the wound. The problem with that was I was missing so much skin that it hurt intensely. I couldn't take the pressure once the pain medication wore off. I could not sleep, eat, drink. I constantly got sick and cried to my wife. The next day they took out the stitches to relieve pressure. Until I could see a plastic surgeon, I would keep the wound covered. My wife had the sad honors of cleaning it daily. The pic you are about to see is four days after surgery. I warn you, it is bad. So bad that it literally brings tears to my eyes looking at it.

It's been almost two months now and my head is still an open wound. My plastic surgeon felt that doing a skin graft would compromise the skin around the wound. And that later down the road, if any cancer comes back, it would be hard to deal with. We came up with a plan that no more surgeries would be needed. Something I am stoked about. Each week I go in and she does her magic. Between visits, my wife takes care of it. It's crazy how the body works. Within a few weeks the wound looked so much better, but still broke my heart when looking at it.

The above pic shows how the wound is closing. You can also see new skin forming. The final pic I am going to show you is from about two weeks ago. The difference between day four and then are night and day.

Why I am writing a blog about this? Why am I showing horrible pics in the open? Honestly....? Because this is a pain in ways a person can't even fathom. I want to show people that skin cancer is no joke. I want know that skin cancer can be deadly. I want YOU to get screened right away if you have any worries. I want YOU to NOT be me. I waited too long and now I am paying for it. I still have an open wound that needs cleaned and bandaged daily. I have to watch what I do. Walking and running is sketchy. Once the skin grows over the wound, the wound is still not healed. I cannot let any sun hit it for at least six months because the new skin can be greatly damaged. It can also take up to a year for the scar to fully heal. My life, for the most part, is slow. I try to stay happy but the headaches and pain can turn it bad in a moments notice. I know that there are so many people out there that have life much worse. And I know...well believe...that I am cancer free. But the memories are with me every second of every day. And will be for the rest of my life.

In closing, PLEASE put a strong sunscreen on when going outside. Lather your children in it. Keep them safe, and you safe for them. I'm in no way shape or form an advocate. However, I am telling you this because life is too short to deal with things you can help prevent from happening. It's been a dark dark road at times for me since the surgery. My family and some really genuine friends have helped in every way possible. But it's still hard at times. Like right now. Four o'clock in the morning...I should be in bed sleeping peacefully. Yet my mind is racing with worry, stress, and sadness for those that see me like this. Yeh....any kind of cancer just plain F-ing sucks. Thanks for reading. By the way, I do my best to keep sane. Like four milers in the rain last night. Trying to stay positive is all I can do.

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