Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Skin Cancer Redux

If you want to catch up, click and read:
When I discovered the first occurrence back in 2010.

Some follow ups from surgery to remove cancer.

Further education and experience.

Using topical chemotherapy

The experience motivated me to seek out good brands of sunscreen, so you can read and enjoy the fruits of those labors here. 

When all of this was going on, the doctor told me that I was at a very high risk for a return visit from this type of cancer. And I was going along fine for several years.  I would diligently point out any marks, bumps or dis-colorization on my skin to a doctor and, until recently, was always told it's nothing to worry about.

But a few months ago, the doctor examining a suspicious spot on my neck said, "Hmmm. I'd like the lab to take a closer look at this to be sure." I agreed and let her take a punch biopsy to send in for testing.

The results came back positive. As in, I had cancer again. Once again, I was reassured that the type that I have is very slow-growing and benign, but the suggestion was to have it removed along with a margin of healthy surrounding tissue to ensure we removed it all.

I didn't take a picture of the offender, since it looked literally like a fat freckle or a pale mole. Now, I really wish I had. It didn't look alarming to me; not as much as some of the other spots I'm sporting. And I have plenty of those that are friendly. It just goes to show I need a trained eye to spot the bad stuff.

This is a picture of the same area after the punch biopsy was taken.

 Looks harmless, right?

This looks ten times more gory than the original 'mole' did.


I was scheduled to have it removed but had to delay the surgery because I was in a play and didn't want to deal with hiding the bandage during the run.  But once the show closed, I was able to go in and have it removed finally.

BEFORE
 I was a little bit nervous, even though i had been through it before.  I just didn't enjoy the idea of someone taking a chunk of flesh out of my neck.

By the time I was in the doctor's office, the wound you saw above had completely healed and she couldn't find the spot in question. Fortunately, I had these pictures in my phone, so I pulled them up and showed them to her, which helped her locate the tiny biopsy scar.

I explained at this time that I taught exercise and was very active in general. I mentioned this because it was an issue the time before. My first doctor cautioned me that I couldn't exercise for about ten days or risk interfering with the formation of a nice scar.  I told her I was less concerned about a 'pretty scar' and more concerned about giving up my livelihood for almost two weeks.  So she gave me another option which was a large gaping hole left without sutures. She wasn't happy that I was opting for an ugly scar, but I honestly didn't mind.

So this time, I brought up the same question.  In this case, since the punch biopsy seemed to remove a healthy margin already, we could opt today for a smaller margin, which I agreed to. It would mean that she'd dig less deep and the healing would be much quicker and more forgiving of my lifestyle.

She will send the tissue to the lab again and they will verify that we did indeed remove a margin of healthy tissue all around the cancer. And even if we didn't, her suggestion was that we wait and see if it grows and materializes as a cancerous 'tumor' again before going back to re-remove it.

We were all happy because this procedure took half the time of what we had planned so my doctor and her nurse were both able to take a long coffee break and enjoy this beautiful sunny day.

They sent me off with a bandage and a smile and a little kit for caring for my wound.
AFTER

My understanding is that it is typical for people like me, who had abused the sun in their youth but got wise as an adult, to have an average of 1 - 5 occurrences of this type of carcinoma. I've had two so far, so I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for numbers 3, 4 and 5.

UPDATE: Day 2 post surgery --

Once I'm dry, after my shower, I remove the bandage and wash it using a sterile cotton swab and hot soapy water. Then I use another to apply a layer of petroleum jelly and a big bandage. It seems to be healing fine. I have another seven days of doing this and then I go back to have the sutures removed.

UPDATE: Day 4 post surgery --

I just got a message from the doctor. The lab was going to look at the biopsy of flesh they removed to ensure we got enough margin of healthy tissue surrounding the cancer or if we'd have to go back in someday.  The result...

"I am happy to let you know that the pathology showed that your skin cancer was completely removed. Nothing else has to be done at that site. I hope it is healing well. Let me know if you have any other questions or concerns. Let the dancing continue!"  YAY!!  

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