Not a lot of words to share here, but a few pictures – and this reminder:
GO SEE THE DERMATOLOGIST!
I saw the good Dr. Gillen at Bon Secours Surgical Dermatology Center today to finish what we started a few weeks ago with the removal of a suspicious freckle that turned out to be malignant melanoma. (If you missed it, I detailed that experience here.) I’m not sure what I was thinking as I contemplated what would happen, but it didn’t compare to what actually took place. In retrospect, I wish I had not driven myself.
But I did, and it was fine, and here’s what happened.
With a purple Sharpie, Dr. Gillen drew a football-shaped cartoon with a circle in the middle behind my right shoulder. Then, he proceeded to cut it off my body.
I didn’t expect they’d go so deep; I didn’t expect such a large cut. In hindsight, I think I was told that they’d go 5 mm on each side to make sure they got it all; I heard “5 mm” and thought that would be the sum total of the cut.
I’ve got a good amount of internal stitches to keep some tension underneath the 16+ stitches on the outside. I will say that the process itself was slightly uncomfortable, but never painful; the lidocaine worked. The doctor and nurse were professional, courteous, personable, and able to commiserate with me at the radio’s incessant blaring of bad 90’s music (plus a little Taylor Swift).
(I am confident of this; I would choose a soundtrack other than the local drive-time top hits radio station for this sort of work, if it were up to me…)
They both left the room so I could get dressed and gather my things: I looked around, and discovered what turned out to be the most shocking part of the entire experience. Sitting unattended and rather lonely on the surgical tray was a small container full of formalin. In it floated a rather large chunk of my skin. Bloodstains – my blood – surrounded it. I stared at it, and then – carefully, and somewhat surreptitiously – picked it up for a closer look. A full quarter-inch thick, a part of me floated, now apart from me, carved out of otherwise healthy and normal-looking skin. The subcutaneous layer was most obvious, fatty and yellow. The epidermis was on the bottom, and it was so bizarre. So strange to see my skin – part of my body – floating in this little cup.
I had a bit of an existential crisis. The surgery itself didn’t bother me (even now, it’s sore, but bearable). But this removal of part of my self?
That’s given me something to think about.
(WEAR SUNSCREEN. MAKE THE APPOINTMENT WITH THE DERMATOLOGIST. I don’t want to minimize the process or the risk in any way. I’m apparently fine, today. I’ll have a scar; they removed the cancer. But – I’m at risk, and I’ll have to be checked every three months. I had a malignant melanoma. It was removed. It was NOT fun. It’s been a new challenge of stress and fear for me and my loved ones. It’s introduced a whole new awareness of mortality. All things work together for good…I’m overwhelmed and exceedingly grateful, at the same time. But I’d really rather NOT be experiencing this, and I wouldn’t wish it on you, either. So: WEAR SUNSCREEN.)