Monday, May 19, 2008

Medical Surprises

I am fair skinned, and I grew up in New Mexico. As a consequence, I have had a history of a few (non-melanoma) skin cancers that were caught early...my regular dermatologist found a basal cell he had removed had recurred, behind my left ear, and he referred me for Mohs surgery last week.

The surgery kind of sounded involved compared with what I'd had done before (although it really wasn't too bad, just some stuff to do beforehand that I hadn't expected) and when I called to ask was it REALLY necessary...they told me that it was.

I called on Friday to make an appointment with a specialist in this field and they told me that nothing was available for Monday, but then when I called back today they suddenly had availability for this morning. I was even able to find someone to drive me there and back on short notice since they told me to take Valium beforehand.

They did the surgery, and after they did the initial removal, they discovered that the area was, instead of being the size of a dime, was more like the size of a quarter (!!!) and had to remove a larger area of skin than they had expected...but the second time did the trick and the results came back with clean margins. It's nice that they verify under a microscope that all the cancer cells are gone before they sew you up.

In my case today, since the area was so big they had to do a skin graft (which they took from my right forearm) to get proper coverage for it to heal. Fortunately, since the carcinoma was behind my left ear, any scarring that does occur will not be very noticeable (except maybe by my barber.)

I am on my regular days off (working the weird 6-3 rotation that I do) and I was originally scheduled to go back to work Wednesday night, but the doctor recommended a longer break if possible. "If you're in danger of losing your job, or you're losing pay, you can go back late this week. If you have a choice, I'd recommend taking a week off." I have sick leave where I work, so I'm using it, but I did get a doctor's note.

While it sucks to have a medical procedure sprung on you out of the blue, it's good to get a problem caught early on (my doc said that, left untreated, I could have eventually lost my whole left ear) AND it is good to unexpectedly get a holiday weekend off and be ordered to take it easy. (That is the main reason I'm taking in the doctor's note, in case anyone at work thinks I'm faking things....but they do have a couple days to get my shifts covered, so nobody should be too upset.)

This is one of those cases where I'm glad I followed doctor's advice, even if I originally thought it was overkill on my primary dermatologist's part.

3 comments:

Stu said...

Wow, man, how do you feel about it? Is it scary, or do you feel practical about it (y'know, focusing on the clean margins)...

Stay safe and healthy!

Suldog said...

Geez, Chuck. I'm glad it all seems to be coming out well, but you had me scared there for a few. God bless!

Chuck said...

Stu - Results were good, and the surgery has over a 99% success rate for my type of condition. I'm not worried.

Suldog - Sorry to scare you! Everything should be fine though.