It’s never pleasant to have surgery, but there are times when gratitude is the requirement of the day. That is how I felt sitting in the waiting room of a Mohs Surgery Center.
Mohs surgery is almost exclusively for skin cancer. With the use of a microscope, the surgeon is able to remove all of the margins thus reducing the chance of reoccurrence to practically nil. That is wonderful to hear for those who get the cancer diagnosis.
I was sent here by my plastic surgeon. He had removed a cylindroma from my forehead. The scar was hardly noticeable and all seemed fine, but unfortunately he didn’t get all the margins and it grew back, so he sent me to see a very nice doctor in this field of specialized surgery. However, my insurance denied the Mohs surgery and we had to go with a similar technique because my progressive cylindroma was not suspected to be cancerous. Mohs surgery is very expensive so insurance companies are not about to pay for it for a cylindroma even if it is on my forehead. They did however pay for the removal of the precancerous tissue on my lip. It was done by my plastic surgeon twice and is currently still healing.
Today’s surgery was an excision. It is a similar surgery, but leaves a slightly larger scar. So no small horizontal one like before, but a large vertical one. I was not happy about having a large scar on my unspoiled forehead. Botox injections for my Dystonia had made it smooth and taut. One tiny scar was bad enough. Now, I was to have this huge imperfection. After everything I had been through in my life, my face had been spared the outward appearance of injury. The car collision which led to head, neck and neurological injuries, thankfully did not leave any facial scars. Now, this cylindroma, tender to the touch, was going to erase all that and cost a pretty penny to boot! Despite the facts, it will look like I had skin cancer surgery. Wearing bangs are now mandatory. They will serve as camouflage to hide this irony.
The surgeon took what he thought was the complete tumor and I went to sit in the waiting room with the other patients. Based on what the doctor told me about his practice, I presumed they all had skin cancer. My situation was unique. It wasn’t easy-going through this with my dystonic spasms, but we worked around it with no problems.
All the patients had long waits, so we started chatting about our surgeries. Precancerous, basal cell carcinoma, melanoma. Just as I was about to feel relieved, they called me back. He didn’t get all the margins and had to go deeper. So back I went and we did it again after which I went back to the pleasant waiting room.
I could hardly feel sorry for myself. It was going to leave a permanent scar, but It wasn’t because of cancer. Just a pesky growth with tentacles that if I had let go would have gone deeper and possibly wider. That would have meant a deeper surgery with more tissue and skin removed leaving a dent along with a nasty scar.
With the exception of a young man and woman, the people in the waiting room were seniors with the tell-tale signs of a life in the sun. Maybe it was the wisdom of their years or resignation, but they seemed to be taking it all rather well. We sat in comfy chairs listening to classical music, and watching the pink coral swaying rhythmically in a large saltwater fish tank. Sipping on complementary coffee and eyeing a plate of cookies, I waited for the test results. It had already been several hours. My stomach was calling for lunch. I took a protein bar and a bottle of water from my bag.
Finally, it came. All clear. The next step was to get stitches. The surgery site looked like a big red harlequin diamond. Pretty gross and kinda horrifying. Getting stitched up was uncomfortable, but it wasn’t until 5:00 in the evening that I began to feel the pain of the incision. Advil wasn’t touching it, so I took the pain med they gave me and went to bed.
As I lay in bed I reflected on the day. This was going to be a long drawn out process of wound care and healing. The scar would take three months to begin to look better and the healing pains could be up to a year or more, but it would heal. I was sad about the scar, however, I was sadder still when my thoughts turned to Heather.
Heather was a dear friend of mine who loved to sunbathe. She was diagnosed with melanoma and like lava from a volcano, the cancer overtook her and in what seemed like an instant, she was gone.
My cylindroma was benign. I don’t have to worry that it will return. This chapter of my life will close with me going on to deal with other things. No one will grieve. No one will miss me. They won’t have to, not yet. And with time, make up and bangs, no one will notice the scar.
Sadly, the invisible scars of life affect everyone. Emotional scars. Scars that make some people abuse themselves or others. Scars that cause depression or some other mental disorder. These are harder to hide and if they do heal, it can take a lifetime.
So goodbye little cylindroma. Hello big scar. You’re just another one of my life tattoos as a warrior and survivor that say, “I’m still here and grateful to see another day.