Wednesday, January 16, 2008

To Be Expected/At Least She Kept the Socks

To Be Expected

I was a teenager in the 70s. Back in those days, it was all about the tanning. About baking in the sun until you burned to a crisp, because you had to burn before you tanned and to facilitate this, you'd spray yourself repeatedly with water or use oil, thus literally frying yourself. I can't remember how many burns I've had, although I remember one particularly bad one acquired in Las Vegas when I sat too long next to a pool. I still have scars on my legs from that. You can see where this is going, can't you? Repeated burning, plus tanning, combined with a very fair complexion and I'm a prime candidate for melanoma.

I had a large mole below my left knee. Along with two other, smaller moles, it created a neat sort of triangle, just below the scar from a long-ago surgery. I liked it – it was a little bit of balance in the middle of my leg. Part of me.

In October, I went to a dermatologist for mole check. Not the first time I've done that, but it was the first time that I wasn’t sent home with a clean bill of health. My balancing mole was "suspicious" and another, on my calf, "definitely something", he said with a decidedly laissez-faire air about him. Naturally, I was less sanguine about it all and asked nervously what might happen if it was indeed melanoma. "Ah, pshaw," he said and dismissed it with a wave of his hand, "melanoma is 99% curable" (which didn't help my nerves much, as I once knew someone who fell into the 1%). So, off I went to see a plastic surgeon, who didn’t think it was melanoma (agreeing with my inner voice, which was convinced I was fine and who here doesn’t trust their inner voice?), but the only way to find out for sure was to remove the offending parties, so in mid-December, she did.

I don't know what I expected - I have friends who have had moles removed and it was a quick slice, 1-2 stitches et voilĂ , they were done. I get in there and they tell me that the freezing will feel like a bee sting. Uh-huh. FROM A KILLER BEE! ON STEROIDS!! I discover, while my eyes start sweating, my hands are clutching the armrest and I hold my breath for a really long time, because if I hadn’t been, I’d have been swearing. Vociferously. And as you know, I try to maintain a ladylike exterior at all times.

And if you’re done snorting about that last comment, I’ll continue with my story...

Then they left me alone for a bit while we waited for the freezing to take hold. At this time, despite having my composure rattled somewhat by the "bee sting" I was still fairly cool, calm and collected. This was nothing, right? I regularly have dental work without freezing, even when I do get a local, there’re rogue nerves preventing it from working and besides, I've had a chronic, painful disease for four decades with attendant hospital procedures - this is nothing. Right? Still, although I was fairly sure I wanted to watch the procedure, I decided not to, as regretting watching would be way worse than regretting not watching. And then she came back and started carving out chunks of my leg and if you are wincing a tad, protesting that my description of the procedure suffers from an attack of hyperbole, let me comment that anything that needs
two layers of four stitches each to cover a hole the size of a nickle can legitimately be termed a chunk. The second wasn't as bad. It only needed 3 (i.e., 6) stitches. And after feeling the blood run down my leg, the tugging of the sutures and listening to the doctor asking for two specimen jars (ewww) to send to pathology (more ewww), I was no longer quite as cool, calm and collected. It’s amazing how a procedure like that can take you from being self-assured and in control to being a frightened patient. Especially when you've allowed yourself to forget that minor surgery is nonetheless still freakin' surgery. Sigh. Anyway, I made an appointment to get the results, walked home, popped into the supermarket for some groceries and held it together until I come home, at which point I allowed myself a brief period of shaking.

I kept the bandage on for about a week, then was driven nuts by the itching and took one off myself. The other was a little more interesting, as I couldn't reach it. I don’t shave my legs – not only am I blonde, but it’s winter in Toronto and I need every bit of insulation I can get my hands on – and at some point, it occurred to me that maybe I should’ve. Unfortunately, the time this thought arrived was when my attendant was ripping off the adhesive bandage on my calf and doing a rather intense, extremely localized wax-job at the same time.

Spending a week and a half seeing the stitches instead of my balancing mole every time I looked down on my leg was strange. I missed my mole. Felt lopsided without it. But once I got the stitches out, I realized that there's going to be a fairly obvious scar - really, I thought plastic surgery was supposed to be less in-your-face than this - so I still have a balancing mark. Last week, I went to get the results. Good news: no cancer and inner voice notwithstanding, by the time I'd moved from the procedure room to the front desk, I realized that I was breathing properly again.

Nonetheless, I am posting a picture of what my leg looked like. I'll make the picture small-ish, as one or two squeamish people I know are likely already sitting with their heads between their knees breathing into a paper bag (the non-squeamish can click on it for a larger version and I know there’re some of you sickos out there). But y’know… getting frightened about this is good. Reminds you to always, always, always wear sunblock. Not merely sunscreen. Sunblock. Or it can be expected that you'll have chunks of your body removed.



At Least She Kept the Socks

And while we are on medical announcements. Remember last summer when my mother broke both her ankles and stewed in a nursing home for three months while they healed? And several of you knit socks for her toes? Yeah, that. She's doing it again. The bone that had the open fracture was unstable, so she had to have it fused. The surgery was this weekend, she’s doing well and hopefully going back to the same nursing home, which was quite nice. And yes, she did keep the socks and plan to use them again.

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