Earning a Medical Degree One Illness at a Time

You know, as soon as this whole business with my melanoma has blown over, I can’t help but wonder what other crap bit of luck is going to drop in my lap. Maybe I shouldn’t wonder too hard, hmmm? Especially since Sparring Partner’s dad has been feeling under the weather; or since my dad is recovering from a crushed vertebra; or since two year olds are prone to all kinds of accidents…

My second follow up with the plastic surgeon was a couple of days ago. I was looking forward to this one because it meant getting the stitches out of my foot. I had no idea that the stitches were causing me so much discomfort until they came out. My foot had healed up so well that they were ripping my skin back up again with every step. In fact I think they were in too long since the resident had to open a third set of pick-ups when the first two he tried were too dull to remove a piece of blue nylon that had become embedded under the skin.

Oh, you’re shuddering at the thought?? Trust me, I had a death grip on the exam table, nails dug in deep, and my head averted to keep myself from kicking him in the face as part of an automatic reflex to watching some one picking at the sole of my foot with a foot long pair of sharp tweezers.

The tagaderm (a transparent film dressing) is still in place over the donor site. I was told that eventually it’ll come off on its own and the site will still be red and raw. Funny isn’t it, how long it’ll end up taking to heal, huh? Another fact I wasn’t made aware of by the oncologist or surgeon. These were the EASY wounds.

As for the MM site? It’s still ugly, but getting better. It’s sore, especially in the morning, but at least the swelling in my ankle goes down by then. Oh, I didn’t mention that earlier, did I? Yes, my right ankle swells and gets painful by the end of the day. Apparently there was significant damage to the vessels and my lymphatic system needs to figure out a new way to move fluid around the site.

As for the good news, at least 80% of the graft took. I didn’t ask what will happen with the area that didn’t. I’d ask in two weeks when they asked I return, but I didn’t schedule that appointment. I walked past the desk without a second look. Sparring Partner suggested I go back in a month instead.

You’ll have to check out my “Cost of Healthcare” page. I’ll have that updated soon. Here I was just thinking a month ago that overall, our out-of-pocket expenses were way less than an annual insurance premium plus copays and deductibles. Alas…the kids didn’t need to go to college anyway. Look where it got me.

Drib. Drab.

I tried this because it said it was “created especially for adult skin”.

Yeah, that would work except I don’t have adult skin. I have teen-ager’s skin: a t-zone and zits.

Crazy thing is, I’ve tried other products from this manufacturer and I’ve hated them all. Glutton? Meet Punishment. My dear husband likes the creamy facial cleanser. He uses it on his backside when he gets chaffed from the heat. But don’t tell him I told you

I then tried this stuff. Thrilled, I tell you. A bit drying, but with an oil slick like I’ve got going on, I need all the tar-ball cleaning up I can get.

Sadly, every time I look at the name, I think of poor, dead Billy Mayes: “Don’t just get clean; get OXY clean!! *ssssnnorrrt*”

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So I bought a set of measuring spoons from Target a few weeks ago. Aitch broke my set while helping me make pancakes one morning. That girl is like a pink, tutu-wearing Hulk. She just doesn’t know her own strength! Just tonight, she was sitting on the couch watching a movie and nursing one of those take-n-toss sippy cups full of milk. All of the sudden, after being quiet to the point of almost nodding off, she gasped and jumped. I quickly figured out that she had somehow managed to pull the lid off with her teeth sending the cold milk right back into her face. I laughed at her, of course.

Anyhoo, Sparring Partner didn’t like the set I got so I had to return them. I handed the spoons and the receipt to the cashier at the customer service counter and she couldn’t get the scanner to recognize the bar code. She asked if I had a check from the account I purchased them with. Yes, but I told her I’m not giving her one just for that (I’m not tearing out one of my checks when she has the stupid receipt right in front of her). She said that she won’t be able to process the return since the receipt was so faded.

I didn’t say anything, but fumed quietly while she eventually keyed in the numbers from the receipt and handed me change, a bit snottily I might add. I was tempted to tell her that the receipt hadn’t “faded”. It was because there wasn’t enough ink in the register to give a quality print out. Not my fucking problem.

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I have another appointment with the plastic surgeon Wednesday. I’m hoping he’ll take the stitches out of my left foot even though he didn’t put them in. He’s kind of an asshole, before you assume that of course he would. I also am looking forward to getting the tagaderm off the back of my thigh covering the graft area. It sticks to the toilet seat and that’s a bit disconcerting if you think about it.

I’m still limping, but not as noticeably. I’m still quite squicked out when it’s time for changing the wound dressing and glad Sparring Partner is willing. He told me that he’s taking good care of it because he wants to be able to use my leg as a coaster once it heals. That and the ass-chaffing…wow. It’s hard to believe he’s allllll mine. Till death do us part and all that jazz, wouldn’t you know.

Instead of Pictures…

Maybe once it starts to heal up and not look like a giant eel took a bite out of my leg and left a black, festering wound, I’ll post pictures here. However, until then I figure it might be easier on the eye (and stomach) to just post the link to a new set I created on my Flickr account.

Yes, I have Flickr. Don’t you? And if you do, how come I’m not stalking you there as well?? Uppity asshole.

This is the link then. Now you have a choice and sometimes even the simple choices are really nice to have.

My Cancer: A set on Flickr.

I Did Not Escape So Easily

My follow-up appointment to my surgery was yesterday. I was SO excited about it because it meant finally getting the plaster splint removed, letting the surgical site heal, and just moving on. Bye-bye, Cancer! Pfffft!!

I was excited about finally getting to take a shower. Shaving my legs that were resembling a tarantula’s. Washing away the week of bed-ridden stink. Wearing shoes; REAL shoes, not Crocs (actually just Croc, since I could only wear one shoe). Returning the walker and the crutches.

What did I say earlier? Bye-bye, Cancer? Pffffft?

I wasn’t prepared – at all – for my appointment yesterday, which was a follow-up with the plastic surgeon. I guess what I saw on the bottom of my other foot was what I thought I would see on my leg. I was thrilled when the nurse started removing the splint without the doctor even there. She unwrapped the compression bandages and then carefully cut away the padding from my shin and eased the plaster cast from the back of my leg, pausing briefly when the gauze seemed to have stuck to the site.

She picked it away from what was holding the gauze: a staple. A staple that was connecting my skin to a sponge. There was a sponge stapled to the back of my leg. A round sponge. The staples pulled on my skin to create unnatural and gruesome wrinkles. I was shocked but fascinated. I took a picture and sent it quickly to Sparring Partner who was in the lobby with the kids.

The surgeon came in shortly and picked up the staple-removing pliers and lifted my foot to his lap. I awkwardly turned my leg so he could reach first one side and then the other, plucking at the staples as I bit my lip in pain. One of the staples was stubborn, he picked at it and I yelled OUCH! and quickly apologized as he halted the torture briefly to almost glare at me.

Finally the staples were out and I fanned my face with my hand. He asked if I was going to faint. I said no, that I had just gotten really hot. I wish I had fainted. The pinching of the pliers and the quiet “click” against the staples was sickening. He pulled the sponge away and a wadded mess of bloody gauze lay underneath. I turned my head away as he removed it. I’ve never shied away from gore, but this was too much.

When I looked again, he was examining his work and I gasped and said, “That looks terrible! ….no offense…” He ignored me and picked up a tiny pair of scissors and snipped an overhang of graft skin. I felt nothing. I said it looks like a shark bite. He replied he’s seen one and yes, the site does look like a shark bite; a very small one, he amended. Small. The size of my palm. I took another picture with my phone. And then I said, “So. This is what malignant melanoma can do…” He nodded sagely.

He cleaned the wound, added some ointment, which because of the depth of the wound, most nerves were gone and I never even felt, covered it with a pad, packed it again with gauze and wrapped it all back up again in a compression bandage. He told me I could shower. I asked what’s the best way to cover it during the shower. Oh, no, he said, you will change this every day and can leave it uncovered for your shower (!!!!). I’ll see you in another week, he said, and walked out.

I have pictures, but quite frankly, they are awful. I will post them, but not today. I am still trying to wrap my head around everything. I wasn’t prepared for being incapacitated for a week. But mostly, I wasn’t prepared to see what I have seen. I guess that’s what I get for thinking this whole MM went too smoothly for me: diagnosed and removed with negative secondary biopsy results. Smooth sailing…I knew I would have a scar. I expected something similar to what was on my foot. A vertical line or something less invasive. But to see that hole in my leg. Well, it upsets me even now to think about it so that’s why I’ll wait to show you another time.

The Salad

I sit next to her, eating a salad. A nothing special salad. It has croutons, red onions, a couple of slices of tomatoes and ranch dressing. She picks out the croutons as I eat. She barely avoids my stabbing fork and picks up an onion ring delicately between her finger and thumb and eyeballs it. She sees a sliver of it on my fork just as I pop in it in my mouth. “Yummy!” I tell her. She takes a bite, chews, and grimaces. She removes the offending vegetable from her mouth and flicks it onto the table. I shrug my shoulders at her. She’ll taste about anything so I can’t complain.

She picks up the tomato slice and eats it like a mini-watermelon, taking bites out of the fruit and leaving the rind abandoned on her plate. “Big bite!” she demands. I load up some smaller pieces of lettuce onto my fork and present it to her. “No. Biiiig bite!!” I return the fork to my salad and spear one more piece of lettuce that’s bigger than the others. Aitch deems it presentable and chomps on the fork and chews it up.

I also take another bite and turn to smile at her, enjoying the interaction. She looks at me and I see her eyes move to my mouth as it chews. She reaches for her napkin, always present, on the table and then carefully wipes what must have been a little ranch dressing from the corner of my mouth. As she does so, her eyes shift from my mouth to my eyes and gives me a big smile of accomplishment and she puts down the napkin, satisfied that my face is respectable again.

And in that moment, I realized she someday will probably have a child of her own (at least I truly hope she will), and I pray I am there for that moment when she wipes the face of her child gently, efficiently, with a small smile on her lips and love in her eyes. And in that following moment, a tear escapes from my eye but I brush it quickly away so that no one will see.

*Tickle Tickle!*

I have graduated from the walker to crutches.

I have also promoted myself from socks to croc (just one since the other foot is still wrapped and splinted), thanks to the removal of what must have been nearly 53 yards of wadded up gauze from the arch of my foot which was replaced with a simple gauze pad.

If this is how the “small” surgery site looks, I can’t wait to see the wide excision. Should be quite goryrific!

Uprooted

I hate this plant. I don’t even know what kind it is. It sits in the corner of the room by the sliding deck doors. It always seems to have yellow and dying leaves. I haven’t repotted it since I got it so the soil is poor. Whenever I water it just a little, it sieves right through and leaks out onto the floor.

It doesn’t flower. I hardly can tell it grows except I did take a cutting and plant it, with success. The cutting rooted and was potted and sits on a side table away from its parent plant. It seems a bit healthier, but it hardly catches my attention when I walk by it a half dozen times a day, every day.

Every once in a while, I’ll turn it so it can readjust its lean towards the sun. But other than that and watering it once every couple of weeks (if it’s lucky), I ignore it. I – as I said initially – hate it.

So why do I keep it? Why not just pitch it out into the field in my backyard and see if the deer will enjoy it?

Why not, indeed.

It’s the plant that welcomed me home from my first D&C five years and eleven months ago.

It represents death, sorrow, loss. It lives with little care or attention from me. Which may be why I despise it all the more.

I am the face of Miscarriage, of Stillbirth, of Infant Loss.

#1094