Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow. senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. (Just remember I'm looking through my prism which may or may not be the full story.) Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Isn’t Skin Cancer Fun!

According to the Mayo Clinic website, “Mohs surgery is a procedure used to treat skin cancer. This surgery involves cutting away thin layers of skin. Each thin layer is looked at closely for signs of cancer. The process keeps going until there are no signs of cancer. The goal of Mohs surgery is to remove all of the skin cancer without hurting the healthy skin around it. Mohs surgery allows the surgeon to be sure that all the cancer is gone. This makes it more likely that the cancer is cured. During Mohs surgery, medicine to numb the area is usually given so that you don't feel pain. Mohs surgery is also called Mohs micrographic surgery.” What they don't tell you is at the surgical center you’ll be dispensed back into a waiting room in between skin scrapping while the cells are looked under a microscope and you end up being at the place all afternoon. In my case, I couldn’t get their WiFi to work with my Kindle so it was a long afternoon. I had downloaded the psychological thriller, The Sleepover by one of my favorite authors Keri Beevis, to read. But instead I had to read medical pamphlets and get dizzy from watching fish swimming around in a giant blue tank.

It was true that I didn’t feel much after the numbing needles went around the mole site but what the Mayo Clinic website failed to explain (but I found at another site when I got home) is that after the surgery they cauterize the surgery site “with acid or hot metal or lasers. Such a procedure is naturally quite painful.” I’m here to say that ‘quite painful’ is an understand! It seemed to go on forever and ever while the doctor who was doing it kept saying “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” Had she warned me ahead of time that it was coming maybe it wouldn’t have hurt so much but even while the pain was going on she didn’t explain what she was doing until I asked. I don’t mind admitting it brought tears to my eyes.

Two days later when I could finally take the dressing off my ankle I saw a perfectly round and deep wound that is slightly smaller than a dime. (Photo above.) The ankle is a place where it’s almost impossible to put in stitches.They tend to tear out, the doctor said, and that ends up making the wound area bigger. I believe her, having had that exact thing happen on one of my recent thumb surgeries. So I have to keep it covered for a month hoping it will heal on its own. If it’s not starting to heal by my one month check up, other steps will be needed---a skin graft, hyperbaric or ultrasound therapy but I’m not going to borrow that kind of trouble…even though I can’t believe that ugly hole will heal without help. And I feel an Amazon order is in my future. Remember the bacon looking band-aids I posted a few weeks back? I'm pretty sure I'll still be having to keep the hole in my leg covered when spring and short pants are back.

I consider myself lucky because my brother had a skin cancer on his face that involved nerve damage and more than one surgeries. We both spent a lot of time in the water and sun growing up and---oops---sixty years later skin cancer shows up. Who knew back then that could happen? Back then we even drenched ourselves in baby oil and baked out in the sun to deepen our tans. I did have another cancer surgery---on the end of my nose that looked like the witch’s mole in the Wizard of Oz but being a vain woman I got into the dermatologist early-on for that one and that’s how I got my ‘teddy bear seam’ down the center of my nose.

Mohs surgery/treatment is a specialty and the doctor’s gay guy nurse was all of twelve years old. She was twenty-eight but I looked up her biography online and it was impressive. When I made the appointment at the dermatology center I was asked to pick between her and another Mohs specialist---an older guy close to retirement who started the center. “They are both good,” I was told, “but she will hold your hand more.” I thought that was an odd thing to tell a potential patient and I replied, “I don’t need hand holding. I just want this thing removed as soon as possible.” While the doctor was cauterizing the surgical site without warning I wanted to scream, “Is this your idea of hand holding?” But I didn’t. I was too busy wishing she’d given me a shot of whiskey and stick to bite down on the way they do in old black and white movies when they are about to dig a bullet or arrowhead out of someone’s shoulder. They held an old hunting knife over a fire before using it to burn the wound site to stop the bleeding. When my cauterizing was over, I made a statement about the way they did that procedure in the Old West to the nurse and he'd never heard of that. What am I one hundred and two years old? Nope. I’m guessing he really is twelve years old. As much as medicine has advanced over the past hundred years you'd think they would have found a better way to cauterize a wound, wouldn't you. At least give you a second round of numbing shots first. © 

* Photo of my mole site two days after surgery.

53 comments:

  1. Yuck! Sorry you have to go through that. I hope it's all over and healed soon.

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  2. Oh Jean, it looks painful. What an ordeal you had! You probably know this, but good nutrition (especially adequate protein intake) will help the body to heal. No guarantees of course for quick healing, but I imagine you want to optimize your chances of a good recovery.

    I'm sending healing thoughts your way, hoping for an expedited recovery. I suppose the only silver lining is that it's given you blog material, and as a public service announcement, it's a good reminder to all of us to get those moles checked out.

    Wishing you all the best,
    Carole

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    1. Good nutrition, compressions stockings and daily wound care I can do. It's the keep your leg up as much as possible during the day that is hard to do. The surgeon said 6 to 8 weeks to heal. But I'm not optimistic about that time table.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this and fingers crossed that your healing goes well.
    My sister-in-law will have this procedure done on her scalp in January. I've told her several times that I will gladly drive her to and from the hospital. She keeps saying its no big deal. I think she is scared and in denial. I will share your post with her today. Hopefully she will understand that this is a big deal.
    Once again I thank you and Happy Thanksgiving

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    1. It's hard to wrap your head around the fact that moles can kill a person, but they do. I thought wound care on my ankle is hard to do, but on the scalp will not be easy either. Let's hope they don't have to go as deep in your sister-in-law as mine was.

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  4. What an ordeal! I can't understand why they can't figure out how to make cauterizing less painful. You're right, cancer isn't fun, at all. Once a person is diagnosed, it seems to sort of hang over you. And then there's the medication, side effects and monitoring. Thankfully, much progress has been made in treating many cancers. I hope the day will come when there is a cure and treatment will be as simple as taking an aspirin!

    Oh my, when I was younger I slathered on the baby oil to deepen my tan, too. I was fair skinned and always burned. We lived in Minnesota--Land of many lakes, and being on the water really did a number on my skin. Now we pay the price, huh? Go ahead and order those bacon bandaids. Every time you put one on, it will make you smile. I hope and pray you recover quickly, Jean!

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!

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    1. It's easy to dismiss skin cancer because you can see it on the surface and it's small compare to other forms of cancer. Plus the treatments seems more straight forward and less evasive, but it can be just as deadly and spread to other parts of your body internally if they don't remove it. The kind I have takes two years to spread and at Christmas it will be the anniversary of when I first saw it and thought it was a tick. The surgeon is confident she got it all but healing on the ankle is going to keep me in the weeds for a few months.

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  5. Yikes! Well, after hearing that, I hope it's something I never have to experience -- especially in such a tender and difficult to stitch up area. We all did the baby oil stuff when we were young. We had no idea. I'd like to think we're smarter now. But amazing how long it took to catch up with us. It sounds like a horrible ordeal, Jean, and I'm glad it's more or less over, although I suppose the real day for celebration will be the day you don't have to worry about the dressing anymore. Hang in there. And try to have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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    1. I'm going to have a very nice Thanksgiving. Going to meet the newest fur baby in the family and have a full Thanksgiving buffet here.

      I'm not going to celebrate my mole removal until I no longer have an open wound. That little thing has cost a fortune and eaten up a lot to time.

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  6. I had heard that Mohs was the best surgery for that type of cancer. They sure could have warned you about cauterizing though. I am so sorry you have such a long haul ahead getting it to heal. I had a similar one on my arm and I was surprised that as deep as it was that it healed rather quickly. Wishing the same for you. Keep it clean.

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  7. I had one removed from my ear. Oh boy. I had no idea how awful it would be. When it is in a place like that they stitch the dressing to your ear so it doesn't fall off......It was over a year ago and I still have trouble sleeping on that ear.

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    1. That gives me the shivers thinking about getting stitches in your ear! But I've heard the outer edge of the ear is a common place to get skin cancer.

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  8. Oh wow, no fun! I was diagnosed with skin cancer on my cheek on my 30th birthday...they didn't do Mohs, but when the punch biopsy didn't get it all, I had to head to the plastic surgeon. And since then I have a scar on the side of my face that looks like an upside down question mark. He peeled back my cheek and scraped every bit of cancer out. And I was told there would be more skin cancers in my future, as well as being clucked at, like I was some medical oddity for developing skin cancer at such a young age. I was asked if I was EVER let inside, as a child...like maybe I had been raised by wolves or something - bwahahaha! Nope, just by Dutch parents who felt kids should be outside every day no matter the weather, for their health. "The browner the children, the healthier" was the thinking back then. Well, I am now 63 and so far so good on the skin cancer front, since the basal cell earlier in life.
    I'm sorry the doc didn't adequately prepare you for the final steps of the procedure (cauterization). I hate when that happens to me too. Doctors need to spend more time being actual patients, so they understand. I hope your ankle heals quickly and without much drama, Jean.

    Deb

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    1. I can't imagine having the skin cancer possibility hanging over you since age 30. Thankfully, whatever you're doing now has been working to keep it at bay.

      And now I understand where you got your love of hiking and being outdoors. Your parents give you a gift, having you play outside no matter the weather.

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    2. Yes, a great gift! But being thrown outside in bathing suits to play in puddles during a summer thunderstorm might have been a step too far (true story). 🤣

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    3. LoL Did you ever wonder what your parents were doing while they made you play outside id the rain?

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    4. Well, this is certainly timely. I had Mohs surgery on my face (left cheek) a week ago and again on the inside of my lower left leg yesterday. That one was just above the ankle area. Both were for early squamous cell cancers. The cheek one is a fairly long incision, about 2 inches. It ain't pretty but I don't think I'll be in any beauty pageants any time soon. The one on my leg has sutures too but I don't know how long it is because I'm supposed to keep it covered for another day. I know the doctor used electro-cautery on both (he mentioned it while he was doing it and I could hear it) but I never felt anything. In fact, both procedures were completely painless. I have some pain today with my leg, but nothing Tylenol can't handle. I'm kind of baffled why your surgery site wasn't numb. In fact, on my leg the doctor said maybe based on its location that area would probably stay numb for hours. Which it did.

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    5. I think I had spent so much time waiting between layer shaving that the numbing stuff wore off quicker than she thought and once she got started she wasn't going to stop.

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    6. The summer of 2021, I had a skin cancer removed from the lip of my lower right eyelid via Mohs. Like TexasTrailerParkTrash, I didn't feel anything, nor did I the day after that when an oculoplastic surgeon had to refashion a working eyelid for me since half mine was missing. I had already joined a FB group called MOHS surgery support group, and the members and their stories prepared me for it. Your type of healing is called "second intention" healing and many people choose this type, even on the face. It wasn't an option for me. I healed surprisingly quickly, but ankles take longer to heal, my dermatologist told me after freezing a precancer last week. I hope the healing goes well.

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    7. Thanks. All these stories of successful healings makes me happy. Never heard of "second intention" healing. I was given the choice to do it or try stitches.

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    8. I'm glad your eyelid surgery and subsequent repair went well! That's a lot to deal with, for sure. From what I remember from my oral pathology classes many moons ago, open wounds do take longer to heal because the epithelium has to migrate from the bottom up to fill it in. The epithelium in wounds that have been sutured closed just have to travel across a small distance to meet up to complete the healing. My Mohs "guy" said anything on the lower leg takes longer to heal because legs are basically "columns of water" as he put it, and the return circulation isn't as good as elsewhere in the body. That's why compression socks/hose help with some conditions.

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    9. At first I thought you thought I had eyelid surgery but I see now you were addressing Linda P.

      Got my compression stockings on.

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  9. I think we did know basting ourselves with baby oil wasn't a good idea but 'later in life' seemed soooooo far away didn't it? I don't know what's worse - the procedures, or the dread of more procedures. Was gentle massage on your foot and the area around your wound 2-3 times each day suggested to help improve blood flow and speed healing? Is there an onsite person who could help you with that?

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    1. Didn't mention massage but said blood flow was important and to wear compression socks and keep my feet up as much as possible.

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  10. My sister had the same procedure on her shin and recovery did last 6 - 8 weeks. She did have a wound care regimen that she had to follow every day and she did. Follow all of the instructions and feel better soon!
    Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving, Jean!

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  11. Well, yuck. That thing looks horrid. But better a crater than cancer.
    I know you'll do everything you're supposed to in order for it to heal properly. I keep crossing my fingers that all those long hours baking in the sun On Purpose don't come back to haunt me. (And that my olive skin helps me, too.)

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    1. I do think having olive skin helps. Both my brother and I got my mom's Irish/English skin.

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  12. dear lord that sounded awful Jean. I'm so sorry you had to go through that but I think bacon bandages will help. LOL I've never dealth with skin cancer, my husband and father have. Not fun. But I did have an open wound like that from a power washer going over my bare foot. Oh that was gross. No blood, I could just see inside. I almost passed out.

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  13. You're one of those people who run around barefoot when power equipment is being used. Ouch!!!! I'd pass out too, I could have bee a nurse.

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  14. So sorry you have to deal with this, I have no experience with skin cancer

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    1. Knock on wood. They're aren't as invasive as other types though. So I'm not complaining.

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  15. So do you go for an annual skin checkup and that was how the cancer was found on your ankle?

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    1. I do get annual skin checkups but I found this on late last fall and thought it was a tick, I picked it off and it grew back. By then it was April and I had my annual mole check coming up in Jun so I just waited until then. It's been biopsied twice---got pre-cancerous cells the first time but it wouldn't heal up so I went back for the second and that was cancerous. Then the Mohs surgery was done. The site has looked red and angry for so long I can't believe it will actually heal.

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  16. Man oh man. YUCK! But yes, a deep scooped out wound CAN heal. I had one removed from my forehead when I was about 40. Now it is a white spot that is level with my other skin. Had MOHS on my nose with invisible stitches. Recently had a scrape and burn procedure on my lower back .... had to have one of my kidults do the after care. At our age, we do heal a bit slower, yes?

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    1. I've had some burned off too. I don't know if we heal slower but it wouldn't surprise me.

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  17. Don't want to go there... mmmph! Bad enough that I had to have my big toe nail removed TWICE! And the dr. probed around way too much for my satisfaction. And without adequate pain protection too! Here's hoping this is the last episode for your poor ankle. :/

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    1. I hope so two. Wouldn't that be nice! Toe nail removal looks so painful. My husband had that done on both toes as well.

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  18. My gracious. It was hard enough to read this, let alone go through it. We do heal more slowly as we age, and places like that are even more difficult because there's less blood flow. You might remember at your first mention of this I said I'd scraped about a quarter-sized hunk of skin off the front of my leg, just above the ankle and over the bone. It still hasn't healed completed, although it's coming along and socks and boots don't irritate it any more. My doc said that another trick for speeding healing is plenty of vitamins A and C, and plenty of water. There are hundreds of links online about the best foods to promote healing; this is just one, but it gives you the idea and a place to start.

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    1. Thank you for the link! I really do need to be proactive with this one!

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  19. Oh Jean, what misery... but hopefully a complete Success and you can now put this all behind you. I'm going to the Dermatologist the first of next Month for that lump on my Forehead and to have them also examine a growth on my Stomach that is a mystery what it is or why it is there? Skin aging has so many things that happen which are benign, but it's those things with potential malignancy that cause the most concern until we have an expert's advice about it. If it's normal and no big deal, I can just live with whatever it is, unless it's so unsightly or uncomfortable that it's removal is better. May your Healing be swifter than you think and it just end up looking like a dimple in your Ankle... dimples are Cute. *winks*

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    1. I'm not vain enough to care if my ankle looks cute or dimpled. I just the intense itching and redness to go away! Good luck with your mole check.

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  20. Ruth…Ruthie…RudieNovember 24, 2022 at 10:27 PM

    Thank you for sharing your MOHS surgery saga and cautionary tale. As a fair skinned redhead (well, I use to be but now use the skills of a colorist to keep the gray away) I appreciate your info and the need for me to keep having my yearly dermatology check ups.

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    1. It's easy to think we can skip those appointments, isn't it. But we can't.

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  21. We have a couple friends who have had skin carvings annually for a while. In fairness, they're both bald and a lot of sun damage is on their head/face area. Ouch! I had no idea they wouldn't keep adding anesthetic. I hope it heals fast.

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    1. I'm guessing she either forgot or under estimated how fast the first round wore off but once the cauterization started she couldn't stop. I'm thinking that's what the "I'm so sorry" was all about. If I ever have another surgery like that I'm going to insist on more numbing shots.

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  22. Those last four anonymous comments were mine. Jean

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  23. Well, I'm glad to know all about this because, as you say, weren't we sun worshipers back in the day. I don't understand why the cauterization has not improved a great deal. Surely that is common is many surgeries. At least I'll know what to expect should something similar come my way.

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  24. Yikes! I've had both squamous and basal cell cancers removed. Not painful so much after the numbing shots. My husband had Mohs surgery on his face -- he didn't say it was hurt-y. Maybe his wasn't as deep? Anyway, I'm sorry you are having to endure this! I go for my twice/yearly check up next week. Fingers crossed.

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    1. I really think the doctor didn't realize how much of the numbing stuff had worn off and once she started with the cauterization started she couldn't stop. Good luck with your appointment. I would hate going in twice a year!

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    2. I really don't think there's any excuse for not stopping briefly to reinject to numb that area. When I had a melanoma on my upper arm 16 years ago, I had to have surgery with a wide area of excision (5 mm. in every direction, including down) as a follow up to the biopsy. When the doctor was lifting the excised tissue out, I could feel it some and told him. He immediately gave me another injection. Maybe your doctor was running behind, but that's no excuse to have a patient feel everything you're doing. Just sayin...Because of the melanoma, I go twice a year too for a full body skin check. The ones I had to have Mohs on after this last visit weren't apparent at the visit before, so I don't mind going every six months.

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    3. When I go back for my month check up maybe I'll ask why it was so painful and see what she says. My bone doctor says I have a very high tolerance for pain and he ought to know given all the surgeries he's done over the past 20 years.

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