The Big “C”

This has been one of those life changing moments when you really wish you had that Leave It To Beaver type family, surrounded by family and friends, and with that special someone in your life to lean on and support you.

My family doctor asked me if the small birthmark I had on my face was getting bigger. He sent me to a dermatologist to get it checked out. She removed a bit of it to send off for a biopsy. I had just traveled down to the Island for a two-day conference at my new job when my doctor’s office called and said my doctor wanted to see me right away. Obviously I couldn’t come in until I got back, so they made an appointment for Sunday. Some of you may know that my mother had a small lesion on her leg in 1991, which turned out to be fifth stage melanoma, and she was given less than a five percent chance of survival, so I got to freak out for the next few days, worrying about my results. Not exactly what you need on a new job. I did tell my new boss about it just so he knew why I might not be my usual self.

My doctor gave me the delightful news that it was melanoma and I was to see Dr. Anderson, the dermatologist again. Dr. Anderson failed bedside manner for sure, because she came into room, pointing an accusing finger at me, saying “that’s melanoma you know – the kind that kills you!” Nice. She said she was sending me to a plastic surgeon to make sure they got it all. I wasn’t too concerned because I figured with the way healthcare is in Kelowna, it would be months down the road to get an appointment. To my surprise and dismay, she said my appointment was for that Friday. I remembered my mother being diagnosed on a Thursday and operated on the following Saturday, so this parallel wasn’t great. With the new job I asked her what sort of post op I would have and asked if I would have scarring and so on. She said it would just need a “little bandage”. Didn’t sound too bad.

Wow, did the story ever change when I saw the plastic surgeon, Dr. Williamson, at the hospital! He explained that with these types of lesions they normally remove 5mm around the actual lesion. Having no clue what 5 mm was I asked him to show me. He drew a circle with a felt pen and then handed me a mirror. It was at least the size of a Toonie – not something you want removed from your face. Then he goes on to tell me that he has a problem with me. Normally people my age have wrinkles and saggy skin and he doesn’t have a problem finding enough skin to cover the skin he has removed, but my skin is too “youthful” and tight and he can’t find enough to cover the surgery. So then he goes into what can only be described as more of a “facelift” procedure, drawing other lines to show me where he’s going to “nip and tuck”. Scared the crap out of me.

The surgery took a lot longer than planned, I guess because of my damned youthful skin, and a couple of times it hurt like hell because he went outside the area that was frozen. No pain quite like the blade of a scalpel on tender skin. They finished up and bandaged my face up. When I saw the size of the bandage I could only hope that it was a lot bigger than the actual scar.

I ended up falling asleep with the dressing still on, so when I awoke it was soaked with dried blood and I was terrified to try and remove it, in case I broke some of the stitches. I went up to my clinic to have them remove it and put a new dressing on. While the doctor was trying to cut a new dressing he told me to go look in the mirror – the first time I had actually seen what the surgeon had done. OMG. I have this “mark of Zorro” scar that is just gross. All I could think of was how my prospective clients are going to react to this! My choice is either huge bandage or bride of Frankenstein. Not good!


Well, the doctor’s words ring true – “better a live guy with a scar than a dead guy with a birthmark”. Kind of puts it all in perspective, doesn’t it?

Not one of the most fun moments in my life.

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