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This is the Last Picture of Me You’ll See for a Long Time

My little cancer baby on the end of my nose surprised everyone but me. I was awake through the whole MOH out-patient surgery. With my nose numb, the cancer surgeon took a dime size divot off of the tip and carried his new extraction into the other room to observe under a microscope.

Thirty minutes later he came back, surprised, and said, “Well, it is a little bigger than it looks, I need to widen my divot.”

Yikes! When he left, I dug an Ativan out of my purse and ate it. I barely remember the next time he entered but he said something about needing to get more, needing clear margins, and that I have some abnormal cells, too, that he thinks he will leave, but I need to watch.

He left again. I popped another pill (I think)

Finally, after three excavations, I was led down the hall to the plastic surgeon who excitedly said, “Well that baby is a little bigger than we expected. Wow!” He was impressed and savoring a challenge. Good surgeons love to operate and practice their craft. Tolerating humans to exercise their artistry is just a necessity. I was a blank canvas both figuratively and mentally.

Unlike many docs, I do remember this guy was personable and funny as he asked me what music I wanted to listen to during the operation (I picked Motown) and if I wanted a skin graft or a flap-over. With one eye open to get him in focus, I asked slurred questions, tried to weigh the pros and cons of each procedure, and willed myself to make an unresearched, forever life-changing decision … then, I left it up to him and fell back asleep.

When I awoke, 40+ stitches later, and looked in the mirror they handed me, I gasped. The flap-over starts between my eyes and makes its way down into an upside-down question mark at the end of my nose.

The Next Four Days

For the next few days, in a drug induced coma, I slept sitting up to keep the blood from pooling, lopsided, in my cheeks. My face was literally black and blue with red swollen eyes. When the day came for the unveiling of the nose bandage, the family gasped upon seeing my surgery scar for their first time. They all tried to sound reassuring and optimistic, but when the dermatologist’s office called a few days later and said they wanted me to put chemo cream on my nose to make sure they got it all…well, even my husband started to worry and missed a good night’s sleep.

Now the jokes begin. “Well,” I say, “I always thought I would die glamorously in an airplane crash or motorcycle wreck but not from nose cancer.” And then I follow with, “Yeah, the kids will talk about mom and say she was always sticking her nose into other people’s business, and it finally got her.”

Just before posting this blog, Dr. Jennings Boyette’s nurse took my stitches out. And just as the plastic surgeon promised: it is healing remarkably well. I even received, in the mail, a hand-written reassuring note from this skilled and personable plastic surgeon (with his cell number!). Now that is remarkable.

See you in three months.

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