Monday, November 06, 2006

Out, damned spot!

So today I went to see my lovely plastic surgeon to find out what he thought of the groovy little age-spot-turned-nasty-angry-red-thing on my cheek.

He poked and prodded, got out his large magnifying glass and had a good look, poked and prodded some more, and finally gave me his verdict.

He said it looked most like a type of pre-cancer associated with sun damage called Actinic Keratosis - which can sometimes manifest as a slightly raised red bump like mine... but... because it literally appeared overnight, that gave him more cause for concern.

He told me there were two things he could do. Either take a sample of the whatever-it-is, send it off to be analysed and then go from there or... cut the whole thing out right now. "It would only take about 20 minutes," he said, "I could do it now for you if you like..." Gulp!

It was quite a surreal experience. I suddenly realised I have never in my life had any sort of treatment which involved cutting or stitches. Never broken a bone, never cut myself badly, never needed any sort of surgery for anything. It was quite a scary experience climbing up onto the big couch thingy, waiting to have some guy you've only just met slice open your face!

He started off by drawing around the whatever-it-is with a felt tip pen, and then (I think) drawing the much longer cutting line across my cheek. He got me to "smile - hard!" so that he could figure out where to do the cut so that the scar would disappear into my smile-lines, and then he drew a few more lines with his pen.

Next he got out this massive syringe (which I only saw out of the corner of my eye - I wasn't about to actually look at it!) and prepared to numb a considerable part of my face. Ow! I hate injections! It's silly really isn't it? Because they don't really hurt that much, not in the grand scheme of things - I think it's more the "ick" factor of knowing someone's sticking some great sharp needle into your flesh, rather than the level of the actual pain itself.

Once my face was freakily numb, he and his very nice nurse set to work. I had my eyes firmly shut by this point, because there was no way I wanted to see any of the "tools" he was about to use on me. They put a pad over my eyes and a bib around my neck, and he swabbed my face with salt water before he began. I could feel him pressing on my face, and I think I could sortof feel him making little cuts around the whatever-it-is as he worked his way around it. There was one point when I felt a tiny sharp pain, so he stopped and injected that bit again, and then I guess he started working around the other side to give that area time to go numb.

Then he told me I would feel some pressure as he removed the whatever-it-is - which I did - and then he started to cauterise the blood vessels with a little bzzzt-bzzzt tool which passes an electrical current between two points and stops the bleeding. It was not an entirely pleasant sound, but at least I couldn't feel (or see) anything.

After that I felt quite a bit of vague tugging and could hear little snipping sounds as he stitched up the wound - apparently I have 14 stitches! They must be very tiny! And then he stuck pieces of light-brown medical tape across the wound and told me it was all done. Yaay!

I took a look in the mirror and although my face looked a little puffy as a result of the injections, the tape was so neat and tidy, and blended so well with my skin, you would have been hard-pressed to even notice it!

He's told me that the cut he made is quite long because a long cut will scar much less and heal much better than a short cut. I guess it's because he must have removed a piece of skin (and however much flesh underneath) at least the size of my thumbnail, so he has to somehow stitch that back together without having the skin to do it. Goodness knows how he did it, but I guess a long cut would make sense. I don't think I'll look for a while...

In fact I realise I didn't even think about asking to look at the whatever-it-is, once it was no longer part of my face, so I will never know how large it was, and I don't think I really want to know actually :)

I can't let it get wet for at least 48 hours, I have to watch out for "weeping" (it, not me!), and if I have any problems I have to call them straight away, any time day or night. Great service!

So there you go. My first experience under the knife! Heh. I have to go back in a week's time to get the stitches taken out, and maybe by then the results of the analysis of the whatever-it-is will have come back and we'll know whether or not it was THE BIG C, or if it was just a funny old age spot. We shall see...

Part 3 - Stitches come out, results are back, is it cancer?

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