Owies: a Progress Report

I was going to call these “before” and “after” photos, but really they’re both sort of “in the middle” selfies.

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June 5, 2018

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June 14, 2018


You couldn’t see the basal cell skin cancer on my nose, but the dermatologist did (along with a squamous cell cancer on my left temple). I go in every four months, and on every visit he burns a few pre-cancerous areas off my face. NBD, right? But about once a year he’ll find a basal or squamous cell carcinoma which must be cut out. I’ve been seeing him since I came to live in Tucson in 1998, so that’s a lot of cutting … all, to date, on my face.

I took the first selfie, above, the morning of my recent surgery. I took the second this morning. The big wad of gauze and tape in the first photo covers a skin graft, which in turn covers the hole on the end of my nose where the cancer was. The donor skin comes from behind my left ear, which explains the gauze and tape there. The patch on my left temple covers fresh sutures from the other skin cancer surgery. The dressings on my neck and temple came off a day later, but I had to wear the nose dressing nine days straight, doing my best to keep it clean and dry, adding new tape as old tape unraveled … which made it look more like the mummified nose of Karl Malden every day.

This morning Tish, the clinic nurse practitioner, took the old dressing, cleaned up my nose, and covered it again … this time with a quarter-sized bit of gauze and less tape, as you see in the second photo. For the next week I have to take the dressing off every morning, soak the skin graft area with a wet cotton ball, put on some vaseline with a q-tip, and tape it back up. That’s much better, because while I still have a big white schnozz, at least it’ll be fresh tape every day, nice and clean. The other one was getting to look like an old gym sock.

When I go in next Thursday I hope we’ll see progress on the skin graft. Right now it’s horrifying to look at, much larger than I expected (about the diameter of a nickel), with nastiness all around the perimeter (that’s what I’ll be trying to soak and clean off with wet cotton balls every day). But Tish (by far my favorite person at the clinic, by the way), says that’s what skin grafts look like at this stage of healing, and that the scars from the other surgeries are healing up nicely. I have a feeling I’ll be wearing some kind of dressing or bandage on my nose for a while to come, so I’d better get used to it.

Yes, before you ask (because everyone does), the procedure on my nose was Mos surgery. I had hoped the area to be cut out would be small enough not to require a graft, but that wasn’t to be, so here we are. My first skin graft. I sincerely hope it’ll be the last. So far no melanoma, and may it stay that way!

The big floppy sun hat in the second photo? And the shades? You won’t catch me outdoors without them now, no siree! This has not been an experience I want to relive.

You kids wear your sunblock, you hear?

© 2018, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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