I wouldn’t have believed it was possible either–skin cancer on a vampire. But indeed, before the vampire was turned in her late twenties, she laid out in the sun and even went to some tanning beds! And that has manifested as a DNA mess known as a basal cell carcinoma.
I first noticed it almost a year ago. I assumed it was a pimple at first, but then it didn’t go away. Then I assumed it was benign because, well, it didn’t meet the criteria we all hear about skin cancer: size, symmetry, etc. Turns out, that guideline is for melanoma: the big ugly skin cancer.
I found out I had a basal cell carcinoma on my nose before I went to Paris in early April. Doctors assured me that this slow-growing threat wouldn’t be any different in a couple weeks. Plus, most of it had been cut off for the biopsy.I knew a few things about basal cell skin cancer.I knew it grew slowly. I knew it very rarely spread to other parts of the body–and it didn’t use the lymph highway either. I probably know three dozen people who have had at least one!
Still, it’s a CANCER and that is scary in itself. My dermatologist sent me to a Mohs surgery specialist–the top way to treat these things. I checked out the doc–he has fabulous ratings and is Phi Beta Kappa. I made the appointment and this morning, way too early, we headed to Chapel Hill to spend the day in the surgical unit.
To say I was anxious is such an understatement. I was terrified, and also pissed at myself for being such a dang baby. People deal with so much worse and I was trembling about a 5mm bump that had already been shaved off. Lorazepam and deep breathing and telling my brain to shut it, helped.
I got to the clinic a little early (ofc). I was assigned a mohs technician–basically, he’s the one that answers my questions, keeps me calm, etc. He was super nice! I learned more about the surgery and he loved my shirt. (For some reason, I wore a Mrs Lovett’s meat pies shirt to surgery. LOL. Sweeney Todd would fit, there…). We talked about how the day would go. The surgeon would take a small slice of tissue then examine it under a microscope (this is the short version, look for more cancer cells, and then mark on his little map where he would cut next. The process of waiting for the next slide check could be 1-2 hours.
Did I mention I got to pick the music? I did! I picked Green Day and they told me I was the first person to pick the group. What the heck? Anyway, surgery is definitely better with Green Day in the background.
First up, he told me I didn’t have 51yo skin. He said my skin was well taken care off and that this cancer likely came from childhood sunburns or tanning beds as a teen. I’m glad I’m not showing a lot of evidence of sun damage–I did tell him I became a vampire in the 90s. LOLOL. He made his first cut and gave me an hour to be back in the room, so we went to a little coffee shop to get a snack. By this time, I’m starving. The place had a charcuterie plate! yum! Bonus
It was good, too! Perhaps not exactly what you’d find in France, but good stuff. After eating we went back to the waiting room, where I waited with my eyes closed. As you might guess, I barely slept the night before and then we had to get up super early. SO I was snoring by the time they came to get me.
The microscopic map showed that the cancer was still in the center of the wound, so they took out more in that area. I waited in the waiting room again, and they sent a nurse in to announce “No more cancer! You’re clear!” This was a fun part of the day–whenever someone got the all-clear, people cheered.
At this point, we discussed ways to close the wound. It was of moderate size, and in a location where they couldn’t just bring the sides together to stitch. So, they clipped a little “v” of skin, slid it down over the hole, stitched around that, then closed the place they took the piece of skin from. It only took about 30 minutes.
While doing surgery, the doc, tech and I talked about music, suffering for art, getting sample sets that aren’t compromised, and how creativity expresses itself in surgery.
I got my bandage, a pressure bandage, and some supplies for home. They weren’t lying when they said it would start hurting in about 6 hours. Man, they weren’t lying!
Takeaway? Sunblock is good (I react to some of the formulations and now use mineral sun block). Sunburns in childhood can come back to haunt you, even if you are a vampire now! Also, it’s critical to find these things in the early stages because mine was a little one and a simple repair–and still a big deal. Some of the people there were having much more in-depth surgery. I was there from 7:30am-3:30pm, and there were plenty of people left who were still being treated.
Gross pics below. Im expecting swelling and bruising tomorrow, but at least THE CANCER IS GONE!