Last updated: April 2023
The mirror is ruthless
My image is a scarred version of what once was
A jagged tattoo across my face
Frozen into a frown
Reaching deep into my inner self
Slowly sinking into a bottomless pool of depression
But tears don’t come
This continuous battle on my soul has left me stoic
Is this retribution for the past?
Dancing happily to 'I’ve Had the Time of My Life'
But dreams don’t have eruptions
Awaking, to reality
The reflection doesn’t lie
Reflection Doesn't Lie
I wrote the above poem a couple years ago shortly after I had a Mohs surgical procedure on my face to remove a melanoma in situ lesion. To cover the quarter-size hole left from removing the cancer, the dermatologist pulled my remaining cheek skin across my face. This left a 5-inch elevated scar from above the corner of my right eye, all the way down my cheek to my chin. I was devastated, even more so than the bilateral mastectomy following a breast cancer diagnosis a few years prior.
Although I joked around, calling myself the “Bride of Frankenstein” and frequently commented my face resembled a poorly stitched patchwork quilt, inside I was screaming to myself “why me?” Weren’t my other two cancers, invasive ductal carcinoma (breast cancer) and polycythemia vera (blood cancer) enough? Every time I glanced in the mirror, I wanted to cry at the deformity my face had become.
More Skin Procedures
The following year, adding insult to injury, I had multiple biopsies and more Mohs procedures for several basal cell lesions. All on my face, of course. Although they were all much smaller and less invasive, I really struggled with the mess my face had become.
I embraced the COVID mask wearing as it was a great way to cover my unsightly face. When places no longer made them mandatory, I was disappointed. Without the mask, I was sure people were staring at me filled with pity.
I initially tried using make-up to cover the scars. The brands, and there were many, either didn’t work or made my face red, which made the scars even more prominent. I also tried scar creams like Mederma, but didn’t see much difference.
Laser to the rescue
The dermatologist offered two types of laser procedures to improve the appearance of the scars. One called intense pulsed light (IPL) was designed to minimize the redness. The procedure wasn’t too bad. The pulse felt like a rubber band tweaking on my skin. It left bruises but they faded quickly.
I also tried a couple rounds of the fractional carbon dioxide (CO2) procedure. It uses penetrating microbeams to stimulate the production of new collagen in the skin to improve texture and pigment. This was much more invasive than the IPL. To prepare for the procedure, the dermatologist numbed up my face with multiple painful injections. Since the procedure left tiny holes in my skin, I had to keep the areas moist with Vaseline and covered. For about two weeks following, between the bruises and the dotted scars, I looked rather scary. I remember having the procedure right before my husband’s retirement. Needless to say, I have no pictures of me from that event.
Getting Better All the Time
Initially I didn’t notice much difference following multiple rounds of both laser procedures, but with time, my face started to look better, and the scars began to fade.
As the two-year anniversary from the initial Mohs for the melanoma approaches, I’ve written a new poem:
The mirror still reflects
But instead of repulsion
I see acceptance
Realizing when I smile
I cannot see the scars
No longer hideous…
Do you sunscreen in the fall?