a woman is shown 4 times. Each time her scar gets smaller.

I Can't Feel My Face When I'm With You

I remember hearing the chorus “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you” during my journey with cancer. Since my melanoma chose to take over my cheek, my dermatologist sent me to a plastic surgeon for majority of my surgeries, especially post-cancer removal. My plastic surgeon was amazing and this song became a theme song for my appointments with him. Through numbing tactics, gels, and a small dose of valium, I was able to calm my nerves and sit still in a chair and try to forget everything was happening inches below my eye. I’m thrilled that my scar is something I barely notice in the mirror anymore, but it took WORK and PATIENCE.

A Mohs with lots of stitches

After Mohs surgery, my plastic surgeon asked if I wanted to be stitched up in a straight line or with zig zags. I opted for the zig zag route to break up the scar tissue and allow the scar to move with the normal ways of my face. However, this procedure needed 75 stitches rather than 15. It was quite drastic. The following pictures are the day after I was closed and when the stitches were removed (July 5, 2019).

A smiling girl with a prominent scar on her cheek
A girl with her face turned so you can see a purple scar

I was advised to wait until the scar was fully healed before I could continue with any reconstructive procedures. Since I was in college, I centered most of my appointments around the breaks in school, so I had the time to travel to Chicago (2.5 hours away) and I had the time to heal. Over Thanksgiving break, I returned for dermabrasion. Warning, these pictures are a little gruesome, but I promise it looks ten times worse than it felt, which was practically painless.

Dermabrasion is basically where they numb the scar and then take a Dremel and something similar to sandpaper to the scar to rub away the top layer of skin. Although this was a very uncomfortable procedure, it was definitely my favorite one. This procedure gave me so much confidence afterwards. The only terrible part was leaving the office to a very cold environment. Pro tip if ever considering: pick warm months because the cold weather was absolutely brutal on raw skin. The following pictures are the numbing, right after the procedure, and then later that evening. My scar was noticeably red for about a month but was incredibly so much smoother.
Girl with a sad face and a bleeding scar on her cheek
Girl with a sad face and a bandaged scar on her cheek
Girl with a happy face and a bandaid on her cheek
Girl's cheek after dermabrasion with a large red patch

Here is a picture on Day 3 post dermabrasion, compared to day 5 and 2 weeks.
Day 3 cheek post-dermabrasion
Day 5 cheek post-dermabrasion
2 weeks after dermabrasion almost no scar is present

I don’t have many more pictures step by step, but I can say that I’ve continued to ask what I can do more. Don’t get me wrong, I love my scar, but I also love to feel my most beautiful self for my engagement and wedding pictures (coming up this September!) so I’ve pushed the subject more than others may have.

The hardcore procedures were over

After dermabrasion, most of the hardcore procedures were over. I had my surgeon clip and re-suture the bumps at the top and bottom of my scar to help them fall a little more, thankfully this only involved 2 stitches each. I then switched from a plastic surgeon to a dermatologist who was able to use two special lasers for my scar, and unfortunately, I never learned the names of the lasers. I could have the lasers up to 6 times, at least a month apart and I chose to go for 4 treatments.

The lasers were back-to-back procedures and made for an appointment of less than 10 minutes. I wore UV glasses and they held cool air over my face while they used the lasers. The first laser felt like a magnetic ball rolling over my scar, which is very sensitive to the touch. This one was very painful as they went over the scar numerous times, I believe 8 full times very quickly.

A short but painful process

It seemed to be a constant pain but it lasted less than two minutes. This treatment broke down my collagen to smooth out my scar. After this procedure, I went into a different room where they again gave me goggles and held cool air over my scar during the whole procedure to help offset the uncomfortable feelings. This laser zapped my scar spot by spot, again only lasting about 2 minutes total, to decrease the redness of my scar.

The after effects were very minimal as my scar was a little numb to touch, red, and swollen, sometimes a little itchy, for a couple of days. I was able to wear light makeup, although I chose not to. My skin was a little rougher to the touch, slightly scaly feeling, for a couple of days but well worth it!! The following picture is how my scar looked directly after my last treatment.
A puffy white looking scar on a girl's cheek

At my last full body exam with my regular dermatologist, I asked her opinion about continuing to go back for my last two sets of lasers. She and I agreed that although it would help me overall, I was comfortable enough with the progress we had made to move on to something more. However, she did point me into the direction of a procedure called microneedling and I have an appointment with a dermatologist that offers that this June. She mentioned there is a laser available that can help get rid of the bumps at the top and bottom of my scar and I’m excited to hear about the other procedures available!

Know your options

As I mentioned earlier, I’m not sad, embarrassed, or anything but proud of my scar. However, I do realize there may be a day in my life where I wish I would’ve done more at the time when my skin heals the quickest. I have had this scar for almost 4 years now. I’m convinced every day it gets a little prettier and a little less noticeable, or it just becomes a little bit more of who I am.

If you’re nervous or worried about your scar and interested to know what can be done, know that there are always options! My favorite question to ask of the medical professional is what they are expecting to see from a certain procedure as this generally helps me decide if it’s the right move. The following two pictures are where the mole was and how the scar is now (also my reaction after a biopsy-free appointment). Thanks for reading.

A smiling girl with no scar on her cheek
A smiling girl with no scar on her cheek

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