Out, Out, Damn Spot, and Pass the Groucho Glasses

Did you ever wake up under the cloud of a nagging feeling that something is wrong, but you don’t know what it is?

Maybe you’re still groggy, so you test certain possibilities. Was it the friend who you texted who didn’t text back and therefore hates you? Or the project that you don’t want to finish but that you can’t avoid much longer? Or maybe the book that you can’t find you need to return to the library?

Normally I wouldn’t start a post with a question. I don’t like stories that start with a question that is very specific, to which the answer could easily be no. For example, if a story on cat adoptions began, “Did you ever wish you had a cat?” I would say NO. I’m a dog person. And I would stop reading.

That nagging feeling that something is wrong

So please forgive me if you can’t relate to waking up with a nagging feeling that something is wrong. I asked, though, because I think that unless you are like my Labrador retriever, who greets each day with pure joy, you have most likely had a feeling like this.

For me it happened yesterday. I went through my checklist of whom I might have offended, etc. Then the problem rose to the surface: In a day I would be going to the Mohs surgeon to get the growth off the tip of my nose.

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Dreading this appointment

I had been living with this for a couple of months. The dermatologist who biopsied it said it was a squamous cell carcinoma and sent me to Mohs. But the Mohs surgeon said it was small enough for me to treat with the Efudex/calcipotriene combination. I did that and it seemed to go away but then it came back. The dermatologist said to call Mohs to schedule another visit.

I was nervous about the wait of more than a month. The thing seemed to be growing before my eyes. One minute I felt reassured: If they didn’t want me to rush in, it couldn’t be that serious. The next I worried: Maybe it was growing roots and invading my body.

Please remove that bump

Its color and shape made it look like a miniature biscuit perched on the end of my nose. It was making me cross eyed. It was making me miss tennis balls. (Well, that was a good excuse, anyway.) I wanted it off. I’m a picker, and I was having trouble keeping my hands off of it. It seemed like all it needed was one good nudge…

Today was finally the day. My boyfriend drove me to the doctor’s office, which is in a hospital about an hour and forty-five minutes from home. In the exam room, the resident said the appointment had been booked as just a consult. He asked if I would want Mohs if they could fit it in. I said THAT WAS A MISTAKE, I booked it as an appointment, and I wanted it off. He said it could be done.

A million tiny pinpricks of anesthesia later – he said it was hard to get me numb ¬– he began the procedure along with the senior surgeon. The classical music that they always have on got all of a sudden very intense. Sounds of doom and gloom.

“This isn’t helping me to relax,” I said.

Everyone laughed.

The senior surgeon said it would take about 45 minutes to check the tissue to make sure she got all the margins.

Mohs surgery done, with clean margins

It was clean, yay! But…I needed a few internal stitches and a line of 12 small stitches along the side of my nose. I had no idea t would be such a production. For some reason I thought that she was going to just be able to slice it off. That was not unreasonable, because the person on the phone said she might not even do Mohs.

As I write this, I am in a lot of pain. I made some tea and took some pain meds. I treated myself to a cookie. I started to take a selfie to send my friends, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I don’t look so good. A big white bandage covers my whole nose. Together with my dark-rimmed glasses, it makes me look like I am wearing a pair of those Groucho Marx glasses that are attached to a big nose. At least I don’t have a mustache.

The stitches come out in a week. Luckily the thing is gone, it didn’t grow roots, and I didn’t pick it off. And as for the pain, I like to think of a favorite phrase of my father’s: “This too shall pass.”

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