A worried woman looks at her nose, which is covered by a large bandage.

Nose Trouble Grows

I think I have a new least-favorite spot for skin cancer removal: squamous cell carcinoma on my nose. It’s the same spot where a big pimple appears during your teen years when you are just about ready to go on a big date.

Squamous cell carcinoma on my nose: apparently a big deal

I had no idea that having squamous cell carcinoma on my nose would be such a big deal. The usual sign, persistent flaking, led me to get a biopsy which led to the surgery. The pain after surgery and the 12 stitches for one little spot was more than I expected.

Post-surgery was really hard

The week of bandaging my nose was one of my hardest post-surgical periods. If you can imagine, it is hard to get a bandage around your nose without it continuously falling off. My boyfriend did a better job of it than I did, but I didn’t want to bug him every night. On the night that I tried to do it myself, it was such a mess that he had to redo it.

I traveled to have the stitches removed

I decided that since the experts did the surgery, I would let the experts take the stitches out. That meant driving 90 miles to the Mohs surgery center in Boston, but I figured that since it was my nose, it was worth it. When I have had fewer stitches or stitches in a less complex place, I have asked the local doctor to do it. At times a nurse friend down the street even did it.

I thought I was free

I was so happy to finally get those stitches out and to be freed from the bandage that made me cross-eyed, not to mention the squamous cell carcinoma on my nose. After a few days, I had gone back to tennis, and let me tell you, playing post-surgery certainly wasn't helping my tennis game.

Removing the stitches didn't go exactly as planned

The nurse who removed the stitches showed me my nose in a mirror. It looked to me as if a few stitches were left in my nose after he'd finished, but he assured me that wasn't the case. While applying Vaseline back at home, as instructed, I noticed that he had indeed left a stitch or two in. What a hassle.

Asking for help is complicated

I knew they would want a photo. I hadn’t wanted to bother my boyfriend with the bandaging, and now I had to ask him to take several photos. I know he didn’t mind, but I minded asking him. As I have mentioned previously, his wife died of melanoma, and I don’t like to involve him too much in my skin cancer drama.

I had options, most of which sounded not great

I felt tech-savvy and modern when marking up the photo with two arrows pointing to the spot where I saw the stitches. I emailed the photo to the Mohs center and the nurse who got back to me said I could either go back to Boston, ask my local doctor to remove them or pull them out myself. I decided to pick door number two.

I was concerned

I ended up seeing a nurse practitioner closer to home two days later, who pulled the one remaining stitch out easily. While I was there, I pointed out what seemed to be an irregularity in my nose in the form of a bump on the side where the stitches had been. I'd also raised my concern to the nurse on the phone in Boston, who told me there was nothing to worry about. This nurse practitioner agreed.

Something to think about

I happened to flip through the instruction manual they'd given me for those who leave the Mohs center with stitches and was struck by this part: “Return to us if you feel the scar is noticeable or bothersome after 6 months. Improvements can often be made with minor treatments or revisions. These are done at no cost to you if you will benefit from them.”

I have hope

Those words gave me hope that this spot would not present any more hassles. Having squamous cell carcinoma on my nose is very much that: a hassle. But here's to hoping this won't happen again.

Have you had Mohs or other surgeries on your nose? Share your story with us in the comments.

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