Saturday, September 02, 2006

Turning a page

Novels could be written about my last six weeks, and I just might.

That “minor, albeit inconvenient, surgery” I mentioned? Turns out, I have cancer. Or had cancer, I hope. For a long time, I’d joked that the reddish-brown mark on my ankle was an alien probe insertion point, or a birthmark my mother just didn’t happen to remember me having when born. At a routine dermatology appointment a couple of months ago, I blithely mentioned it had been growing, and seemed to be connected to a mass underneath. I was referred to a surgeon, but suggested to him that really, what was the point taking it out? I could put up with the unsightliness, and I had things to do. The surgery was scheduled for August 7.

I chose sedation, rather than a general anesthetic, because my aunt had told me that general anesthetics really mess with the condition of your hair, and well, as I just said, I had things to do. When the anesthesiologist came by for my pre-op consultation, I warned him that 1. I’m claustrophobic (just in case that had any bearing) and 2. I’d had a really rough couple of weeks, and was concerned about blabbing my business to all and sundry while under the influence. He reassured me in a professional manner, and left me to wait in my backless gown and paper shoes.

In addition to the ankle business, I was scheduled to have a small something removed from my lip, which may or may not have been a basal cell carcinoma. This scared me. I had a lot of sun as a child, but I like to think that the fact I’ve worn sunscreen every day of my life since I was 20 years old is adequate penance for the sins of my youth. I was wheeled into theatre, and willed myself to stay conscious in the hope of good blog fodder.

My memories are partial, but vivid. As far as I can remember, my surgeon, who wears scuffed stockman’s boots and smokes Marlboro reds, did not light up nor nick out for a quick one. The assistant surgeon (nameless, faceless) lent on my other leg in a very uncomfortable manner, as if it were a sideboard or chiffonnier. At one point, I felt pain and I cried out I guess, because the anesthesiologist came over and asked if I was OK. Rather than a simple no, I asked him if he’d watched the show Nip/Tuck, then proceeded to explain the premise and assure him that in his line of work, he really must try to see it, because….. I have no memory of the surgery after this.

I went home on crutches that night, with a sore leg and two stitches in my swollen lip. I was resigned to a week with my foot elevated.

For vanity reasons, a doctor friend suggested that I have the stitches taken out of my lip sooner than those in my ankle. He drew a diagram of how to take them out myself after I assured him I had a pair of sharp embroidery scissors. I got cold feet however, and the doctor’s office suggested I pop in at a quarter to five that Friday afternoon.

I had a haircut that day: my first since November. It looked good. As the nurse assessed my lip, I joked about my clumsiness on crutches. Somehow, I’d managed to blacken a toe on my good foot by leaning my full weight on my crutch, which just happened to be on top of my toe. The doctor came in, leaned against the examination bed and flipped open my file.

I knew straight away. If you google dermatofibroma, you’ll find (as I did when it was first suggested that this was what I had), reference to extremely rare occurrences of dermatofibrosarcoma, its malignant cousin. His face darkened as he read through the pages and pages of pathology report, before cutting away all the dressings to look at what was now a useless surgery. This will need to heal, he said, before we cut away a much larger area. It’s full of germs, as it is.

I burst into tears, but felt compelled to explain, that really, I wasn’t crying about this, this I understood, could deal with, it’s just that my husband’s having an affair, he’s leaving me, and really, it’s just all too much. I have things to do.

I’ve heard that a lot of surgeons become surgeons because they prefer their patients anaesthetised, and I’m certain that this was one of those occasions when my doctor would’ve moved heaven and earth to have me in a state where all he had to listen to were my semi-coherent mumblings about a syndicated cable TV show.

More to follow, including why Andy Paulson, a man I’ve never met, has been much on my mind.

20 Comments:

Anonymous nichola said...

Oh my goodness! I'm so sorry you've had such a rough time recently. I don't know what to say so instead i'm sending you a huge ((((hug))))
Take care of yourself.xx

8:15 PM  
Blogger Chloe said...

Thinking of you - very much.

Linda in Gippsland

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Carolyn said...

Oh shit is all I can say. I am so sorry that things have been crap. Crap crap crap. We are thinking about you out here in the world, whatever comfort that might offer. Strangers are thinking about you right now and sending you good feelings. Can only be a good thing right?

2:36 AM  
Blogger littlesnoring said...

I love your sense of humour. I hope all goes well and that a few laughs along the way will help. Best Wishes

7:08 AM  
Blogger Meg said...

Hey I'm claustrophobic too!
And very sorry to read all the latest news.
Thinking of you.

8:38 AM  
Blogger Paisley said...

Good heavens - you are in the wars aren't you. I'm hoping that things soon start getting better for you.

9:41 AM  
Blogger mipmup said...

i'm thinking of you.

12:17 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

i do so admire your ability to write as eloquently as ever during such a difficult time... will be thinking of you x

1:37 PM  
Blogger leslie said...

oh wow. as glad as i am that you're writing again, i'm so sorry to hear what's been going on. i have a very cute small dachshund puppy on call to smother you with affection if you need a pick-me-up

9:16 PM  
Blogger justinamaria said...

oh dear, poor possum you! i hope that you are through the worst and that things are on the up. it's lovely to see you back! missed you!

10:10 PM  
Anonymous shauna said...

ohhh dear! i am one of those dreaded lurker types, but had to come out of the bushes today. i am so sorry to hear you've been through so much, my goodness. huge hugs and hope things start looking up soon!!!

10:50 PM  
Anonymous Julie said...

As I read your post this morning, my heart grieved for you. I'm so sorry you must deal with so much all at once. Please know that my prayers go out for you.

2:39 AM  
Anonymous Alicia P. said...

Carolyn,
I am so sorry to hear of this trouble for you -- I wish you all the best and much, much brighter days ahead, sweetheart. xoxo, a

3:57 AM  
Blogger Di said...

I'd been wondering how you were doing lately- I'm so sorry to hear that you've been dealing with so much, and such difficult things. Congratulations on retaining your sense of humour, and having the strength and courage to blog about it all.
I know you have many good friends around to support you and help you through this- I wish you all the best as you work through the crap crap crap- I know that happier times are ahead for you.

7:54 AM  
Blogger Funky Finds said...

What an ordeal! I am so sorry to hear about this. You are in my thoughts & prayers. Hang in there!

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Nicole said...

ouch. Big virtual hugs from a virtual stranger! (.)(.) Breakups are heard, especially the type you're experiencing. I know.

7:08 PM  
Blogger Counting Mermaids said...

Oh! I'm so sorry to read this entry. I've been reading you on bloglines for a little while now and I'm ashamed to say that I've never commented before.

I'm so sorry that you're going through all of this, all at once. In the absesnce of anything real that I can do to help you, I'd like to send you a little something in the mail, a care package (hopefully, you won't think that's creepy).

If you're interested, drop me a line at countingmermaids AT gmail DOT com with your postal address.

1:45 PM  
Anonymous li li said...

Wishing you a super speedy recovery! And remember there's always a better tomorrow! Take care!!

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Kate said...

Sending you all the best wishes and luck possible - what an awful series of events. Here's hoping for much strength and a rapid recovery, too.

3:21 PM  
Blogger julia said...

I haven't checked in here in far too long, and I am so sorry to see that you have not been well, in several dimensions ... a big hug from a well-meaning stranger, Ms. Girlprinter.

9:38 AM  

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