February 20, 2011

Looking Back ~ Reflections from 2009 Journals

Being a life-long journal writer, I naturally turned to my journal to express my feelings about this experience. So here I've extracted relevant bits and pieces from that difficult period of time.

The pictures below depict the process in a nutshell. The first photo is from the year prior to surgery, then a closeup of the brown spot in July 2009 after it was biopsied...then September & October healing after surgery. The picture at far right is a recent picture taken in December, 2010(which was 15 months after surgery).

July 29, 2009: 
Met my plastic surgeon yesterday and he'll do a skin graft September 15. He didn't make me feel any better. I dread it all. I hate this damn brown spot and all the grief it's causing--all from the sun that I love and hate. I try diligently to keep sun from shining on the spot now. The circle of the excision will be quite large. I gulp at the thought of seeing the outcome. So much trepidation, anxiety and worry.

August 29, 2009: 
Life's dealing me a rough patch. I don't like it, but there's nothing I can do but march forward and press on through it. Try to see the bright sides...there must be some. My optimism has been thrown off a bit. I'll have to get over the hump, the hill. At least it's not a mountain.

September 10, 2009: 
Just a big pain in the neck, all of this. Dr. M says melanoma that is removed sometimes recurs in 5 years or more. So I'll have to be diligent. This is all a big inconvenience, somewhat life changing too. My face will never be the same after Tuesday and I have some grieving about that. I think the hardest day will be seeing what's under the bandage when it comes off. The doctor said I'm going to look a little "rough" for a while and that I'm not going to like it.

September 12, 2009: 
I'm getting used to having a lot of anxiety surrounding all this and it feels like a very long road before me. Gives me sadness and worry because melanoma can be deadly. I was very productive today, washed all the sheets. Will get a good supply of groceries tomorrow because I don't want to go anywhere for a while. Dumb face! Why did you have to get cancer right there? I'm having trouble processing it. Must keep taking deep soothing breaths.

September 15, 2009
Day of Surgery
A very high anxiety morning. Surgery was about an hour late getting started but went fine and we got home just in the nick of time before L's school bus arrived. I was a wee bit woozy on our car ride home. I'm using Tylenol rather than the pain prescription they wrote. I think I can get through it with just Tylenol. I have to sleep with my head propped up. Glad it's behind me. Hope it's all overwith. Big suture line where the skin was taken near my collar bone.

September 17, 2009:
As I was looking out that hospital window two days ago, the scenery was quite pretty. It reminded me of being in the hospital when my baby was born 10 years earlier. But as I said to my husband, that Vermont hospital birth experience was more like Christmas because we got a "present" at the end. With this hospital adventure, there was no present at the end. Today I didn't need any Tylenol. No pain. Friends being encouraging and helpful, and my husband & daughter are taking good care of me, even washing my hair. I feel cared about and cared for.

September 18, 2009:
Looks like I have a black eye, but yellow-green skin today. And very itchy. The area looks so large and has puckering skin around the yellow bandage. That pressure bandage is icky and is in my way. Haven't needed to take anything for pain. Collar bone stitches feel tight but not painful. It's all good. Just an emotional adjustment. I feel vulnerable and self conscious. Going through a transition. Reality sinks in from time to time. But I don't cry about it because a)other people have much worse problems, and b)I'm not supposed to get the bandage wet. I'm giving myself a week to not feel guilty when I take a rest or just sit still for a while. I'm still being productive, just don't want anyone to see me close up. The yellow bandage is a bit startling. It is sewn to my face.

September 20, 2009:
I'm wanting friends to see my face as it is now (via photos) so it won't be such a shock to them when I finally get the nerve to show my face to the public. But with this yellow thing I don't want anybody to see it just yet. Only two more days with this hard gross yellow thing on my face. I can't wait to have it off me, yet I'm extremely apprehensive about seeing the graft. My skin will have to get a chance to settle down after the trauma. I still can't believe that harmless little thing was melanoma. Harmless looking, but not so harmless. Cutting out such a big piece of one's face must mean it's pretty serious. Damn it's an ugly sight. My symmetry will be gone. It saddens me. Sort of startles me when I see myself in the mirror. At times I look at it and think it's healing well, swelling subsiding. Then I look again later and it looks scary to imagine what's under the yellow, and if it is working, if it's ever going to look un-puckered. Pink and red around all my sutures now. Well it totally sucks and is very much not welcome in my life. 
  Today is our 13th wedding anniversary, and it feels so incredibly wonderful when my husband washes my hair! The warm water and clean shampoo is tremendous, as well as his loving hands.

September 22, 2009:
On our way to soon have my "tie over" yellow, icky bandage removed. I have apprehension about seeing the graft. Squeamish, queasy-ish. But at the same time I want this darn hard foam thing to come off. Nervous to see Dr. M today but not nearly as bad as one week ago!
Later 9/22:
   It looks really horrible. Dark! And it hurt taking out the sutures. I can't believe I need to go back there again in two days and then two weeks later. My goodness it looks disgusting. Like a crater on the moon. Dark and gross.

September 24, 2009:
Today I was relieved to get the final sutures removed. Martha (the nurse) taking them out made my eyes water but it didn't hurt as much as Tuesday. Felt good to get them out. Just Martha and me at the office today, quiet and peaceful. Martha's concerned about the dark scab at the top and the other spot near my nose. I could tell by the look on her face it wasn't the best result she'd ever seen. I think it's not going to heal very smoothly, although she did remove some dead tissue so the wound looked more pink and not as menacing. Still, though, looks like someone put a car cigarette lighter on my face, like a burn. I'm choosing to call it pepperoni. It does look like a piece of pepperoni is stuck on my cheek, or at times looks like a whole tiny pizza sprinkled with some toppings.
   My daughter saw it for the first time tonight and she was fine. She was very supportive and very curious. She handled that very well for a 10 year old. Yet I'm startled when I look in mirrors. Is that really me? Because I can't even feel it, and I forget. And it's not an integral part of me yet. Weird stuff.

September 27, 2009:
My parents came over with hot sub sandwiches today. Was the first time they'd seen me since surgery. They both said it wasn't as bad as they expected, which is what my brother said after looking at photos. Today it looked promisingly better and pink, but the darn black necrotic tissue areas are very dark and distracting. I think, though, that I am healing rather quickly and can see tiny differences each day. But this "rope like" perimeter of skin where it was tightly sutured to the bandage is not softening. So that bugs me. But it'll all get better I think. Maybe in six months it will look decent.

October 1, 2009:
I'm healing but not ideally. There's too much dead tissue in the way. The scar is getting to be oddly shaped and lumpy. I did chat with the mail lady yesterday--I was brave. Talking to people makes me feel very exposed. I hate it. I will be 48 in three weeks. But glad my 47th year is going away because it's been a weird one. Move on, move ahead.

October 7, 2009:
I've been back to Dr. M and was told to do scar massage 10-20 times per day to flatten the outer rim. I don't remember to do it often enough. Must remember all day!

October 11, 2009:
Once in a while I get frustrated with how long this graft is taking to heal. It looks very bad still. Very red, rough, pink, bumpy. Big! Noticeable as heck. I forget it's there and then realize day by day that it's on me forever. And it's going to take so long to fade. It's a slow process. For some reason grafted skin is slow to heal generally. I love everyone's support, just feel sad or frustrated (or bitter perhaps) that this happened to my face and that I have to put up with it for as long as I live. It will age with me. I'm a strange looking person right now. Have to explain my wound to my daughter's friends and their parents.

October 12, 2009:
I've had my graft about 4 weeks now. Feels longer than that. I wish I could just peel it away and be my normal face again. I don't like to do things that involve face-to-face communication any more because my face is rather shocking. I'm trying to get my nerve up to go the grocery store tomorrow. I'll probably put a bandaid over it. Still very colorful, pink/purple/red. Scar massage seems to be bruising the skin so I haven't seen it improving this week. Nor has it been contracting or shrinking much either. I am really hating it, resenting it. Feeling stifled by it. Self conscious much more than I ever used to be. I hate telling new people who didn't know I was having this done. I hate the awkwardness, and they don't know how to look at me or what to say. But it's like an elephant in the room if I don't say what this is on my face.

October 16, 2009:
Once in a while I'll be applying lotion to my scar and I just start to breathe quickly as a weeping sensation comes over me involuntarily. Tonight it was because it's so shiny and different from my regular skin. Lumpy. Purple. Oddly textured. Big. But when I glance in the mirror at the graft cheek--usually when I'm very close up to the mirror--it just makes me well up with tears. It's a deep, sad feeling. Helpless. No hope in sight for it to ever heal well. It's so far from looking even remotely close to healing or flattening or blending. Long road ahead with that.
   Monday Dr. M told me to press harder on my scar when massaging. Ouch. Another day, another doctor :)
   I wore a bandaid over it when the blacksmith came to do the ponies' hooves today. He was very nice about it and wanted to hear about it. He has a family history of melanoma. his sister and grandmother. His grandmother died from it. I've been hearing about quite a few deaths from it lately. So I should just be grateful for my life and stop worrying about the dumb scar! But I'm not quite there yet.

2004 - brown spot was there and I was vacationing in the sun

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the look back in time and the road you have travelled! I have been discouraged with the thick edges of my graft and wondered if it would ever get thinner. I see it can if I just give it time, but I didn't know it would take close to two years! I also have a great deal of "webbing" which is because of the area involving my eye. I hope that the webbing can be corrected, but I didn't press my reconstruction surgeon--my fear in not wanting the answer? I wonder. Please continue your updates. It helps!