Friday, December 16, 2011

It's not always about the kids: Melanoma edition

Our story begins with me needing to schedule a hair appointment.

I really needed to get my hair done so my hair dresser squeezed me in on Saturday afternoon ... his busiest day. I sit down and the first thing he says to me is,"Woa, somebody got a hickey on their ear!" I was thinking, that's not possible (it wouldn't be on my ear ha ha ha) so I flipped my ear over and it wasn't a hickey, but it was a brownish (not totally brown, but a gradient of browns)spot the size of my pinkey nail on the side flap. I remember thinking to myself,"Ohhhhh THAT is bad." Outloud, I was like,"What is THAT?" Torry (my hair guy) was also highlighting another woman's hair. Her foils were setting and she was sitting close by. She waves me over and says,"Here honey, I'm a doctor, let me take a look at that. Hmmmmm. Yeah you should go and get that looked at. Call this dermatologist. Her name is Robin Glaesser ..." she knew her number by heart and I wrote it down. I called first thing on Monday and they had a cancellation for that Thursday. Otherwise I would have had to wait over a month. I go in on Thursday for a skin check (which I do once a year around my birthday so I don't forget). She took a biopsy of my ear and one spot from my back. The next day she called and said the spot on my back was nothing, but the spot on my ear was in fact stage 1 Melanoma.



Ugh. She referred me to a plastic surgeon and they got me in the next day (Friday). They did another biopsy which required them to take a pretty good size chunk out of my ear to make sure they removed all the cancer cells. I could either leave my ear the way it was (with a piece missing), do a graft or do "donor skin" of my own skin behind the ear. I almost decided to leave the ear as it was, but I'm young and the doctor said the result would be pretty good so I went ahead and decided to do the reconstruction.

A week from the first biopsy I went into surgery. My mom watched the kids A LOT and Joe never let me take a kid with me to a follow up appointment. My dad drove me to have my stitches taken out. Joe's parents brought dinner over one night, my mom also made us dinner and right before I left for surgery I got flowers delivered from my brother who lives in the Caribbean. Jane offered to bring me dinner as well so it was so comforting to feel taken care of by my family through all of this. I am so appreciative of all that my family has done for me.

I was put under and he took skin from the back of my head (behind my ear), attached it TO my ear where they did the biopsy. This allows the skin to grow a blood supply.
This picture is after the first surgery with the skin attached from my head to my ear. There is a space between the skin and my head so basically there is an "open wound".

Looking a little wrecked after surgery, but I was so out of it I don't remember INSISTING that Joe take pictures of me. Funny anesthesia. Nice hair. Peace yo!

5 days after.

3 weeks

I had to keep my ear covered for 3 weeks. Luckily for me the day after my surgery was Halloween so I didn't look totally out of place with my head all wrapped up, although, I looked like I had a really lame costume. I was too out of it to really try for a real mummy costume and seriously ... I just didn't really care what people thought of how I looked. I even ran into a friend while out trick or treating and she thought my "costume" was hilarious. She didn't know that I had surgery until later so I guess I blended in pretty well ;)

I went back to the doctor 3 weeks later and they cut the skin, folded it behind my ear and sewed it in place. It looks pretty terrible at first, but just a few days later it was looking so much better.
Front. Not too bad.

Back. Ewwww ... I know. Hurt. Like. Hell.

About a month ago. Looking pretty good. Oh nice manicure, too!

I think that it looks pretty good as of today and in 5 months I can go back and decide if any "revisions" need to be made (ie: cutting away some skin to look more contoured to my ear, etc).

So yeah, that's what I've been up to. I now have to go to the dermatologist every 3 months for about a year or so to get checked out. I am becoming a connoisseur of sunscreen and am slowly accumulating a hat collection for myself and my kids. Melanoma can be caused by the sun, genetics or a combination of both, which is probably the case for me. I live in the desert for crying out loud, my sister had stage 3 and my Dad had stage 1 as well. I know that in the scheme of things this is not a big deal. It was stage 1, caught early and treated quickly. In fact, if I hadn't of had the reconstructive surgery this would have felt like that big deal at all.

It's all the "what ifs" that kill me.

What if Torry hadn't seen it?
What if he hadn't fit me in that day?
What if that doctor hadn't been sitting there and recommended the dermatologist?
What if the dermatologist hadn't had the cancellation?
What if ......

It's maddening. I feel betrayed by my skin for literally hiding this from me. What a jerk! My skin and I are working on our communication and I am taking better care of her so we can get along better in the future. I am so lucky that I came out of this situation with the best possible outcomes and a fresh perspective on life. I AM SO grateful to those who were so supportive and helpful, brought meals, called to check in, sent flowers, drove me to appointments, watched my babies and kept me in their thoughts. If anything, I hope that you will be inspired to get an annual skin check and keep your kids protected since most skin cancer damage occurs when you are a child.

Peace yo!

Devon: November

Devon has returned to his normal, sweet little self. He and Audrey are getting along better and better every day and it has made all the difference with our day-to-day activities. I had to adjust my attitude as well and I think we are all reaping the benefits of being more positive. Devon knows all the words to "The tale of Custard the dragon" and loves to read, be read to and have his Daddy "tell true stories". He loves doing Playdoh, going to the Children's Museum, watching movies, riding cars and doing superhero jumps and tricks.

If there was a boy more into superheros than Devon I think the world would implode. He wears a superhero mask (that he painted) while he paints and every 30 seconds refers to himself as a different superhero. Just when I think I know which hero he is he simply says,"Ugh, mama? I'm not (fill in superhero name here), I'm Devon." He wears them on his shirts, underwear, plays with them and pretends to be them. He is Spiderman most often, but also loves Thor, Incredible Hulk, The Thing, Cyclops, Mr. Incredible as well as all Transformers. Sigh ... boys.

I bought this "light saver" a few months back when Devon was potty training. It was my incentive gift to get him to #2. One night just before bed it FINALLY happened. I gave him the sword and it never happened in the potty again. It's like he waits until I get a pull up on him for resting time and sleeping and then he goes.

Devon loves scuba divers and talks about regulators, seeing under water and being a scuba diver when he is a grown up.

We love going to the park and the zoo since the weather has been a dream lately. We can spend hours outdoors and the time just flies by. He loves lizards and birds, but is really into snakes and a big, coffee table snake book his Dad picked up for him.

I let Devon use my camera. He took this picture of me.

I took this picture of his muscles.

I leave you with this ...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Audrey: November 16 months

Audrey loves to go to the park and is very confident crawling away from me and doing her own thing. She can finally walk, but still prefers to crawl as her main mode of getting around. She loves to go on the swings and will literally send herself down the slide. She loves to interact with other kids, climb the equipment and dig with her brother.

She loves to play toys, sing songs, dance, play ball, ride cars read books. Her favorite book is "Counting with Blue". Audrey and Devon are getting along SO much better this past month and it has relieved some stress from the day. They will play together, share toys and very soon I think they will be throwing a ball around.

She has a great attention span and loves to watch cartoons with her brother. She gets just as excited as he does when I turn on Sponge Bob or Yo Gabba Gabba. Audrey can say mama, dada, Audrey (seriously, she can), cat, Sam (our cat) and meows when she sees him. She is starting to do animal sounds and is much more communicative with her needs. She is getting 4 teeth right now and it has been a bit challenging to manage her pain through it, but hopefully it is nearly over.

I didn't post about Halloween because I only post up until the 27th of each month (since that's her birthday), but Audrey went as a little ladybug complete with black and white striped tights. I didn't get any good pictures on the day since she was in the stroller when we did the trick or treating and you couldn't see her outfit anyway so I'll have to get her in the costume and take a couple for next time.