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!


Kim said...

Holy Crap Annie! That is scary but turned out well. What is with the Turner's and melanoma?? Wish I lived closer so I could have helped. xoxo

Crystal Pistol said...

OUCH!! I like where you said, "shit.". That's EXACTLY the word I would have chosen. :)

When I was told about your surgery I was told to keep it under wraps because my mom didn't know if you wanted your privacy protected. she thought you might not want a lot of attention. Now I know I should have come with dinner and show. I could have done a little song and dance for you. :)

You should know, however, that I have kept you in my thoughts and prayers a lot. We couldn't do without you, Annie. This was scary as hell for Joe. My brother would shrivel up and die without you. We NEED you! And love you.

so my final question goes like this: "Annie are you ok?" and "Are you ok, Annie?"

Elizabeth Larson said...

Vato! WOW! That is such a scary experience and amazing that it all happened the way it did. I am sure you don't want to hear this, but that is what I would call divine intervention from the Lord my friend! I am so glad that you are okay and that you are healing well. Good luck and PS- I am glad you posted those pictures but they are so gross! ha ha ;)

Franklin Family said...

As a biology nut, I LOVE the pictures. I love how you described it so well. However, I am so sorry that you had to go through all of that. Your beautiful fair skin had to betray you, didn't it?! You're still beautiful, as always. And I love the "what if" questions...because to me, it sounds like someone might have been watching over you. =)

Mykuljay said...

This story is sure close to home. Growing up in Florida I baked on the beach as a kid with nary a concern beyond sunburn. It's just how it was.

Finally age and knowledge stopped that but then I had my own day of - shit. A tiny red spot on my nose of all places and so ended up with reconstructive surgery on my nose much like your ear.

Amazing the damage I suffered as a kid that waited years to pop up. No regularly I go in and have the latest thing frozen or scraped or whatever.

SUNSCREEN people! I'm sure I have funded my dermatologists new swimming pool - and that is WITH insurance.

annieareyouok said...

Kim: What can I say Kim, we love melanoma! Wish you lived closer, too. xox

Crystal: Annieisok ;) I will still take you up on your offer ... I would love a Crystal dinner and show ;)

Liz: I know ... the pictures are gross. Sorry ;)

Amer: Glad YOU liked the pictures ;) I think they're fascinating.

Mykuljay: So sorry to hear about your melanoma story, but glad it turned out well. I am on my way to buying my dermatologist a pool as well. Happy to do it, too! ;)

Mykuljay said...

I'm glad you're doing well Annie. I told MY dermatologist once: You realize at some point I'm going to be old enough that I won't have any of this done, don't you?

She about fell over! I think in quite a few years when maybe I'm 70 - I won't see another doctor ever! The dentist.......well dentist is kind of gross.

Keep mending and wear sunscreen SPF 2,345!

Mykuljay said...
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