Saturday, January 7, 2017

Spot is gone; pain and itching are on

Post-surgical fashion statement
Today I am focusing my investigative journalism efforts on what to do if your stitches are itchy.

The fact that the itchiness is a sign of healing does not make it easier to stand. On Wednesday and Thursday after my Mohs surgery, pain was my biggest problem. Now I have less pain although still some at the area on my ankle where the surgeon removed the squamous cell cancer and put on a skin graft to fill the hole in. But the area on my stomach where they took the skin for the graft is itching like CRAZY. Now I understand why they put an ice pack in with the materials needed to change the dressing. The ice pack helps somewhat. I took some Benadryl last night and might take some more.

The ice pack fit into my sweatshirt pocket. I wore it in there for a while because it is right over the spot. Then it lost its cold and I put it in the freezer to see if it would reactivate, but I'm not sure it will work. Meanwhile I have taken a larger freezer pack and tied it around my waist with my scarf. It is hard to concentrate on anything else.

The fashion statement might equal the one I made when wearing one of David's Teva sandals home because my boot didn't fit over the bandage on my ankle. Diane lent me a pair of socks because my feet were cold in the ones I had brought and also because it was hard to fit mine over the bandage. Joe came home to have pizza with me last night, make dinner tonight and help take care of Maddie. It takes a village.

When the nurse at the Mohs center at Faulkner Hospital took my blood pressure on Wednesday, it was 170-something over 90-something. She said it might be a good idea for me to take something. I agreed it was as good a time as any for me to take one of the Ativan I had brought. So while they were getting the room ready, that is what I did.

I have had at least 10 of these surgeries and never got so anxious. It was the thing about the larger size and the graft.

It took a while for them to draw their shapes on me: one on the ankle, one on my stomach, and one on my left hand. Dr. Schmults, who is director of the Mohs Center and who is really nice, said the one on my left hand is too small to treat. She recommended that I treat that and the backs of both of my hands with Effudex, a chemotherapy cream, saying the only way for it to work is to wrap my hands in Saran wrap after I put the cream on, every night for three weeks.

Since I have mentioned this frequently lately, I probably should repeat what Mohs surgery is all about. According to the definition on the Faulkner Hospital website: Mohs surgery, a form of skin cancer removal in which the borders are examined by the surgeon microscopically while the patient waits, boasts a remarkable 99% cure rate for most basal and squamous cell skin cancers as well as a high cure rate for other rare forms of skin cancer.  

A doctor, Frederick Mohs, developed it in the 1930s. If the margins are not clear upon first examination, they take a little more, examine again, and so on until it is all gone. I asked once and learned that sometimes it can take quite a few times to get it all. Only once did I need a second pass. This one came off, as did all but one, on the first try.

During the prep work, I talked to one of the residents. He was impressed by my four bone marrow transplants. They always ask, four? We talked about it some more while he was outlining the spot for the graft. Dr. Schmults suggested a little change in the shape. I had an odd feeling of being the material for a coloring project. I asked if he could still concentrate while I talked, and he said yes, he could. Classical music filtered in while they worked. My appointment was at 1 and I was done at about 5. Some of this was waiting, some was drawing on me, some was getting numbed up with a lot of needles, and some was the actual procedure.

Diane picked me up. I had a nice dinner with her and David and enjoyed what Diane knew would be the best medicine for me, a rich piece of chocolate cake.

On my drive in, I had posted on Facebook about feeling anxious. I appreciated the support that people gave me. As we all know, FB has its downsides, but it is great when you need a virtual helping hand. It was also helpful when, at 1:38 a.m., I wrote that the Tylenol and codeine that Dr. Schmults had prescribed wasn't working. The pain was bringing tears to my eyes. I needed to take an oxycodone, but I didn't want to wake my sister to get something for me to eat and I didn't know if the clementine and potato chips I had in my room were adequate. Somebody is always up. My friend Nan Imbesi replied that my snack should be substantial enough. So I had my snack and my medicine and drifted back to sleep.

I haven't complained about my drivers recently. That's because I have had some good luck lately. I had the same nice driver in and back. When I mentioned to him, as I have to some others, that many of the other drivers have been, um, less than polite, he said he had heard a lot of complaints. We agreed that it doesn't make too much sense because it doesn't take much to be nice, especially when you are driving people to medical appointments.

I go back Wednesday to get the stitches removed. That will be a relief.

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