Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Protect Your Skin

I just underwent a bit of an ordeal to treat skin cancer. These were basal cell carcinomas, the most “benign” form of skin cancer. Nevertheless, having any form of cancer in or on my body doesn’t not appeal to me. There were two lesions on my scalp and one on my face. I’m sure these resulted from childhood exposure to the sun. I had a crew cut, was blond and fair-skinned, and rarely wore a cap. As an adult, I became aware of the risk posed by exposure to the sun, and took precautions. But it was too little, too late.

I’ve had a number of precancerous growths removed over the years, but never skin cancer. These lesions required Mohs surgery which is a marvelous invention. The dermatologist removes cancerous tissue, and then tests the site to see if there are any cancer cells remaining. If so, he goes back in and removes more. This goes on until there are no more cancer cells left at the site. I went through five cycles before he “got it all.” This is done in the doctor’s office under local anesthetic.

Because these three wounds were rather large, I then had to have a plastic surgeon close them so they heal properly and scarring is minimized. That procedure lasted for about three hours and required general anesthesia in a hospital. Fortunately it was same day surgery and since I didn’t have any adverse reactions to the anesthesia, I was home by 6:00 that evening.

I felt comfortable going through these surgeries because I had many people praying for me and I had confidence in the skills of the surgeons, nurses, the anesthesiologist, and the technicians. I was also pleased with the quality of the care I received at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, where the plastic surgery was done. But having all those prayers said for me gave me tremendous comfort. And yes, I’ll be wearing a hat a lot more from now on. Not only because my head is now shaved, but also because I don’t want to have to go through this again.

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