Tuesday, March 7, 2017

From molehill to mountain

"And it gets darker every night
Spread-eagled out among the stars, she says
Somewhere in this tunnel lives a light."

About a month ago, I noticed a small bump under the skin on the tip of my nose, right side.

I'd guesstimate the nodule was about 1 mm. I work with beads. I've learned my mms. 1 mm may sound quite small but it's enough to make an earring pair unmatched.

Anyway, this thing felt sort of rubbery and there was no tenderness or redness. Googling was useless to help me figure out what it was, but did lead me to some pretty gross photos and videos. Whatever you do, don't google bump in the tip of the nose and then watch any Youtube videos.

Neil said that skin cancer grows on the skin, not under it, but there's a history of cancer in my family and when I was a kid, my father's sister died of skin cancer in her mid-40s.

Even though I was pretty sure this little lump was nothing serious, it began to grow like kudzu on my mind. I couldn't stop checking it, to see if it was still there, had gotten smaller or bigger, had moved or done anything interesting.

It was pretty boring, always the same, always there. So I made an appointment with a dermatologist.

Last year I had a xanthelasma biopsied (i.e., removed) from my left lower eyelid. Before the biopsy, my dermatologist told me that it was benign and that I didn't have to do anything. I said, you don't understand. I want it gone.

He did a fantastic job. I can't even detect a scar.

Since then Dr. F moved his practice uptown, so I made an appointment with a new dermatologist, Dr. E. I saw her a couple of weeks ago. I was relieved when she diagnosed it as an inflamed hair follicle and elated when she suggested that injection of a steroid would take care of it. She gave me the shots in the schnoz.

For an hour or so I thought I'd had a complete recovery, but as soon as the swelling from the injection subsided, I could tell it hadn't worked. That rubbery little bugger was unabated. I gave it a week. If anything, the steroid shrunk the surrounding tissue and made the nodule more evident.

So I went back last week, and Dr. E. performed a shave biopsy. She didn't do it to remove the Thing. She said that would leave a serious scar. She did it to send a specimen off to a lab to see what we are dealing with and determine whether to refer me to an ENT or a plastic surgeon.

I wish I had done some homework on a shave biopsy before I had it done. For one thing, it hurts. For a wound smaller than a pencil eraser and fairly shallow, it has been splitting my head apart in a shockingly large way. If I put a bandaid over it (have you ever tried putting a bandaid on the tip of your nose?) the pressure is distractingly painful. If I leave the bandaid off, any air circulation rampages my nerve endings. Who would have thought there were so many nerve endings in your nose?

For another thing, it looks terrible. It's angry and red and despite my best wound care efforts - washing with gentle soap and water, annointment with ointment, keeping it moist and covered - I'm sure I will have an impressive scar. I don't mind that so much. I do mind having a scar and still having the fucking lesion. If I have to have a scar, I'd just as soon have gone straight to a plastic surgeon and had the bump excised.

Neil tries to talk me down. He says a plastic surgeon would most likely have done a biopsy first anyway. I'm not so sure. He says, it's done, it's not the end of the world, move on and forget about it.

Easy to say when you don't have continuous throbbing reminding you continuously.

Maybe I'm naive, but I really wasn't expecting this disfigurement, this much discomfort, this much making a mountain out of a molehole.

There's a small part of me that thought, maybe Dr. E. did get it. Maybe making the area so angry would make it go away. Maybe the healing process for the biopsy would heal that mother right out of town. I knew that was a stretch. Exploring the area gingerly leads me to conclude that the mass persists. Now I'm just hoping that Dr. E. got into the meat of it enough to determine what I'm dealing with.

Oh well. Just another first world problem. I'm waiting for the biopsy results and to see where we go from here. I'm optimistic that it's nothing malignant and pessimistic that my choice will be to live with a lump and a scar or to go under the scalpel again for the sake of vanity and sanity.

Sorry, no photos this time.

Good news, photos next time, including a snap of our house in progress and a second scoop of bead soup.

Her new name was tattooed to her wrist
It was longer than the old one
Sealed in the silence with a fist
This night will be a cold one
Centuries live in her eyes
Destiny laughs over jack-booted thighs
Work makes us free, says the sign
Nothing leaves here alive

She steps out of line to the left
And her father to the right
One side's a cold, clean death
The other is an endless night
Gold from a grandmother’s tooth
Mountains of jewelry and toys
Piled in the corners, mailed across the borders
Presents for the girls and boys

And it gets darker every night
Spread-eagled out among the stars, she says
Somewhere in this tunnel lives a light
Still my beating heart
I have never known a man
What man will want me now?
Am I still alive, somehow?
If I can survive, somehow

Soldiers from the other side
Liberated them at dawn
Gave her water, gave her life
She still had all her clothes on
She lived until she died
Empty as the autumn leaves that fly
Surgeons took the mark
But they could not take it far
It was written on her heart
Written on her empty heart

(Janis Ian)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz