I had a basal cell carcinoma removed from my scalp yesterday. No need to freak out – though basal cells are cancerous, they only grow locally and do not spread to other parts of your body. But after having a suspected melanoma and two basal cells removed in the past two years, plus multiple biopsies at every six month dermatology appointment, I’m beginning to feel a little bit like Swiss cheese.
With my freckled skin and a family history of melanoma, I’m a poster child for skin cancer. Thank God skin cancer is a treatable one. Treatable with slicing and dicing, but treatable nonetheless. Still, I always dread the phone call with the biopsy results. I’m super squeamish, and every time I go to the dermatologist I have to confess, embarrassed, that I’m prone to fainting. Just for a biopsy. So if the biopsy comes back positive, that means real surgery with blood and stitches and grisly wounds.
Sure enough, this thing on my scalp, right on the crown of my head, was a carcinoma and had to be removed. Because of its location, and because of its size (more than 1 cm in diameter), I had to see a plastic surgeon.
The surgeon, thankfully, was hilarious. Well, he was hilarious to someone like me who thinks it’s funny when blood is dripping down your face and your surgeon says, “If these patients didn’t have to be alive they wouldn’t bleed so stinkin’ much!” When I told him my obligatory, “I’m prone to fainting, so I should probably be as reclined as possible” speech, he waved his hand, pshawed me, and said, “We have at least 2 people faint around here per week. We’ll take care of you.”
They laid me down face first, just in case, and for better access to the carcinoma. He parted my hair to look at the BCC (as he called it when he dictated my case to his tape recorder) and exclaimed, “Whoa! That’s a big one!” Then he pushed the skin together, like when you’ve packed a suitcase too full and you have to squeeze it as tight as possible so you can get the zipper to go.
“The scalp skin doesn’t have much play, but I think I can do this without a graft.”
“Whatever it takes. Let’s just get it over with,” I said.
So he began. We talked while he worked, my eyes shut tight so I wouldn’t see the puddle of blood on the floor. Somehow we got on the subject of books (shocking), and re-reading books. I’m a re-reader. He is not. But he does have a friend who, every decade, re-reads – you’ll never guess – Moby Dick! So of course I had to tell him that I finally read Moby Dick this summer. He couldn’t remember if he had ever finished it.
As he was stitching me up, he pulled my skin so tight I could feel my eyes stretching. I realized, hey, this guy’s a plastic surgeon, and I said, “Wow, it feels like I’m getting one of those – what’s it called when you stretch your skin to pull the wrinkles out?”
Yeah, that’s it. I got a free face-lift yesterday. I checked the mirror this morning, and sure enough, my crow’s feet are gone. But I have one hell of a headache.