Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Saw Tony's Pericranium

I'm going to begin this post by wagging my finger in your face and nagging a bit. If you have any sort of odd spot on your skin - anywhere - GET IT CHECKED OUT. Don't wait. Don't put it off. Don't think it doesn't matter because it's small. DO IT NOW.

And if you love someone and you notice some unusual, red, rough spot on their skin - or just something that doesn't look like it belongs - NAG THEM. NAG, NAG, NAG UNTIL THEY SEE A DOCTOR.

No excuses.

Need more info? From Wikipedia:

"Patients can present with a shiny, pearly nodule. However, superficial basal-cell cancer can present as a red patch like eczema. Infiltrative or morpheaform basal-cell cancers can present as a skin thickening or scar tissue – making diagnosis difficult without using tactile sensation and a skin biopsy. It is often difficult to distinguish basal-cell cancer from acne scar, actinic elastosis, and recent cryodestruction inflammation."

There. You'd better do what I said. See a doctor. Or else.

Okay. Enough of that. Here's why: I spent about eight hours today in a bizarre sort of interval training for patience. We arrived at the doctor's office at 7:30; by 8:30, they were ready to begin a Mohs procedure to remove a cancerous spot from the top of Tony's head, which was about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. They cut, then they analyze to determine that all the cancer is gone. If some remains in the living tissue, the cut again. More. Deeper. Then they analyze...then, if necessary, they cut. Again. And so on. Until they get it all.

We went through three rounds of this process.

My husband now has a small crater in his head about 4 1/2 inches in diameter. It was too large to stitch, too complicated and disfiguring to do a graft - and so underneath the gauze and the bandages and the porcine temporary graft (yeah, look that one up), his head is raw and open, clear down to the pericranium. You can look that up, too, but let me save you the trouble and tell you that it's THE BOTTOM LAYER OF SKIN. The pericranium is what attaches to the skull. We achieved a new level of intimacy today; I saw Tony's pericranium!

And that's what is underneath the bandage on my husband's head. We are hoping, praying and behaving ourselves in a way that we hope will bring about rapid regeneration of tissue and a healthy, new skin growth; but it will take time. And it will be inconvenient. And it will leave a mark.

I didn't know better. I was ignorant. I saw the shiny spot on his head and just wondered what it was.

I never realized it would matter as much as it did today. 

The consequences of my ignorance (and Tony's too, I'll admit) were lived out today in eight hours of painful surgery (under local anesthesia only, mind you) and will be part of our daily lives for several more weeks of healing. I'm not even including the part where he felt great and wanted to stop at Best Buy and then got hit with dehydration, "narcotic naivete" (Percocet had a bizarre delayed reaction) and nausea, which led to passing out in my arms, an ambulance ride and an evening enjoying the unique ambience of the MCV Emergency Room (where the doctors and nurses were great, I must say). I'm not even going there. Yet.

Just check your skin, people. And don't put it off. Don't think it's too small to matter.

It does.

In case words do not convince, here's a picture. It's a picture of a picture; what you see is the top of Tony's head, IN IT'S ENTIRETY, with wound covering the top with about one inch to spare before his hairline. It's big, it's ugly and it hurts. Avoid this AT ALL COSTS. Check your skin!!!!

No comments: