Skin Cancer

April 26, 2011 by  

Basal Cell Cancer and Mohs Surgery

surgery lightDo you think much about skin cancer when you go outside to tan?  I never used to.  I used to love to layout.  Heck, we used to use baby oil to help us tan when I was young.

I just had surgery for skin cancer yesterday. I had a basal cell skin cancer on my nose and had to have the Mohs surgery preformed. I wanted to share with you, so that hopefully you won’t have to have it done at anytime in your lifetime… or you will get that questionable mole or spot checked out by your dermatologist.   Don’t worry.. I won’t show you the actual wound.. nothing gross (just my face…ewwww…)

My Mom passed away from melanoma 11 years ago.

My Dad has had multiple basal cell cancers removed, almost all from his face.  He used to play golf a lot and was exposed to a lot of sun. He has had flaps to repair where they had taken the basal cell cancers.

Now… me.  I have been going in to the dermatologist almost every 6 months for several years.  I get a total body scan. My dermatologist Dr. Kelley Zyniewicz with Central Ohio Skin and Cancer is wonderful.  She is very pro active with me (“with your family history Sandy…” ) and takes off anything she sees, along with anything I am worried about.  My motto has become, “Better scars than dead”.  I have had well over a dozen dysplastic nevus off, one really bad one on the back of my calf.

But this has been my first experience with a basal cell cancer.  I went in for my basic every six month skin check and my dermatologist wanted to know how long this place on my nose had been there. I said, “I don’t know, a few weeks, I think it is a zit”.  She said she was taking it off.  She was right… it was a basal cell.

I want you to look at it. Even though getting this close to my face is kind of gross, it really didn’t look like much of anything did it?  It didn’t hurt or bother me at all. It had only been there a few weeks as far as I know. So I thought it was a zit.

basal cell cancer

There are three kind of skin cancers:

Melanoma – The worse skin cancer.  This one will metastasize to other organs of your body and has the highest death rates from skin cancer.

Squamous Cell – This is the least common of the three skin cancers.  It usually doesn’t cause problems when caught early. But it can also metastasize to other parts of the body.

Basal Cell – This kind of skin cancer won’t kill you. It doesn’t metastasize, but it can disfigure you.  It grows like an ice berg. What you see above the surface (what we see) is only the tip of the ice berg. The rest of the ice berg is underneath and it is hard to tell how large it is.   They treat it by doing what they call Mohs Surgery.

Mohs Surgery – They go in after you have been diagnosed with the skin cancer.  My Doctor originally took off the little bump I had a couple weeks ago. I got the results back last week that it was a basal cell cancer. I had my appointment yesterday for the Mohs.

They told me to pack a lunch, or I could go out to lunch – but to plan on being there all day.  My appointment was at 8:30am.

mohs surgeryI went back and they did the first “pass”. They removed part of the area.  This was me after she had me numbed and I was waiting for the Doctor to come in and start surgery.  I mean… who really takes a picture of them self right before surgery? lol

mohs surgery

They put a pressure dressing on me and I went out in the smaller private waiting room to wait.  It took close to 2 hours and they told me they didn’t get it all.  Great isn’t it?

mohs surgeryAbout 12:15 they told me that they did get it all, but that it would still take a little time for them to bring me back to close the wound.

Once back in the room, she asked if I could look at it.  I said sure.  It was bigger than a pencil eraser, but smaller than a dime, circular and was black because they had cauterized it to stop the bleeding.

Here is what threw me… I thought they could just stitch it up.  But she said because it was deeper and more extensive than they thought they could do one of two things.

1) Skin Graft – Take a small piece of skin from in front of my ear and transplant it. The negative part of this is that the skin color won’t match. It will be whiter than the skin on my nose.

2) Flap surgery – If she were to do this surgery, she would use a piece of skin that attaches to my nose. She would have gone down the edge of my nose towards my lip. This keeps the skin and blood supply alive to heal.  But I would have had a scar.

I picked the skin graft, but inside I was crying.  I had no idea that only after 2 times going back that this was a possibility. I thought these procedures were for much more extensive repairs.  I was actually glad for the anesthetic injection this time because I was able to let out some real tears along with the ones that came from the stinging so close to my eyes.

The took a place in front of my ear that required 4 sutures and put a bandage over that. Then the actual graft she said had 6 sutures in it.

Here is me this morning: I was surprised my eye wasn’t all swollen and black like they said it might be. It is a little dark, and you can see the swelling just above the dressing on the side of my nose.  I do know I’m wiped out today. That is pretty wimpy isn’t it? It isnt’ like I had some big surgery or anything.

mohs surgery

I get to wear that beauty on my nose a full week!!  I am not allowed to get it wet or remove it at all.  The graft has to “take”.  I guess there is an actual dressing sutured over the graft too.  The one on over the “donor” site or the place in front of my ear I can take off today.

So.. moral of the story is:   USE SUNSCREEN and GO TO YOUR DERMATOLOGIST for checks!!  A nice tan isn’t worth dying over or having to have surgeries to remove skin cancers for! Really!

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19 Responses to “Skin Cancer”
  1. JEWEL says:

    Wow Sandy. Thank you so much for being willing to get pictures of yourself. That really helps to see. I am so glad you caught it so early and even tho hard was much less then if you had waited another 6 months! I did like you and sunbaked with baby oil slathered on and also used cardboard that we put foil on to reflect the sun onto us!! YIKES those early 70’s weren’t kind to the skin!

    Hope you heal fast and that the skin graft takes with no problem and also hoping the skin color matches. And you know… even if it doesn’t. really so? you are alive and well and THAT is what matters most !

  2. Debbie S. says:

    I had surgery a little over 2 years ago but did not have the Mohs my doctor put me under did the whole thing when I was asleep. Here is my blog with pictures before, after and through out the healing. I forgot to post my 2 year pictures. My nose looks great now.

  3. Angie says:

    Hi Sandy! Hugs to you! I am so glad that that was caught before it grew bigger. Thank you for sharing this story with all of us! It is a huge reminder to take of ourselves in the face of all those alluring tans that you see in the summer. I am very fair-skinned and tanning it not natural for I always wear sunscreen and stay ‘white’. I am sure that once the bandage is removed, you will look just like your beautiful self!! You are gorgeous and a little scar will not change that! Angie from Echoes of Laughter. xoxo

  4. Susan says:

    Thanks Sandy for sharing this really important information! You are really brave and I wish you a speedy recovery and a very insignificant scar!
    God Speed!

  5. CAS says:

    Thanks for sharing this valuable & very necessary info.

  6. Angie says:

    GASP! I have three of those on my face!! (making appointment this week).

  7. Sandy says:

    Oh good Angie. Just keep in mind it might not necessarily be a basal cell. She named something else it might have been (don’t remember now) that wasn’t a skin cancer.. so hopefully that is all yours are. But… so glad you are getting them checked.

  8. Sandy says:

    Thanks Susan… I also hope for an insignificant scar! lol I guess I’ll have more of a difference in skin color on my nose. Just hoping makeup will do the trick.

  9. Sandy says:

    Thanks Angie.. that is so sweet of you. And if you have always used sunscreens and stayed white… you will more than likely have beautiful skin in the long run for it!

  10. Sandy says:

    Wow Debbie… you went through quit an ordeal. Yes… your nose looks great now! Yes… yours was much more extensive than mine. Thank goodness you finally went to someone who wanted to do the biopsy instead of just continuing to freeze it.

  11. CandieI h L says:

    I had Mohs 2 years ago (May 6 2009) for Melenoma- level II. I was very young (32) and I did not meet any of the factors. I just thought it was an age spot for 6 months. We found out how bad it was when my spouse and I were at a restaurant and an elderly lady stopped my husband. Two weeks later I was under the knife. Mine was on my forehead (I now have a cool scar from my eye brow to my hair line). I make no attempt to cover it up; I want people to hear my story. Definately makes you appreciate life knowing I would be dead today and my two boys would not have a mother if I had never had the surgery

  12. Sandy says:

    yes.. thank goodness you did go in. I’m sure you are probably getting checked every 6 months like I am! Mom’s stage 2 melanoma was misdiagnosed as a dysplastic nevus.

  13. Thank you for posting this! And glad you are doing well! I worry abut this type of stuff all the time!

  14. Shanna says:

    Great information! Sorry you have to go through that! But thank you for sharing!

  15. Roberta says:

    So good to hear that you caught it in time and that you are doing okay. Can’t imagine having to make that immediate of a decision…it makes you numb with shock. Wishing you all the best. Fondly, Roberta

  16. Linda says:

    Sandy, thanks for sharing…..I see that this was several months ago…I hope that with the time that has have healed nicely. When I read your comment about crying..I could so relate. One week ago, I had two cancers removed on my forehead and cheek with MOHS. They got it the first time and didn’t have to go back and cut more! I was then directed to a plastic surgeon where they did reconstruction. The whole experience was horrific. I cried at both surgeries and was a mess. The healing has been difficult. Every day has brought some new day..extreme headache…one day extreme day swollen face…one day black and blue…and another day nausuated…..I got stitches out today and dr. says it’s healing like it should…I am very excited that this journey is almost over…and I loved your comment about being scarred but not dead….I totally agree…blessings to you..

  17. Sandy says:

    Thanks for sharing Linda. I know.. it is scary isn’t it? But we have to be thankful they are catching them now. We are lucky…. there are so many that don’t get things checked. We have to look at it from the positive side and be happy we are getting things taken care of, so we will survive.

  18. Angie says:

    Hi Sandy – I never followed up! I mentioned that I was making an appointment right when I read your post. I did, for both my husband and I. Turned out that all of my marks were completely fine. All normal, even if growing and colored, moles.

    My husband though, had a mole on his collarbone area that had just a few weeks area gotten kind of crusty and bled. Then healed, gotten crusty and bled again. He thought it was nothing, just bothersome and hadn’t mentioned it to me even! He showed it to me just the day before I made the appointment – and the doctor lanced it in the office and sent it away to be biopsied. Bob got the results a few days later with a call from the Dr. that he wanted to remove the entire thing w/surgery. He said that the results were inconclusive, but suspicious. Not sure what that means? But… his surgery is the first week of Aug.

  19. Sandy says:

    Its a good thing you are getting it taken care of then! Not sure how your comment got missed, sorry about that – but it just showed up. Keep me updated.

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