Posts Tagged ‘health’

The last time I had a surgical procedure, the last time a doctor took some kind of medical implement, inserted it into my body, and removed something, was more than a decade ago, when I had a navicular bone removed from my foot, about which I’ve written before.

And long time followers (and what a weird concept that is) on Twitter and other social media will know that I sometimes link to the post above, a post entitled Trouble afoot, in which I detail why I’ve got a fucked up foot, and why I whinge about it when it hurts like hell. Which it does, on a regular basis.

So, congratulations to anyone with an inkling of how my mind works for guessing that this post, with its title, is about the opposite end of my body.

And now, you see, I have a problem, the ever present problem for a writer of both trying to be honest – or at least not dishonest – but also attempting to maintain a certain level of suspense that accompanies the telling of a story.

Because I’ve already lied to you: the most recent time I had a surgical procedure wasn’t “more than a decade ago”; it was last year, when I had a couple of scalp biopsies to check whether I had basal cell carcinoma; skin cancer. On my scalp.

But, not to bury the lede – too late, I fear – the tests were negative. So, no, I don’t have skin cancer. But for a while, both the medical profession and I… thought I probably did.

This wasn’t the first time in recent memory that I’d had to have skin biopsies, either. Towards the back end of 2017, I had a couple – one just below my temple, a mole removed from my upper back – that turned out to be nothing, or nothing malignant, anyways. Both my GP and the dermatological team made it clear at the time that those biopsies were really ‘just in case’; sure, they could have been something nasty… but odds were they weren’t.

One turned out to be just… a mole that kept bleeding; the other was a patch of discolouration on my left temple that several friends had noticed was growing. Well, after surgery it was about a quarter of the size it was previously. So that was nice. And when they removed the mole, it stopped bleeding. Well, it may have. I mean, if it did, it’s in some laboratory somewhere, being examined by very puzzled lab techs, I’d imagine, while it metamorphises into something with… plans.

Best of luck sleeping tonight, folks.

But anyway, as I say, the first couple were merely to confirm that they weren’t anything nasty.

The second time, last year, no such comfort was offered. The consultant was “highly suspicious” that the spots… ok, lesions… that hadn’t healed since before August 2017 were carcinomas, and the doc who took the biopsies said she was ‘fairly confident’ they were as well.

And I appreciate that they were merely trying to prepare me for the worst, but… yeah.

However, that wasn’t the scary part…

The really scary bit about the procedure was when the doc told me “yeah, they tick almost all the boxes for basal cell carcinoma, let’s do the biopsies…” dig… “oh [beat] ok, there are the other two boxes ticked.”

So the procedure wasn’t so much ‘just in case…’ as they were ‘let’s just confirm…’

And then they were confirmed… as benign in one case, and just a massive infection in the other. But excising both seemed to do the job.

I guess, I suppose, that scraping a chunk of my scalp removed any of the infected tissue, because both scars healed very nicely, thank you, with no lasting ill effects, and not even a bald patch.

So I haven’t even got that excuse; any patches I have, or will get, on my scalp will be due to me just getting, y’know, older.

Now I want to be clear: if you’re going to get skin cancer, a basal cell carcinoma is the best one to get.

And that isn’t a joke, or a bit of self-deprecating relief. It’s so much better than the other kinds of skin cancer, it’s not even an exaggeration to say you’re lucky to get one of those.

The recovery rate is very high, especially at my then-age, and though there’s a decent risk of recurrence, at least none of them were near my eyes, nor my mouth. They were all on my scalp, the latter two on the crown, separated by about an inch and a half.

And this was last year, so why write about them today?

Well, the reason for this post today is threefold.

One: I’ve not blogged since the surgeries and I wanted to write something on it

Two: To relate what happened and how un-scary the whole procedure was, on the whole.

Three: To recommend that if you’ve any doubt, any doubt at all, about that spot that just won’t heal… go see your doctor.

OK, now since I’ve already dealt with One, by writing the entry, let’s move on to number Two.

I went to St Mary’s for the initial checkup and surgeries. They couldn’t have been more professional, more courteous more reassuring. Every one of the medical staff, the doctors and nurses, were professional, courteous, friendly and ‘judged’ the situation perfectly.

At no point whatsoever did I feel that they were over-egging the situation, nor trivialising it. They knew I was scared; they knew I was worriedand so they explained everything in plain English, in simple language. Jargon was used only once or twice and they explained to me its meaning so if I heard something during the procedure, I’d know what the hell they were talking about.

Their entire motivation, it seemed, was to ensure that I a) understood what was going on and what was going to happen during the surgery, b) understood why they were concerned, and c) was fully consenting to what was going to happen.

(On a lighter note, I’m 54 years old, have had lots of local anaesthetic over my life and have always, always, been told this will feel like a sharp scratch. My thanks to the anaesthetists on both sets of procedures because the injections administrated for my biopsies were the only times in my life, literally the only times, when the injection of local anaesthetic has indeed felt like a sharp scratch. Which was a pleasant surprise.)

I had punch biopsies, which… I have no idea whether that’s always the procedure or just what was appropriate for my procedure. I felt pressure, but was completely numbed… to the point where the only reason I realised I was bleeding was when I saw a drop of blood… drop.

The stitches pulled, afterwards, but even when they were removed, the entire process was – all things considered – pretty pain free. (Oh, that was one of the signs they didn’t like before, by the way… that the spots, ok lesions, were entirely pain free, even when a bit yucky and ‘nasty’…)

So, yeah, all things considered, I was pretty lucky.

But I might not have been. I could have had skin cancer. And even with a basal cell carcinoma, the high rebate of recovery from it, the easy removal, kind of depends on the doctors being, y’know, aware of them.

So, to number Three above: do yourself a favour. If you’ve any doubt, any doubt at all, if your friends have noticed that mole’s grown a lot, or it’s constantly bleeding, or you’ve a wound that just won’t heal… go see your doctor.

Yes, it’s probably nothing to worry about, but since they’re the doctor and you’re not, let them confirm it with the benefit of their professional knowledge, rathe than your usual ‘ah, I’m sure it’ll be fine.’

Something less serious, hopefully, tomorrow.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.