Monday, May 27, 2013

6 weeks down (+ photos of healing)

This last Friday marked the sixth week since surgery.  It went by SO fast.  I went from being worried of the results to being worried that it may come back.  HA!  I traded one worry for another, not sure which one is worse…  I would have been worried of the actual surgery itself had I known how much it hurt.  I had read post after post of people saying “Oh, my husband had that surgery and he said it was easy”.  Yeah, well – I’m not a damn man and I should have taken that into account.  I think a reason why I was so sore was because the surgery took more than double the amount of time expected.  They were completely digging around in my pitter.

Anyways, the scars are healing up quite nicely.  I used the Neosporin type of ointment that the hospital gave me after the tape came off for about a day or two – but I didn’t want it greasing up my clothes, the couch or the bed.  Then I switched to tea tree oil and let me tell you, I love that stuff.  It’s a very strong smelling antiseptic and I swear that it has some sort of numbing quality to it.  The incisions started feeling just a little touch better each time it was applied.  

The hubs turned off our BBQ once and accidentally touched the underside of the grill – the underside of a 400 degree grill.   His forearm instantly started to blister.  As you may or may not know, he’s got some really nice, super colorful art on his arms.  I was so worried that the blisters would scab up, then ultimately scar up and just royally jack up his beautiful arm.  But we were quick on our toes and slapped some tea tree oil on it for a few days and now you would never know that he was even burned.  No scar at all, even when it seemed pretty evident that a scar was on the horizon. 

Here are some photos of the healing.  The incision on my back is the one that is taking longer to heal.  It has a tiny bit of the stitches sticking out through the middle of it.  You can kind of see it in the photos - it's right in the center of the incision.  It's slightly annoying, it almost feels like a thin guitar string, sticking out of my skin that catches on things like fabric, couches, clothing, etc.. Other than that, pretty much everything else is about the same. I’m still numb in my arm pit and running down along the outside/underside of my arm, which is still annoying because as I’ve mentioned – it’s numb but feels slightly like a bruise when touched.  With that being said, it still feels like I am shaving someone else’s arm pit – and I’m still not into it.  Though, my angry nerve is going back to it's regular old normal self.
Back in the sun
Back in shade

Left pitter in sun

Left pitter in shade
  I have had something new going on that is kind of bothersome.  When I reach over with my left arm, every now and then I get this sharp pain that runs from the top of the incision on my back right on up my neck.  You know when you move your neck some random way and it feels like you’ve pinched a nerve?  It feels like that, but from my back up to my neck.  I'm beginning to know the sensations right before it happens so I can stop whatever the hell I am doing so it doesn't fully happen.  It's actually slowed down; about three weeks ago it was happening as many as 5 times a day, this last week it only happened once.  Apparently the numbness and any nerve situation in that area is totally common.  But, whatevs!  As long as we are on our way to full recovery and I stay clear, I'm good to go.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Don’t Fry Day

Fried stuff that is good:
  • Donuts (I’m totally picturing Homer Simpson: “mmmmmm, donuts”)
  • Fried Chicken
  • French Fries….and onion rings
  • Calamari
  • The list goes on and on.  Not sure if there is anything that isn't yummy when fried?  

Fried stuff that is NOT good:
  • YOU!!!!! 

Today is “Don’t Fry Day” as declared by the National Council for Skin Cancer Prevention.  This lovely day is the fun Friday before Memorial Day and set as a reminder for people celebrating good ‘ole ‘Merica to be SAFE in the sun.  Chill out in the shade when you can, sport your favorite hat & sunglasses and of course wear your sunblock – and know when to generously reapply (every two hours would be standard, but reapply sooner if you're sweaty or getting wet).   Even though it may be a bit hazy this year, that doesn't mean you don't need sunblock. 

Be safe, respect the sun and don’t do something else that is stupid ~ DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE!  O-kay, that’s all the harping I am going to do!
Have an amazing & SAFE holiday weekend everyone!

Monday, May 20, 2013

The results are in...

My sinuses, as anticipated, are totally fine.  Dr. ENT said that they look perfect, aside from my "pretty big" deviated septum and an "extra sinus" on my left side.  Apparently having an extra sinus cavity is somewhat common; about 10% of people have it.  It doesn't cause any issues, unless the cavity is large enough to block off the areas where it allows the sinuses to drain, which mine doesn't do.

So then what the hell is causing the headaches?!   I have no clue... 

She said that it could be tension headache, which would make sense if I just started getting these headaches after the diagnosis.  Stress can do a number on your body and headaches are no exception.  The problem is that I've had these headaches since I had my first sinus infection - over a year ago.  I have a headache almost every day.  Most of the time, they're not that bad, just a little dull ache in the front of my head above my eyes - where part of your sinuses are.  Other days, like this past Friday, was pretty bad. 

I've only had a migraine twice.  Once from a party-filled weekend in Palm Springs and then the other time was brought on by watching the Hubs play a video game (I think it was one of the Call of Duty games).  The first couple of minutes during the intro had a bunch of flashing lights and gun shot sounds... Oh mylanta, that was by far the worst headache that I have ever had in my life.  Needless to say, these daily headaches typically don't get anywhere near migraine status - which is a good thing - but that doesn't mean they're not super annoying. 

Dr. ENT said to keep an eye on it and if they don't get any better then to give her a call and she will be able refer me to a neurologist to have a scan that will focus on my brain.  I think I may just have it done anyways because as I've previously mentioned, I see these random, little, flashes of light every now and then in my peripheral; the last one that I saw just last Friday.  It's super tiny and just as soon as it comes into the picture it disappears.  It's almost like Tinker Bell is turning on/off a small flashlight towards me...don't worry, I'm not seeing Tinker Bell, too...that would be weird.  The flashing lights could be stress related or something going on with my eyes even; I've always thought it had to do with my strangely shaped optic nerve - regardless, it should also be checked out.

She also said that maybe I should look into acupuncture...  Based on what some of her other patients have said is that this is the only thing that seems to help them with reoccurring headaches.  I may forego the acupuncture and try out yoga first before paying to have someone stick me with needles.  I do know I need to learn to relax/destress, which is terribly hard for me to do.  Even when I think that I am relaxed, I'm totally not.  I'm a stress-ball, can't help it.  I like to think that I am cool as a cucumber, but on the inside I am stressing out about one thing or another and more than half the time I don't even realize it myself.  How's that for stupid?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My very first scan!

This morning is appointment day with CT scanning facility to see what's up with my sinuses.  I've had a nice headache for the most part of this week, which isn't different from every other week.  Gross alert: I also hacked up something a little greenish Tuesday morning.  It was only a little bit of green, but still - I know that green means something, such as sinuses or lungs, is more than likely infected.  I've been pretty phlegmy since this last weekend.  What? I gave you fair warning that it was gross.  Most of you know that I have no problem describing bodily functions.  Don't get me started on my period...

I haven't been sick in over a year, which is absolutely unheard of for me.  I always joke around that I could simply look at someone that is sick and catch whatever they had.  At work, I am crazy with Lysol after someone has been out and will uncomfortably stare at coworkers until they go home.  If they show up appearing slightly under the weather, I will grill them with the standard questions: Do you have a fever?  Are you blowing/coughing up anything yellow/green?  Do you have body aches?  You're not throwing up, are you?  I've even been known to demand they leave if they answer YES to any of the above questions.

During the last year, on more than one occasion, it seemed that I was completely on the verge of getting sick...but never did.  I'd start to feel a little crappy, throat hurts, tonsils get red, I get abnormally tired and more stuffy that usual.  I'd take it easy for a few days, take an extra multivitamin/antioxidant and within a day or two I am back to normal, or at least what I feel is "normal" for me.  Even when everyone (and I mean everyone) in the office and their children were sick multiple times, I didn't get sick - which I thought was totally bizarre given my track record.  Maybe my body was already at high-alert because of the Melanoma invasion.  It obviously worked pretty hard keeping that at bay, getting rid of a silly little cold was probably super easy for it.  I don't know...but kind of makes sense, right?

Anyways, enough with this sicky-poo chatter.  I will have my dome scanned to get a closer look into my sinuses to figure out what the heck is going on up there.  Apparently the scan only takes about 5 minutes, which after I am done they will give me a disk of the scans taken and I will be sent on my way.  From there I will call Dr. ENT and make an appointment and we will review the slides together.  She's pretty easy to see, so I should have an appointment within a week, if not sooner.  Dr. ENT also said that we will also go over my decision on the tonsillectomy that she strongly advised that I should get...  Ehh, I'm not ready to fully decide on that yet, though I am leaning towards pulling them out :/  I'm not going to worry about that today.  It's Thursday, tomorrows Friday then comes the weekend!  YAY!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Three Little Birds

It’s ironic that the very first song I thought of for my surgery soundtrack was Bob Marley's song, “Three Little Birds”. It’s ironic because he died of Melanoma, the very thing that I was having surgery for.  He would have been 68 this year.  He died when he was only 36 years old and has been gone for 32 years as of today.  He had Melanoma on the bed of one of his toes and apparently decided not to amputate due to religion.  Unfortunately, within a few years the cancer had metastasized and spread to vital organs including his brain.
You see, Melanoma isn’t just for us pasties.  Melanoma is a non-discriminatory club and its recruiting people DAILY.  Estimated diagnosis for this year is 210.11 people – a day.  Divide that by 24 and you get 8.75 people – per hour.  It’s also excessively kicking people out of the club.  Estimated deaths for this year are at 26 people a day.  And this is just the United States.  Crazy, right?  I think so.  You know what is even crazier to me?  That people can take proper precautions and they don’t.  Of course, there can be some genetics that come into play and those can be unavoidable, however most of the damage comes from UV rays.  It could be that people are just completely unaware, know a little about it and are uneducated in prevention or they think “this won’t happen to me” which is just plain stupid on all kinds of levels.

I fell into a bit of all three.  I guess I knew, in a way, that tanning could cause Cancer. But then again, what the hell DOESN’T cause Cancer?  Tonight on Channel 7 news, the link between drinking more than one cup of coffee and Cancer.  Seriously?!   I feel like we live in a world where everything, in one way or another, causes Cancer.  The air we breathe is completely polluted – at least in lovely Southern California.  The foods we eat have been sprayed with pesticides and filled with preservatives.  The makeup we wear has known carcinogens in them that apparently the manufactures don’t want to advertise.  And of course, I can’t leave out the chemicals that we clean our house to get that clean feeling and smell.

Anyways, I’m going to end this now with a few lyrics to that awesome song that I'm sure helps thousands of people navigate through their own rough patches, even if only for a couple of minutes.  It just makes you feel happy and you can't help to smile when you hear it.   

Rise up this mornin'
Smiled with the Risin' Sun,
Three Little Birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs,
of melodies pure and true
Sayin', this is my message to you-ou-ou.

Singin' Don't worry, 'bout a thing
'Cause every little thing gonna be alright

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"Doctor, Doctor - Give me the news...

...I've got a bad case of seeing you!"

I was the type of person that would wait until I absolutely couldn’t stand whatever IT was that was ailing me before I would go to the doctor (or dentist for that matter).  I don’t think that I have ever even had an annual physical exam by a doctor, at least after age 16.  The only thing that I was pretty good with was seeing my female-lady-parts doctor every year, but that’s only because I wanted something from her: birth control.  Everything else could wait until it hopefully went away on its own.  And I’ve tried some pretty unconventional ways to try to naturally “cure” things that really could have used a round of antibiotics. 
Oh, how things have changed.  The carefree days of my health are officially over.  The next six months are quickly filling up with doctor appointments.  We’ve got our standard lineup consisting of the two doctors that I have seen up to this point: Dr. Dermatologist and Dr. Surgeon.  With Dr. Dermatologist, we need to make sure that any new moles don’t pop up or change, which he again said that it’s completely possible (I'm something like 10-12 times more likely to develop an additional 'tumor' than the average Joe).  I’m already scheduled to see him twice in the next four months then hopefully that will spread out to where I won’t need to see him once but every 6 months.  Then we have Dr. Surgeon to follow up for blood work & x-rays to make sure that there aren’t any signs of cancer making himself at home in my lungs/heart.  That will be once every 6 months or so, then drift off to about once a year (which I will be bummed about; I really like him).

And then we have a couple of new players added to the lineup.  Introducing: ENT, Gastroenterologist, Internist and Optometrist.  
ENT:  As I’ve mentioned before in a previous post, I’ve been having what I’ve assumed are “sinus” related headaches for quite some time now.   Things changed in this big, beautiful head of mine after I had my very first sinus infection February of last year.  My nose gets plugged up on a nightly basis and once I stand up, it goes away.  Pretty much every day I have a headache that seems to be in my sinuses.  So, I need to find out what the heck is going on in my dome.  I had my appointment with an ENT today and she took a camera up in my nose to check out my sinuses - which she said looked totally normal.  I do however need to get a CT scan of my dome to figure out why I am having these headaches.  Oh, and on a side note, she said that I should totally think about pulling my tonsils because they are in such crap shape.  She strongly advises it.  Joy.  I will make an appointment for my head scan (which should only check out my sinuses, not my brain, but I will take it) and then we will review the slides together. 

Gastroenterologist: During the first appointment with Dr. Surgeon he said that since I now have Melanoma along with ulcerative colitis I should be having a colonoscopy every 3 years.  YAY!  When you just have colitis, you should have your bum checked out every 5 years…and I’m totally tardy with my 5 year follow up by over a year.  I haven’t really had any symptoms, at least when I am not freaking out about something.  So what do I do?  I wait until I actually need it.  It’s not the most fun procedure…  It’s really shitty.  Pun intended.  In all reality, it’s the preparation that is shitty – the procedure itself is fine.  You have to drink TWO of these disgusting drinks that will Clean. You. Out.  You can’t eat while you’re "preparing", but honestly I wasn’t hungry one bit.  When your entire day (and I mean ENTIRE DAY) is spent in the bathroom it completely curbs your hunger.  Diet anyone?
Internist:  At my appointment with Dr. Dermatologist he said that it would be very wise to find myself a good Primary Care Doctor, possibly an Internist (which I prefer them anyways to general/family practice).  I should have annual checkups with this internist in conjunction with the rest of the lineup.   I figure I won’t need to find this doctor for at least 6 months to a year because I will be seeing everyone else.  I’ve done a little research already and have a doctor in mind of who I’d like to see; I’ll keep her information handy for when she’s ready to be put into the game. 

Optometrist: I started wondering what other doctors I should see just to make sure.  I know that I will need to get my eyes checked soon, my Rx expires the end of this month.  I've went ahead and added my eye doc (and possibly later will add my ophthalmologist) to the line up.  They ran a battery of tests on me about two years ago because they thought I was starting to get glaucoma.  Yes, really.  Apparently my optic nerve is shaped weird - which I've attributed these little flashes of light that I occasionally see to that...  Worry wart, straight to the rescue!  I'll get that shit checked out, too.  Might as well, my deductible and my out of pocket max will have been reached with the surgery I had. 

While at my last dermatologist appointment, he said that I really need to be diligent in my follow ups.  It made me curious who the hell that person is that is like "no, really - I don't need to be seen - I'm getting good at dodging bullets."  It kind of shocked me that he would even need to say that to someone that just had surgery to make sure that cancer hadn't spread and was given clear results.  I want those results to stay that way, so of course I am going to stay on top of my appointments.  I am already borderline crazy with checking my skin (and the hub's skin, too).   I may even start buying sunblock at freaking joke.  This summer should be interesting with O.C.S.D = Obsessive Compulsive Sunblock Disorder. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Melanoma Roar

There are countless blogs on the internet.  Some topics to name a few are decorating, cooking, photography, art and of course CANCER.  I, too, am now one of the several blogs about Melanoma.  It seems that Melanoma is all that I write about it.  Sorry, it’s all still pretty fresh!   I still cry, I'm still a little scared, I'm still sad for others that get it...I don't know if those feelings will ever go away.  I’m sure it’s getting boring to you – reading about Melanoma a few times a week - but for me writing about it, it’s therapeutic.  I need to release this crap. 

I’ve come across several other blogs about Melanoma and it astonishes me with the feelings that they can relay simply by using their fingers.  Some break my heart and absolutely have made me cry; some make me smile.  Most bloggers are people going through the disease themselves; others are family members telling their loved one’s story.  Some blog authors have passed; most are still fighting and blogging about their survival.  Actually, the other day I came across a blogger who recently passed. She had blogged about her four year fight once diagnosed with a later stage Melanoma.  She passed last month and her husband wrote the final posting for his wife titled: “She’s gone”.   I’m tearing up just thinking about it. 

Every single Melanoma blog that I have read tells a story of diagnosis where they were in complete shock that this disease could be so terrible.  After all, it’s just skin cancer, right?  They were shocked that they needed to see an oncologist.  They were shocked they needed to have surgery.  The fact is that people aren’t aware of what this actually is unless they, a family member or a close friend is going through it.  I, personally, had no clue.  The word 'malignant' is what initially worried me, not the 'skin cancer' part.  Once I researched Melanoma it scared the shit out of me.  Of course, I can laugh at it now – I was scared of cancer and I end up with a cancer on my largest damn organ.  Go figure.
The common denominator in these blogs is awareness.  I thought about “coming out” for a few weeks.  Should I stay silent?  Or should I tell people what the hell is up?  I chose to not be silent. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, right mom?  Speak up, tell your story.  Tell it to tan people.  Tell it to pasties.  Tell it to anyone that effing asks.  Make people aware of the fastest growing cancer in the US.  Since my surgery (at least on the weekends), I have only worn tank tops, halter tops or dresses that expose my back/pitter.  I want people to be curious enough to ask what those scars are from. 

I read once, and I am totally paraphrasing here: One voice alone is quiet, but a whole bunch of voices together is a roar.  I am proud to be a voice in the Melanoma Roar

Friday, May 3, 2013

Monday, May 6th ~ Melanoma Monday

The first Monday in May, May 6th, has been designated  Melanoma Monday to raise awareness for skin cancer.  Actually, all of May is Melanoma Awareness MONTHHere is a blurb from the American Academy of Dermatology:

“The American Academy of Dermatology designates the first Monday in May as Melanoma Monday® to raise awareness of melanoma and other types of skin cancer. Join the Academy in painting the nation orange on Melanoma Monday®, Monday, May 6, 2013.

The American Academy of Dermatology is coordinating this national effort to raise awareness of skin cancer.
  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States.
  • Current estimates are that one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime.
  • Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is the most common cancer for 25- to 29-year-olds."

This is a little weird and created a buzz among people with Melanoma because of the fact that the color of our cancer "ribbon" is BLACK.  Kind of depressing, but totally fitting given the creepiness factor.  Apparently the reason why the AAD chose orange was because it's bright, demands attention and their hope is to encompass all types of skin cancer.  Wear some black, wear some orange - hell, wear BOTH Black & Orange like I'll be doing.  Show some support this coming Monday for people you know with skin cancer.  And don't forget your skin's favorite accessory ~ sunblock :)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Rather be safe than sorry...

About five days after surgery, I was in the shower and for some reason or another my attention turned to my thumb on my right hand.  There was a small, sort of purple, mark on my cuticle.  I figured when they were man-handling me during surgery, I must have banged my hand/thumb on something.  The weird thing was that it didn’t hurt.  If you bang your hand/fingers on something, it hurts!  I’ve slammed my left thumb in a car door once and I almost passed out from the pain.  Within an hour it was disgusting looking and then within a few days, it was even worse.  I had to go to a doctor to have them use that heated needle thing to puncture through the nail to allow it to bleed to relieve the pressure.  It was throbbing pain every single day until I went to the doctor.     

Anyways, I didn’t really think anything of that little line on my cuticle and just went on with life and focused on healing from the surgery.  Last Thursday while showering, again, I noticed my right thumb.  Lately, shower time is the time to inspect my body.  I look EVERYWHERE.  Well, anywhere that I can see while showering.  The purple line on my cuticle was now a brown spot on my cuticle and nail bed, a bit larger than the area that the 'purple line' previously inhabited. 
I’ve done my fair share of research on Melanoma and many of its skin cancer counterparts.  Did you know that Melanoma can begin anywhere there is skin?  It can even begin in your eyes, mucus membranes and intestines/bowels.  It can be on the beds of finger and toe nails and it will typically only affect the thumbs or big toes.  That form of Melanoma is called Subungual Melanoma and it will show itself as a brown/black discoloration on your nail bed (typically it is a linear stripe from the base of the nail to the tip). This form is quite rare with Caucasians; only around 3% of pasties get diagnosed with it. 

One thing that concerns me is that this showed up after surgery.  Recurrence can easily happen at anytime, though within the first two years there is a slightly higher chance.  As I've mentioned, our bodies know how to make the cells; they became good at it.  Part of me is screaming to "CALL THE DOCTOR YOU MORON!"  The other part of me is very calm, quiets the other side down and says to just wait and see what happens.  But I don’t want to wait.  I waited with my back and look what that got me: two brand new BIG scars and a shit load of worrying. 

Another thing that concerns me is that Melanoma obviously affects the melanocytes which are the cells that produce pigment in your skin...and pigment is what makes your skin/moles brown.  Why would the base of my thumb nail on have a brown spot?  I have no freaking clue.  It doesn’t look like much and it's not a stripe/streak like the nail Melanoma typically is, but I can only assume the stripe starts out as something small and people wait until that small spot grows into something larger (such as said stripe/streak) before going to the doctor.   One thing I've learned from all of this: I will no longer allow myself to put my health in the backseat.   I'm sure it's nothing, but I'd MUCH rather be safe than sorry...

Just so you know, the screamer side won.  I called Dr. Surgeon's office and I spoke to a nurse on his staff which she told me to have Dr. Dermatologist check it out.  I've made an appointment for this Thursday @ 9am.  Hopefully it doesn't need a biopsy.  Doesn't that sound fun?  Having the skin UNDER your fingernail biopsied?  JOY!  But, whatevs.  I really don't care what needs to be done.  Take the damn nail completely off, just find out what the heck it is.

The one below is from Sunday afternoon.  My nail isn't purple-ish like the photo suggests, it's the natural light making it look that way. 

And then the one below here is from yesterday morning.  Its from my cell phone, but at least the brown is coming through and you can kind of see what it looks like.
Finger nails are like little windows to your health; any change in appearance can represent a change in your health.  Pay attention to your body, people...