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Nip Tuck

I've become an expert at post surgical care. Not that I tried to become and expert, expertise was thrust on me. Okay, minor post surgical care. All right, inconsequential post surgical care.

A few years back a little blemish appeared on my cheek. I thought nothing of it because who hasn't had a blemish? Until it started turning white. This, I thought, was wrong.

So, I went to my doctor at Kaiser. Well, not MY doctor, A doctor. That's how Kaiser works. She looked me over, got close to my face and left the room. A few minutes of alone time later and she pops back in. "You have a wart," she proclaimed. "Great," I thought. "Next thing you know I'll be Quasimodo."

"We'll freeze it off. Nothing to worry about."

She took her freeze spray (I'm sure there's a more technical term for it, but you go with what you got, right?) and sprayed liberally on my upper left cheek. "It will be irritated for a couple of days but that should be it."

Off I went for a couple of days with a bright red splotch on my face hoping I didn't get called in for a close up of any kind. But, it was worth it, to be rid of a wart!

A couple days came and went and the thing was still there. Warts and all. Naturally, I tried my own home remedies until I gave up and let it be. For a couple years. The thing is I kept catching it while I shaved, or unconsciously scratched it when it itched and I got tired of the little open wound just under my eyes.

So, I head back to my doctor, er, a doctor. Not the same doctor. A different one. Of course. He looked me over and said he wanted to biopsy. No problem, says I, but biopsy has an ominous ring.

A little anesthesia, a little clip and off it went to the lab. Nothing to worry about. It'll be a few days before we get the results. We'll call you.

The irony is that the biopsy almost eliminated it entirely. I wish he'd just taken the whole thing. But, I'm not a doctor. Maybe it's a thing they do.

Later I got a call. I don't remember the exact words but it was something like, "It's indicative but not cancer. You can either use a cream or we can remove it." I opted for removal, because, why not?

In the interim I changed insurance and thought I couldn't go back. So, the procedure was cancelled. Fast forward another year or so and I'm sick of nicking this this all over again. So, I call to re-schedule, because I hadn't cancelled my insurance after all, and make an appointment.

The day arrives and I'm sitting in the waiting room. A nurse comes out to check me in. "How are you today? We'll get you all fixed up," that sort of thing. Then he says, "We'll get that cancer removed."


"Nobody told me it was cancer."

"Oh yeah." He glances at the notes. "Cancer." A "squamis cell carcinoma - non melanoma" as it turns out.

Well, that got my attention. What if I'd left it alone another two or three years and it spread? What if I'd died? Then what? You guys said it was a wart! Of course I didn't say these things, I just said, "Huh."

So, I sit in the room and wait for the doctor. All I had for reference was the biopsy and that was a piece of cake. How much more difficult could this be? A lot, it turns out.

The doctor was great. A real pro. She marked my face with a sharpie, made a couple of doctor jokes, then poked me with a little needle. It hurt. The first time. Not so much the second. The third was just irritating. By the fourth it was oddly surreal. I knew something was happening but couldn't feel a thing.

"I need to check for numbness," she said. "Can you feel that?"

"Are you touching my face?"

"Yeah. I'm poking you with a needle." Are doctors supposed to laugh?

All set and the cutting begins. I didn't realize but I was arching my back a little in nervous anticipation. I kept telling myself people have this done all the time. Then why did I have to sign a release absolving the hospital from any liability?

After a few tense minutes the lesion was gone. In its stead was a yellow and red, gaping wound on my left cheek. I know because the nurse showed me a picture! Yikes.

"Now we wait forty five minutes," said the doctor. "The lab needs to make sure there's no residual tissue." And she left.

I had nothing to do but wait as the anesthesia slowly receded and I started feeling the corner of my eye again. Wait a minute. Didn't she say something about stitches? Come on novocaine, daddy needs a numb cheek!

After an interminable thirty minutes (ten less than she said, by the way) she got the thumbs up. "Um, how long is this anesthetic supposed to last?" I said nervously. "Oh, don't worry. We're going to shoot you up again."

Now, my jaw was numb, my teeth were numb, my eye was numb. She wasn't kidding.

They put a towel over my eyes because the light is terrifically bright. All I hear, and feel, is snip, snip. "Are you cutting the stitches?" I ask innocently. "No. Just cleaning up the edges. We haven't started to stitch yet." Oy.

But, like I said, she was a pro. She sutured me up real good! Five stitches on the bottom, six over the top. What? Bottom? Top? Holy cow.

Finally, after about three and a half hours, I was done. They packed a bandage on it and told me not to touch it for two days. Then, gave me instructions for care. I was now on my own.

That was two weeks ago.

When my daughter saw the results she said, "You can play so many great bad guy parts with that scar." I love her enthusiasm. But, I'm hoping it will all but go away and I can once again be too something or other to play a romantic lead. But, not because I have a scar on my face.

Be well, wear a mask, check your moles and God bless.


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