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photo by Sheri Dixon

Friday, September 24, 2010

Internet Medical Research + Midnight:Thirty = Nothing Good. Ever.

So there's this spot.

It's on Ward's neck right about where they harvested a vein for this latest graft. Actually, that's not entirely true.

That spot (hereafter referred to as the area) has just sort of been there all along after surgery- I'm not really sure, though, since his entire body was so ravaged away back then in April that the area was most likely the BEST looking place on his entire body for a good while.

About the size of a dime, give or take since it scabs and opens, scabs and opens, it's never really gotten infected, but never really healed over.

The doctors looked at it in July and said "Well, looks like post-surgical trauma- it should heal- we'll keep an eye on it". They mainly want to keep an eye on it since it's right over what's left of the same muscle that grew his cancer.

But at the time, they scanned it and said "No cancer".

Complicating matters is that that side of Ward's head has had its nerve endings (and everything else) all messed up and rearranged, and the area is where he naturally rests his head in his hand. So the area is apparently 'just' irritating enough for him to bother it, but doesn't have enough feeling for him to tell just how much damage he's doing to it.

I've bugged him. Alec's bugged him. Every time we see his hand wander up there we throw something at him. I've stopped just short of getting a spray bottle.

The obvious answer- Cover the Area, I've been loathe to do since that skin is SO delicate- any adhesive used to keep bandaging on there would've most likely torn off more skin when removed. And that's not the direction we want to go.

So we've gone back and forth, and it got better and worse, and we were told it would most likely heal- that we needed to remember that Ward's not only diabetic but also on coumadin- both things that make healing a slow going proposition.

But here's the thing.

Everywhere else on Ward is healed beautifully from that month-plus long assault on his person- the graft is perfect, the incisions are solid, the donor sites are almost invisible, even when Fizzgig scratches him in her puppy exuberance and he walks around with a paper towel dripping blood for an hour those spots are 150% All Better No More Boo Boo within a week.

And then the second spot appeared a few weeks before these appointments.

Just to the face-side of the area and looking like it's Evil Looking Glass Twin.

Which is the main reason I was sleepless in Houston and writing Haiku earlier this week.

The cancer doctor said "Well, the scans from July show 'something'- probably scar tissue, but definitely not 'normal tissue'. We can do 2 things- we can make sure you keep that covered to rule out self-mutilation and if it's not completely healed in 3 weeks you come back for a consultation and biopsy with the dermatologist OR we can just do the biopsy now".

I was ready- just show me the needle, hand me a syringe and I'll get it myself ya'll just hold that man down for a sec.

Ward said "Not so fast, Over-reaction Mama".

Being as he's the patient, and my beloved husband, and just an all around better and more sensible person than I am, we're going with the Option of Least Invasiveness for now, which the doctor never would've even offered if he thought for a second 3 weeks would make any difference. I know that because that's exactly what he told us in a quiet calming voice as they were gently tightening the ties on my strait jacket...

As we were leaving, we were offhandedly asked the last time Ward's seen a dermatologist. As in "You ARE seeing a dermatologist on a regular basis for an all-over check for more skin cancer, right?"

Ummm...no. We're not. We were never told to. We come to MDAnderson every 4-6 months for THEM to keep on top of it and FOR GOD'S SAKE NO ONE HERE EVER TOLD US WE NEEDED TO DO THAT!!!

(Those strait jackets at MDA are really top notch- never even loosened an inch...)

The bandaging they prescribed is something called Tagaderm- sort of sticky cellophane. Cut to fit and applied over the area. They said "Well, try this- but it doesn't breathe so if the area gets oozy or yacky or otherwise more disgusting than it already is, be sure to take it off". But no other options. Thanks.

Within 8 hours the area was oozy and yacky and more disgusting than it already was, so we removed the Tagaderm, thankful that we hadn't already spent $15 on 4 little pieces of it at the drugstore.

So...what to do what to do what to do about keeping the area covered yet breathing?

I've got almost 30 years working in the veterinary field, so I fell back on what came naturally to me-



(note Alec's "thumbs up"- I don't know where he gets his mean streak- must be Ward's side...)

*What the Sam Hell does any of that have to do with the title of today's post, you crazy old broad???*

Just this.

Last night I surfed the interwebs while my family slept (except for the Mutant Cat from Hades- it never sleeps) and came across some interesting yet horrifying things.

-the area does, in fact, look suspiciously basal cell-ish
-a reminder that while basal cell doesn't usually metastasize, it can be "aggressive and problematic at point of origin".
and my favorite-
-of patients who are treated for basal cell, over 50% will have it recur near the original site within 5 years.

Today the area looks some better. I'm letting Ward not wear the collar unless we start to see him pecking at it again and/or during the times he would normally be resting his head in his hand- watching tv, surfing the 'net, or in the car.

All I can say is those sum-bitches better keep on healin', because my family has got a house to build, things to do, places to go, people to see, and none of it includes any more incarcerations at the cancer hospital.

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