It sure has been quiet around here for the last week or so. I am MORE than ready to squeeze that young’un of mine…..they are wrapping up their trip today with a stop at Victoria Falls (one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World). Can’t wait to see pictures of the falls for sure! Tomorrow, they start the LONG journey home. Pray for safe travels, on-time flights and no missed connections!
Several months ago – I noticed a small but crusty scab on the left side of my chest. At first I didn’t think so much of it……but after awhile, it didn’t appear to be going away, and it was often painful to the touch. And ohhhhh was it itchy. I’d catch myself scratching it in the middle of the night.
I was able to get an appointment with my dermatologist, who checked out the area and felt that it needed to be biopsied. She took a sample of the spot and sent it off for testing. They called me a week later to inform me that the spot was a squamous cell carcinoma. Since my breast cancer was in my left breast, and this skin cancer was on my left chest area – my first question was “are these related”? The dermatologist quickly let me know that they were two completely different types of cancers and totally unrelated to each other. She did, however, ask me if I had radiation as part of my treatment. I advised her that yes, I had 31 rounds of radiation. She advised me that it was possible that the skin cancer was a result of the intense radiation because at the end of the day, radiation burns are basically a really bad sunburn. Go figure.
My doctor said that the skin cancer needed to be removed and I had two options. They could do it in their office. They would remove the skin cancer and send off for pathology. If they got clear margins, all would be fine…..but if they did not, I’d have to come back and repeat the process. Option #2 was to see Dr. Jonathan Cook at Duke who specializes in MOHS surgery. Basically, you go to his office prepared to stay as long as it takes. He removes the skin cancer, sends you back to the waiting room and the lab runs the pathology while you wait. If he gets clear margins the first time, then they can stitch you up and send you on your way. If not, then they bring you back in and continue the process until they get clear margins.
For me – it was a no brainer. I’d prefer to have it all done in one sitting and not have to wait weeks in between for results, etc. I personally knew of several folks who had been to Dr. Cook and had excellent results. I was also advised that he was booked 3-4 months out so it would be awhile before I could see him. That was okay – I would just have to wait.
Imagine my surprise when Dr. Cook’s office called me last Friday to schedule my appointment and say that they had an opening on Wednesday at 10:00 am. I would have to rearrange a few things on my calendar, but I was willing to do that in exchange for not having to wait 3-4 months for an appointment.
My neighbor went with me to the appointment. My appointment was scheduled for 10:00 am and goodness there was a ton of folks in the waiting room. Some coming in for their first appointment, some coming for suture removal or check ups. I sat and watched patients come in and out of the waiting area. The nurse came by later and advised me that they were running about an hour behind schedule, but they would get to me as quickly as they could. ALL OF THIS had been plainly spelled out in the paperwork the doctor’s office sends. They explain that waiting is part of the plan. Dr. Cook does not rush with his patients. He treats everyone as if they are the only patient he’s seeing that day. It’s difficult for them to predict how many folks each day will need to come back for a second (or third) excision – so you are advised early on to come prepared to stay all day (or as long as it takes). For me – the possibility of having to spend the entire day there was not a problem. It was more than a fair trade-off for being able to get everything taken care of on the first go round.
Eventually, it was my turn to go back and have the procedure. The nurses and staff were excellent. Dr. Cook came in and introduced himself and asked me if I had any questions about the procedure. He also wanted to emphasize to me that this skin cancer was in NO WAY related to my breast cancer. He looked at the spot on my chest and said it was definitely a squamous cell carcinoma, but he would take care of it. The nurses numbed me up and got me prepped and literally in a matter of minutes, Dr. Cook announced that he was done. The nurses dressed the site and I went back out to wait.
It was after 3:00 pm when the nurse called me back for the results. As soon as I got through the doorway, she said “good news – he got it all on the first attempt”. Praise God! After a few pictures for their records (they take ALOT of pictures – before, after excision, after sutures are in place). Next they put me in a freezing cold room and stitched me up. Dr. Cook did most of the stitches under the skin with just a few top-stitches at each end. I was a bit taken back by the size of the excision but thankful that it was officially removed from my body.
Last night, CC told me that Dr. Cook had called him about 7:00 pm to check on me. Seriously? Who does that anymore? He wanted to make sure I was doing okay. Wow – we were both blown away that after a full day of surgeries (goodness knows how many) that at the end of the day, he took the time to call his patients to make sure all was well. That right there is extra-special in my book. Thankfully – I’ve had no pain. There’s some tightness in my chest from the stitches – but no pain at all.
So if you find yourself needing an awesome dermatologist who specializes in MOHS surgery – I would highly recommend Dr. Jonathan Cook. I’ve seen lots of his work – and I think he’s secretly a plastic surgeon as well. He does some pretty work.
Psalm 56:3 New Living Translation (NLT)
3 But when I am afraid,
I will put my trust in you.