When the day of the appointment happened, K watched my three boys with her two kids as my mom had to drive me to get cut. K acted like I do when babysitting other kids. What’s three more, she said.
Amazingly we got there early, even though the back door of the SUV thing broke. (Bastard.) I had to suck on the Valium. As though it wasn’t hateful before, now it was chalky, disgusting, sandy thing. Then they called me in, numbed me, explained the procedure. They took pictures and sliced me open. They sent me out to the waiting room, sort of like a fitting room, but with nicer chairs and no mirror. The nurses, on hearing I had three little ones, insisted I rest and enjoy the quiet.
I was sent back in. They needed to cut more. They stitched me up, bandaged me up, warned me about black eyes, warned me about the blood in my hair, handed me a prescription and directions for care, and sent me home with my mom. I couldn’t drive. So we picked up the boys and I slept. All afternoon.
At one point, I texted my closest friends with the news I was cancer free. It was just a little thing, and now it was done. With my pen pal, I bemoaned the weirdness of the drugs coursing through my veins. “Give into the drugs.” Yeah, that’s me. Give in.
Twenty six hours, the soonest I could get into the shower after the 24 hour mark. I washed my hair with baby shampoo as they recommended to get the blood out. I had to forgo my regular sweet-smelling shampoo and conditioner. Stupid incision. I removed the pressure bandaged. I enjoyed the shower. I stepped out of the shower and looked in the mirror.
And proceeded to freak the f- out.
It was only a little thing. Maybe a quarter of an inch. Maybe. And there. There on my forehead was a. F. I stormed into the closet, found my sewing kit, pulled out the measuring tape, stormed back into the bathroom. Three Inches!!!! A three-inch incision across my forehead. I snapped a picture of it with my phone and sent it to my best friends. Text: Look at it! Look what they did to my forehead! I look like f-ing Frankenstein’s monster.
Apparently on my Titanic the cook didn’t have the flu, the first mate did.
My pen pal text back: Beats cancer. Keep it covered!!! Reduces scarring! How are you feeling today? Thinking of you.
My text: Right now. (At this very moment, staring at black stitches across my head ,thinking about Frankenstein’s monster and Sally from A Nightmare Before Christmas, realizing I’m more vain than I ever imagined.) A little upset.
I called my mother. Who promised to come right over. There is a possibility I curled up into a ball and cried. But I admit nothing.
That is when I realized that I just called a breast cancer survivor whose hair was only now growing back to look at my forehead. Um. That’s what we call perspective.
My mom arrived ten minutes later, odd since she lives three minutes away. She handed me a large strawberry Eeegees (a Tucson drink like a virgin daiquiri but with fruit pieces) and hugged me. She set down her drink, pulled away my bandage and looked at the incision.
Mom: I think you better talked to the doctor when they take the stitches out. Someone should have explained what they did.
We ate and talked until I felt better.
I texted my pen pal. Text: I was in shock. I could always go back to wearing bangs (as in back to my grade school years). Or it can eliminate the @ssholes out of the dating pool.
Pen pal text: lol. Good joke! You’re almost your old self!
My text: Almost. I’m also a little hormonal. And thank you so very much.
Then the next morning came. And my eyes weren’t black. They were magenta. My cheekbones were lost in the swelling. I looked like someone kicked the sh*t out of me. I groaned.
As I sat on the kitchen floor, eating Rice Krispies for breakfast,Tornado E asked to see my owie. “You look like the Bride of Frankenstein!” I know who he must have learned that from. (um, me.) But it was a shock to hear him put two and two together. Though not as shocking as “Mommy, are you going to wear your sunglasses all day. You look ugly without them.” Thanks, kid. Thanks a lot.
I saw K that morning at sports class. I lifted my sunglasses up. Briefly. “Holy Sh*t!” Yeah, I know. You should see the f-ing incision.
The next day I looked even worse. I looked like some undead thing. And not the good kind. The kind that feasts on brains.
My text to my pen pal: If I was going to have to look like an undead thing, I wanted to look like a sexy undead thing.
My pen pal’s text: I think you’re sexy!
You have to say that. You’re my best friend.
When I went to my parents’ house, I hid behind my glasses as I had the day before. I mentioned what Tornado E said. My mom took the boys onto her lap.
My mom: You know, Mommy had something bad on her skin. Like what Grandma had in her breast. She hurts. So you have to be nice to Mommy. We still love her no matter how she looks. You have to say nice things to her. (She looked at me.) Fae, you’re hiding. What exactly are you teaching your boys?
So I took off my glasses. My dad cracked jokes, making me laugh, sending new pain throbbing through my skin into my head. But that didn’t stop my dad’s jokes and I didn’t stop laughing. The jokes were eerily similar to the jokes a friend had emailed to make light of the situation.
A week after the cut, I went in to get the stitches out. My mom watched the boys in the waiting room as I went in. I had watched my face turn shades of purple, yellow, and green all week. Now it looked like I hadn’t slept in a week and that I wore a violent shade of violet eye shadow. My friends had rallied around me, making me feel better, sending me advice, scolding me (Yeah, thanks, Rini.).
The doctor who had placed the stitches entered the room.
The doctor: (gasp) We didn’t forget to tell you about the black eyes, did we?
Note: Gasping when seeing someone and not saying “you look awesome” or hot or beautiful or handsome is not appropriate.
Me: Oh this? (I circled my face with my finger.) This is hundreds of times better than what it used to be. What was forgotten is telling me that it was going to be a three-inch incision.
The doctor: OH! I’m so sorry. We need to do a better job of telling patients. We forget. Let me pull up your chart. I’m so sorry. You shouldn’t have been shocked like that.
Me: It was a shock.
Then I looked over at the computer with pictures of a gaping wound on my head and a much bigger gaping wound on my head.
The doctor: First. Always expect an incision three times the size of the piece that needs to be takes out. We have to cut a football shape, so we can close it nicely. Especially on the face. We were a little surprised at how big it was. More like a quarter. We don’t know how large something is until we get in there. The lab results showed that all sides were rough. So we had to cut larger. Any questions. (I shook my head. A quarter. A quarter. A quarter.) Let’s remove those stitches now.
She cut and talked, asking questions. After the stitches were removed, she smiled.
The doctor: It looks great. It’s healing nicely.
Me: Well, I figured I could start wearing bangs. (Again. Errr.)
The doctor: Give it three months. Be patient. In three months, you won’t know it’s there, and you won’t have to wear bangs. Keep it covered. Keep it moist. Wear sunscreen. Windows do not have spf. Car windows do not have spf. Keep the scar out of the sun, and it’ll be white and hide. A little bit of sun will turn it brown. Forever. Wear sunscreen.
Got it. Wear sunscreen. Like I had been wearing facial sunscreen since the last spot. Like I had been spraying it on before I got dressed since my last dermatologist appointment. Wear a hat. I got it. I straightened my hair (or did until surgery) so I didn’t worry about hat hair. Wear sunglasses, which I do, usually, when I don’t temporarily misplace them. Buy cocoa oil. Check. Lose the “tan” lines. They almost blend into the white of my skin.
And trust me about the sunscreen.