5 days post op MOHS shoulder surgery

So the bandages came off on Friday evening, the steri strips were still on so it was hard to tell anything other than it was pretty swollen. As far as pain goes, this seemed to be a lot more painful than my previous MOHS procedures on my face. My assumption is that I use my shoulder quite a bit more than my face! Anyhow trying to stay still has been a challenge to say the least. I took Wednesday and Thursday off from work and tried an attempt at going back on Friday which didn’t go so well. By lunch time I was in some serious discomfort and went back home to take some pain medicine and plant myself back on my sofa. 



2 days post op-bandage removal

Saturday my family and I headed to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo with the kids. If it weren’t for the fact that my aunts from Alabama were in town, I probably would have opted not to go.  Overall, I felt ok, I was achy sore, and tired but most of all I was more concerned about being in crowds and being bumped! Fortunately that never happened. 

This morning we changed the bandage again, this time the steri strips were starting to peel away. After a nice hot shower they came comepletely off and we were able to truly see the incision site. Overal the stitching looks great, I was a little surprised by the overall size of it and concerned about the amount of swelling that is still there.  It is also still fairly bruised., which is to be expected after all of the pulling and tugging on my skin when he was putting me back together. I’m starting to feel a little like Frankenstein! 







So anyway, just wanted to share an update on how it is going and if you are facing something similar I want to let you know it’s not as scary as it seems! It’s definitely not a fun experience and having to sleep on only my left side really sucks….but as they say, “this too shall pass”. 

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Deja Vu

As most everyone knows, I have been battling skin cancer for quite a few years now.  In my early 20’s I had my first basal cell carcinoma removed off my back.  I also went through, laser treatments, freezing spots, trying various creams, including a chemotherapy based medication, and also participated in a photodynamic treatment at MD Anderson.  3 years ago, I had MOHS surgery on my face, to remove a spot from my nose and from my upper lip.  I blogged and documented the entire procedure here with the goal of educating other people who may be facing the same situation.  I also wanted to bring attention to the dangers of tanning beds and how important it is to protect your skin.  I was featured on MD Andersons webpage and even had Good Morning America feature me in a piece they aired on skin cancer.  I started an airbrush tanning business and constantly posted about recognizing skin cancer signs, using sunscreen, staying out of tanning beds…ect.  I stayed on top of my spots, I went to MD Anderson and stood BUTT NAKED in front of one of my closest friends and 3 doctors and had my body scrutinized from top to bottom, only to learn I had 22 lesions, and even questioned as to whether or not I had ever lived near a radiation plant.  I treated my spots with Tazorac, hoping to see them disappear, a few did but for the most part, it definitely wasn’t enough.  Which leads me to where I am today…

I had a particular lesion on my right shoulder.  It had been there for some time.  Maybe 2 years, possibly 3.  It started out small and red, and eventually grew much larger and became angry, scabbed and never really healing.  I often stood in front of my closet staring at the cute tanks and sleeveless tops that I couldn’t wear, I was so self conscious of the disfiguring growth that was beginning to get worse and worse.  Finally one day I realized that I could no longer put off what I had been dreading doing since my last MOHS experience.  I located a new doctor, this time at the Skin Surgery Clinic in The Woodlands, we met and agreed it was time to start “cleaning” me up as he said.  I made an appointment to have a mini face lift, um, I mean 3 basal cells removed from my forehead for the end of March and went on my way, thinking we could deal with my shoulder and chest and arms and back and lower legs later…oh how wrong I was.

This is what my shoulder looked like this past week, and this was on a good day….IMG_1965

For the most part, it stayed flaky, scabby and sore…it itched like crazy and I felt it all through my shoulder, which was a little worrisome.  My doctor and I decided that it was time to go ahead and get this one off.  He was able to fit me in his schedule and I was arrived at his office yesterday at 1pm, fully anticipating an easy, one cut, clean lines and stitch and go.  I think I was in denial.

A brief description of how MOHS surgery works.

The Mohs technique consists of meticulously removing cancerous tissue one layer at a time. After removal, the specimen’s surface area is examined under a microscope. If there are any cancer cells seen at the outer edges of the specimen, more of the surrounding tissue is removed and the process is repeated until the sample’s margins are examined and come up OK.

If, on the other hand, no cancerous cells are found on the outer edges of the tissue, only a small wound is left. This technique eliminates the guesswork from determining tumor margins, and is less likely than other surgical techniques to damage healthy skin that surrounds the lesions. Its precision is especially valuable for recurrent or aggressive skin cancers, and for high-risk lesions (such as those near a facial nerve). It also boasts the highest reported cure rate and lowest recurrence rate for basal and squamous cell cancers.

After, removing the first piece, which was the entire tumor including the surrounding the margins, I was left with an open wound about the size of a small egg.

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The procedure itself took about 10 minutes, once again, it wasn’t painful (I had been thoroughly numbed with Lidocaine first) but there were some uncomfortable parts, tugging, pulling the feeling and sound of the cutting and the worse part the cauterizing, nothing is more disturbing than smelling your own flesh burning.  I will never be ok with that!  They then took the sample to the lab where it was studied for clean margins.  After about an hour the results were in…he didn’t get it all, and would have to make a second cut.  So once again, more numbing, more slicing, although this was a much smaller piece.  More waiting and then the results, he didn’t get it all.  Third round, more numbing, more slicing, more waiting…and then the results, he didn’t get it all.  At this point he sat down to discuss options.  The cancer had spread.  He described it as miniscule, hair follicle size tumors that were spreading like seedlings throughout the skin on my shoulder.  My options were to leave the last spot and close, possibly with a lateral incision, OR go back for another, slightly larger slice and try to get the rest.  This would result in a more difficult closing technique, leaving me with a larger “Y” shaped incision.  Of course, I just wanted it all gone…FOREVER.  So back under the knife for the fourth time of the day.  This was the wound after he removed the larger portion.

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At this point, the office was closed and the nurse, the doctor and I were the only ones left.  We joked and talked, keeping my mind off of the severity of this MOHS procedure.  The sample was taken to the lab and this time, finally, came back with clean margins!  All of the cancer was gone! Now came the hard part, how to close this up.  My doctor is a perfectionist, he promised and I fully believe that he was going to be meticulous in his stitching and his goal is a hairline scar, however, a lot of that will depend on how easy I take it on the use of my arm.  My right arm. The one I use everyday, for everything.  This is definitely going to be a challenge over the next 2 weeks.  14 days in stitches, lots of soreness today and lack of sleep as I don’t really know HOW to sleep.  Overall, it’s not a bad incision, the stitches were the worse part.  There isn’t a lot skin on my shoulders, imagine pulling a pair of shoelaces as tight as you can and then imagine pulling them even tighter, that is what it felt like as he tried put me back together.

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The moral of this story of course is take care of yourself, love your skin, KNOW your skin and don’t be like me, if you have a suspicious spot, just go get it taken care of.  I put this off for way too long and paid the price.  I’m fairly certain that my doctor and I are going to become great buds, we will definitely be seeing a lot of each other over the next few months as we rid my body, the best we can of the basal and squamous cell skin cancer that is trying to take over.  I’ve got news though, I won’t be beat, it may suck and it may not be easy or pretty, but I won’t give up until I have won.  So if you are facing MOHS or fighting the same fight, just remember to keep moving forward.  Kick it now!  And if you know someone who is still using tanning beds, stick this blog in their face! Show them these pictures!  Show them my previous experience, scare the mess out of them…because we all need to really love and take care of the skin that we are in.

And change comes with the seasons….

Hello all…it’s been a long time since I have written and for that I apologize.  I have received so many heartfelt messages from so many people that are struggling through their own situations with skin cancer, and because I have been caught up in work and life and everything else, I failed to read your comments.  Please know that I am praying for each and everyone of you that you had or will have a speedy recovery and that your body will soon be healed.

I too have been still battling the dreadful C word.  While, I have not had anymore surgeries, a recent trip to the dermatology department of MD Anderson, found me facing 19 lesions.  All considered to be skin cancer, most likely basal cells.  I was offered a clinical trial that involved taking a new drug, Erivedge.  I declined it however, due to some rather disturbing side effects, which included loss of hair but more importantly to me the loss of taste…I AM A FOODIE!  That is not something I am ready to sacrifice.  Instead, the doctor and I discussed another option, one much less invasive.  I am to use Tazorac on the lesions as often as possible.  The idea is that the sonic hedgehogs…(insert video game hedgehog rolling over balls) would block the pathways of the cancer cells and cause a reversal.  I was warned that it would be painful, as blisters would form and skin peeling was possible.  Well, I laughed and said ANYTHING was better than surgery…I proceeded to slather myself in the stuff!  Needless to say, I have stopped taking it for the past few weeks now, once my chest broke out in blisters and my forehead peeled off, I thought it may be a good idea to give myself a break, the doctor definitely wasn’t kidding!  I do feel that it is working though.  Now that the blisters have healed, some of the spots on my chest are barely noticeable and there has been no itching or pain for several days.  So maybe that is a good sign?!

Many have asked how I have healed, it’s been approximately 8 months since my last MOHS surgery on my face.  The scar has healed amazingly.  There occasionally is some itching or some numbness, especially around my lip, but for the most part, it is not noticeable.  Unless I point it out, many of my new airbrush tanning clients don’t even see it.  I have continued to speak out against tanning bed salons and try and educate my clients on the importance of sun safety.  My journey is far from over.

Here is a recent picture taken of me a few weeks ago, of course I am wearing makeup, but as you can see…the scar is barely noticeable.  So if you are currently healing or about to have to face surgery…have faith that it isn’t as bad an it initially seems!

This blog is now being converted to cover many other topics.  I will continue to promote skin cancer awareness, but I will also be posting recipes, family issues and of course my favorite…the latest and greatest fashion finds for myself and my family!  xoxo, Kim

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Opportunities…

One of the things that I have loved the most about this journey through skin cancer and starting Leilani Mobile Tan is the opportunity to meet so many new people.  I have made connections that I would have never had the chance to do.  I have developed relationships via long distance and online with people that I don’t even have a face to match them to.  I have reached thousands of people through my chance to bring awareness to skin cancer by my interview on TV with ABC news, my blog on MD Anderson, and more recently my news article with our local paper the Kingwood Observer, which should go to print this week!

I have also made new friends through this…and helped young girls realize the importance of taking care of their skin now.  All of these things have ignited my passion for writing and reminded me of how much I enjoy being out there meeting new people.   The best thing about it all is that I really LOVE doing what I am doing.  I LOVE the airbrush tanning business and I LOVE being an advocate for skin cancer awareness…I want to do MORE!  And I know I will.  I am already scheming on setting up a team of girls to do the Dirty Girl run in October and represent Leilani!  Be watching for that!

Before I close, I wanted to mention one particularly awesome person that I have met, Lauren Briant.  She came to me awhile back needing an emergency tan…I was able to fit her in, no problem.  Because she said she had a regular person that did her airbrush tans I didn’t think anything of it and wasn’t sure I would hear from her again.  She called me last week and proceeded to tell me how much she loved her tan…which of course I loved to hear!  Lauren is so sweet and humble and during our conversation this time, she told me that she was a singer.  Of course with a 9 year old daughter who loves to sing, I thought that was great and introduced her to Emma.  We later went inside and looked her up on the internet as she had told me that she had an album on Itunes…well let me tell you she is AMAZING!  She has a beautiful voice and I believe she will go far in this business!   Again, I just love my job and everyone I am meeting and a HUGE thank you to all of the people that are supporting me!