Well here I go again on my own…well not really.

I’m not really on my own as so many of you have been sharing this journey with me for so long! I hope that all of you that follow and read my blog and who are also fighting skin cancer, are doing well. I absolutely love hearing from you!

So this blog has turned out to be sort of my health/skin cancer journey blog. This last year has been. I leave it at that, because I’m not entirely sure what it has been. We are still here in the rental house, I still have the chickens, minus several roosters. I have started my own business, Creatively Chaotic. I offer logo design, content creation and branding services as well as some social media management, it’s been going great and I am actually more content with my “job” than I have ever been. In addition, I launched my photography business, and I’m taking courses to learn everything that I can.

2 weeks ago, I went into yet another dermatologist. After my last round and MOHS procedure, and the aftermath of my shoulder just not healing, I decided to try another doctor. Of course, after the examination, he took one look at me in the eyes and said…why does a woman your age (43) have so many skin cancer spots? Um, yeah, that’s why I’m here. For YOU to tell ME. This doctor was VERY proactive, he immediately decided to biopsy 6 spots, 2 on my upper left arm, one on my back (among about 9 other ones, I don’t know what made him chose that particular one) one on my chest, one on my forehead and one on my lower left shin. I didn’t need to wonder, after a week, the results came back, all Basal Cell Carcinomas. He was concerned with the one on my chest, head and leg and sent me another specialist to schedule and immediate removal via MOHS surgery. Which leads me where I am…my surgery is set for Thursday at 11am, I will be sharing and posting as much as possible. I am asking that everyone say a small prayer that the spot on the left leg will be easy to remove, that the doctor will get all of the cancer in the first round, and that the healing process is quick and as painless as can be.

As usual I thought I would share some pictures. This one is of my leg after the biopsy, as you can see it’s right on the bone.  The other one is on my left upper chest area. Interestingly enough, in both areas, I was told that the “spot” was not a skin cancer but a keloid, nothing to be concerned with. Yet here I am a few years later and they are both basal cells…very bad basal cells. Lesson to be learned from this? Don’t always just listen and trust your doctor, if you feel like something isn’t right, then demand that they biopsy it and then make the diagnosis. I can only think that if I had found out 5 years ago, that these spots were cancer, I may not have to go through this today.

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The Weight of Wings

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Lately I have been toying with the idea of quitting. This is not a new idea to me, I have been known to quit before. I never looked at it as quitting, you see, when you make excuses for WHY you quit, then it seems logical… I know, it’s still quitting, but not always the same to me. So, that brings me to the thought of quitting now…just what am I thinking about? Well, since we moved, back in March, things have gone from crap to crappier…and yes, I realize that isn’t really the correct term, but it’s the PG version and better than what is in my head. I want to quit EVERYTHING. Let me break it down for you; after moving, struggling with one financial windfall after another, and then being laid off…I decided it was time to focus on the things that I am good at, make something of that. Here is how my situation currently looks, I have gained 10 pounds trying to eat healthier, but cheating constantly, because Ketogenic diets {suck} are really hard. I have had a flare up with my skin cancer, AND broken out in to some crazy weird new condition, where I itch uncontrollably, get crazy welts, then get better, then itch again (did I mention, I was laid off and have no insurance?)  I have killed more baby chicks than I have hatched due to not really knowing how to do this whole incubating eggs thing correctly. I have lied to myself and others and failed to show up to work out when I said I would because you know, I’m SO busy. My marriage, well, it’s been an uphill climb for as long as I can remember, as a lot of marriages are, however, lately mine has felt like it’s uphill on an icy slope, while I’m wearing flip flops… Bills are stacking up, dishes stack up, laundry stacks up, chicken poop stacks up, and dog hair stacks up….what is NOT stacking up is me. I just don’t even. This is not me. I don’t ever not even, I’m a pick it up and put on your big girl britches and get it done. But lately, lately, I just don’t care. I’m tired. I want a break. I want God to give me a break. I’m getting kind of angry, and resentful. I’m a daughter of the one true King, I know who my Daddy is, I thank Him every morning for the mercies of a new day, and the beautiful people HE entrusted me with, but oh my gosh. I just NEED a little break. I have been on my knees, I have put every single ounce of every single bit of my soul into knowing that His plans are for me, not against me, does that mean I have to hit like middle of the Earth rock bottom? And does, this ranting and complaining mean that I don’t trust enough? I’m just so lost.

I have been reading, 5 Habits of A Woman Who Doesn’t Quit, thank God, I started it when I did, because I’m pretty sure, I may have ran screaming into the woods at some point if I hadn’t. In it, the author Nicki Koziarz, references the story of Ruth. I have spent many a morning, dwelling there, considering Ruth and Naomi’s situation, how it was handled, how long they were there  (which we don’t really know), how they didn’t lose faith. Man, I’m pretty sure I would not have been as patient as Ruth was, not with Naomi, or with Boaz, I would have definitely screwed it up and most likely changed my whole course of history. So that leads me to where I am currently, how do you know that you haven’t already altered God’s plan for you? What if I missed the big DETOUR sign a long time ago and I’m just wandering down some crazy, weed infested, overgrown path that leads straight off a cliff into the middle of nothing? Emma and I also watched Joy yesterday, again, someone else who just would NOT quit. I feel like these are all “signs” I’m being told to keep on keeping on…things will turn out the way they should, but man it is hard. So, so hard. I know there will be treasures in this trial, and that those treasures may be covered in soot and tarnished and that its most likely going to take quite a bit of work on my end to clean them up and discover the beauty that they will be…

Social media is a funny thing, we often look in from the outside at other people’s lives and think, man their grass is GREEN, so deceiving, we all have brown patches, some of us have whole giant yards of burnt dead grass, ashes where green should be growing, and it so easy to make beauty out of the ashes, to carry so, so much weight on your shoulders and make it look like a pair of wings, but I’m here to tell you, these wings are heavy. Incredibly heavy. I keep waking up and unfolding them and trusting in the fact that someday, they will become lighter and lighter and eventually I will have the strength to open them up and fly…but for now, I’m just doing good to put both feet on the floor.

This morning was a start, I went and worked out, made it through a rather grueling WOD and wanted to quit so bad. I didn’t. I made it through and I feel better because I did. I need to remember that, in all situations, the reward for not quitting feels so much better than the failure of stopping.  Just like Ruth, I need to get my butt up every morning with the determination that she did, do the things that maybe I don’t necessarily want to do, but know that by doing them I am one step closer to the treasure.

Prayer:

Father, I know that I often pray for things that you might not be ready to show me. I also realize that I need to trust you more and accept that your plans are good and that there are treasures to come from these trials. God, please help me find peace and contentment in the place I am currently in, protect my family and guide me in the direction that you have chosen for me, lead me not along the wrong path, lighten the burdens that are currently weighing on the shoulders of myself and my husband and remind us that through it all we must love one another.

 

Well that wasn’t so bad….

A lot of people don’t really understand skin cancer, there are 3 major different types, Basal Cell, Squamous Cell and Melanoma. This morning as I was moaning and groaning and being grouchy because I just absolutely did NOT want to go in for my appointment with my skin cancer doctor, I finally took a deep breath and reminded myself how much worse it could be. My cancer is curable. My cancer isn’t deadly. My cancer doesn’t own me. I decided to suck it up and go deal with it. 

This is what skin cancer can look like. 

  
Yep, that’s it…those 3 itchy, scabby, flaky spots on my forehead. Those are Basal Cell Carcinomas and most likely due in large part because of my obsession with being tan when I was younger, you know, like last week. Those lines are also thanks to that wonderful sun damage as well. I still like being tan, hence the reason I own my own airbrush tanning business! Anyhow, the spot that you see on the left side of my forehead was the worrisome area. It had been there longer, bled often and had gotten bigger. After my experience with my shoulder I know better than to let anything go too long without getting checked quickly! Going in I had high hopes (very high) that possibly I could treat all 3 spots topically. There are a few different medications that work to stop the growth of basal cells and other precancerous lesions. Unfortunately in my situation the spot on the left side required MOHS, the same procedure I had done on my face and shoulder. So with a deep breath, I went through the prepping process…to me the numbing injections are the worst! However with this one again on my face its a little disturbing to have someone cutting your face open while you are wide awake. Round one….

  
My initial thought when I saw this picture was “Man, my forehead is deep…who knew?” I’m weird I know! But really I had to even ask if he was close to my skull…apparently not. My doctor now realizes that I act nothing like his other patients!

Anyway after that the nurse came back in and exclaimed that they had gotten it all!! Round one and DONE! I can not even tell you how relieved I was, I didn’t even know that I had been shaking until I realized that I was finally sitting still. So after meticulously stitching it closed I was on my way, this time with a prescription for Effudex as well as pain meds…

  
So now I’m left with swelling and a temporary “angry eye” from the numbing medicine, but overall I’m pretty satisfied with how it came out. Painfully satisfied. Like someone stabbed me in my forehead but other than that I’m great! 

Enjoy the beautiful weather this weekend but don’t forget to protect yourself from those evil rays that the sun can shoot your way!  ☀️❤️

7-ish days post op



Actually I am about  12 days right now.  I started to post at 7 days and forgot. It sucks, it hurts, it makes me remember to be careful…I am not careful by any means., my spirit is reckless and free and I do not do well being cooped up and told not to move. Do you realize how much you move your shoulder every single day? It’s a lot. I promise. So that was day 7 and we started to notice some redness and swelling…



This is day 9….more redness and more swelling. I broke down and called the doctors office and sent them a picture. They promptly had me on a new, broad spectrum antibiotic. I am keeping it covered daily and using an ointment called bag balm to protect it.



Day 12. Today. I have been over doing it. Today I pressure washed the house and cleaned out the garage. It’s not really hurting so it’s hard to remember I’m still healing. There is more redness and now some bleeding. I have an appointment on Tuesday to have the sutures removed, I have to admit I’m a little worried about infection and what’s going on. I plan on letting it get some air and not bandage it tonight. It’s hard to not be active, especially with having to work and take care of kids…sigh. 

Guess only time will tell how this turns out…once again I feel like my face was a much easier surgery and healing process. 

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”. 

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.