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.

Sometimes HARD is just HARD

Everyday I read blog posts and articles about how “life is hard, but we can do it” or “find the good in the bad” ect…And I read these, I absorb them, I take these writers words to heart…I feel them, and breathe and live them.  I convince myself that life is supposed to be hard, but through all of these challenges, I am supposed to get stronger and more knowledgeable.  I wouldn’t say that I have had a particularly difficult life, but I will say that I’m pretty sure I should have a suit of armor, a cape and a magic wand by now.  I could make superwoman look like a girl scout.  So I want to take a second and just vent.  Because really, life can be hard and it isn’t as easy as just saying “fiddle dee dee, I will worry about this tomorrow”, or “God’s got this” because sometimes, God is working on someone else’s problems and maybe he doesn’t really “got” yours yet.

At 41 years old, I am no where near where I thought I would be at 21.  I feel like I’m too old to be figuring this all out, but too young to stop trying.  I see my life going by so fast, especially as I watch my kids growing up.  The new app  TimeHop, freaks me out.  As in, I can’t even look at it somedays.  I open it up and BAM! 1 year ago I was hanging out with Riley while he was sick at home.  2 years ago, I was daydreaming about a 40th birthday in Italy (which by the way was definitely just a dream), 3 years ago, I became obsessed with Georgia Pelligrini and cooking and was thinking of trying squirrel, which I didn’t (thank goodness), 4 years ago, I was helping Emma sell 160 boxes of Girl Scout cookies (is it bad that I just threw out those boxes of cookies like last month…we bought way more than we could eat) and FIVE years ago, I was coming home from a cheer competition with Emma.  All of those things seem like just yesterday.  I’m telling you, 5 years…FIVE WHOLE years flew by.  Flew by so fast that I’m not even sure I knew it.

Every year in January, I wake up and reflect on where I am, where I’ve been, what I have to look forward to.  I’ve been known to sink into a deep, dark, sad place during this time.  Moping about what I don’t have.  I don’t feel that way anymore.  I’m content.  By that, I mean, I’m content with who I am.  However, I am not content with where I am.  I do want more.  However, I don’t feel entitled to more, I work hard for what I earn.  Ask my friends, I will do whatever it takes whenever it takes to help my family get by.  Whether it’s paying bills, going on a vacation or even buying a new puppy.  I will find a way.  People laugh at me and ask if there is anything that I can’t do…the answer is yes.  I can’t do math.  Don’t even ask me to try.  It’s an ugly, horrible mess.  Math and I are not friends.  I can spray tan people, take mediocre pictures, write halfway decent blogs, cook awesome food (yes I will brag about that), paint and refinish furniture, hang Christmas lights, fix household items, give animals shots, raise puppies, raise kids, raise a husband…kind of, he is proving to be more difficult than the kids, oh and raise chickens, garden, make my own butters and milks…I’m also pretty sure I would be a great farmer.  On my list of things to learn are, knit, sew, climb a mountain, swim with sharks, skydive, learn to build things (ie chicken coops), figure out how to keep my pool from looking like a swamp, tame an alligator to keep in the swamp if not.  At the top of my list is how to finally stand up for myself.  How to stop being soft, and start wearing that armor.  How to finally accept that I deserve to be happy and nothing and no one should hold me back from that.

Relationships are a part of life, and life is hard.  Somedays it seems like we are riding the waves, other days it feels like we are drowning, struggling to make it to the surface, just to catch a breath.  And when we do surface, we are so worn out, so tired from the fight to make it back to the top, that we just don’t know how to get back on top of that wave again, or if we even want to try.  Do I want to keep trying? Or do I want to search for a more peaceful wave, one that I am confident on, that I know that I won’t fall off, or at least if I do, I won’t sink to the bottom.

This is one of those posts that don’t really address anything, or explain anything.  This is just my rants, a way to somewhat express what I feel today…you know so that in 5 years I can look back and say “wow, look 5 years ago I felt like that” and hopefully in 5 years I’m happy that I don’t feel like I’m constantly sinking, and rushing my way back to the surface.

It’s Been Awhile

I have been struggling…trying to find the words. Lately I get stuck, there are too many distractions and too many noises going on around me. These things normally don’t bother me, but everything just seems SO LOUD lately. Life seems loud. The constant nagging of the bills that need paid, that haven’t been paid, that may not get paid. The constant fear of not having a job, not being able to contribute to my family’s financial needs and the sound of my rapidly growing kids, the change in my son’s voice and the sweet sound of my daughter’s asking for my attention. Life is loud and noisy and annoying and beautiful all at once. I strive to shut out all of it except the beautiful, but some days it’s hard.
I feel like a failure. In all actuality I am a dreamer. A hopeless dreamer at times. I don’t see a wall that is blocking my way, I see a wall that I need to figure out how to climb. I don’t see a door that is closed, I see a door that I’m not supposed to even enter in the first place, I don’t see obstacles, I see challenges. I approach these things in my life and try to overcome them, so many times though, things do not go as I have dreamt. I have recently seen failure after failure and I start to feel that something is cursed or wrong…I know that this is Satan talking but sometimes it’s so hard not to turn my head and listen, try and find out if I can see where I went wrong.
A very good friend told me tonight that “I need to have fewer expectations and be flexible when the path changes a little”, I think that is where I have an issue. I see things one way or the other and when things don’t work out like I planned, I just stop and say “on to the next project…”, sometimes not knowing what the next project is or why.
I dream. I dream HUGE, not big, think colossal, gigantic, major… I just don’t take no for an answer. I don’t think my dreams are out of reach, I see them as feasible, I don’t want to be a millionaire, I don’t want 4 Coach purses, and designer shoes and diamond rings, I don’t care about fancy furniture or decorations, I don’t need a new car…and just for the record, my current one has no ac and no radio! I just want to provide for my family without worrying about buying groceries to feed them. I am constantly trying to find ways to help out, I love to cook, so I post pictures and cook for friends when I can. I feel very strongly about skin cancer and protection so I have my airbrush tanning business, I decided to learn the art of macarons so I’ve done that some. I am a repurpose junk, junky…you give it to me, I will make it new. This is how I work, this is who I am. And let us not forget the animals and garden, I live in the wrong time…I would and could live on a farm and off the land, sustainability and homesteading have my name all over them!
This all leads me to where I am tonight. A lot of friends have asked me for recipes lately, even strangers on Instagram. I have struggled with how to answer this, as I don’t want to appear rude. So here it is. I am writing. I am doing what I know and I am writing and cooking. THIS is my passion, this is my calling and what God has in plan for me, I can’t explain it but I feel it in the depths of my heart and soul. I have been scared. Writing is the most natural thing to me, I have so many friends and family members that have told me over the years that I am a great writer. Since high school I have written…and yet it never dawned on me that I was good enough to write for you, or for anyone. So, tonight, I asked myself…how do I do this? I don’t want to fail, I don’t want to look like I’m on yet another one of “Kim’s things”…I want this to work, I want this to be successful, I want this to make my family proud. How to do I start writing? And it came to me, by writing about writing, of course.
So hold on friends and family…if you will stand beside me and support me, I WILL share my recipes with you… as well as many other surprises. I just need you to believe in me, so that I might be able to really believe in myself. Love you all!

Who’s Your Bestie?

So, watching my daughter grow up is proving to be quite a challenge in my self restraint.  By that I mean that sometimes I just want to shelter her away from all of the ugliness and unfairness in the world and keep her all to myself forever.  Really, what I have to constantly remind myself is that, “she is not me”, God has blessed me with a daughter who is strong, brave, independent, confidant and care free.  She is faithful and steadfast in her beliefs.  She is a fighter and doer.  She is all of the things I wish I could or would have been at that age and I pray she never loses sight of this amazing young woman that she is becoming.  

As usual, the friendship thing has come up in our conversations, it seems that her school has had a BRILLIANT idea to encourage the kids to pick THREE other students to do an exclusive “Friendship Pic” with.  Really?  In what meeting did a group of teachers and leaders of our kids sit around and decide that this was a good plan?  For the past 3 days I have listened to her tell me that so and so was mad because so and so didn’t chose her for their pic. Oh the drama.  I got to thinking and asked her if there were kids that maybe weren’t getting chosen to be in ANYONE’s pictures?  Today she came home and told me she picked 3 random girls that I haven’t heard her talk about much.  At first, I just blew it off…but then, then I got to thinking and realizing that she picked these girls possibly because, maybe not many other kids had.  Yep, that’s my Emma.  

I keep worrying about her.  I keep thinking that she needs a best friend.  That one special go to person.  Yet, that is not who she is or how she was designed.  She is a friend to all. She loves whole heartedly. And, she is wise and older than she seems.  You see, every once and a while I look at her and I see a reflection of myself.  It always catches me off guard because I think she is so much more confident than I was at her age…maybe even now.  But she is doing just fine.  And so am I, just need to take a breath and remind myself that this is all part of growing up…which I guess I’m still doing too.  

I Facebook, Therefore I Am?

ImageI’m going through a rough time.  I’ve broken up with a friend…well a lot of friends.  Ok, not really, but maybe kind of.  I, like so many others have decided to take a little Facebook break.  It’s just a break, so technically I am free to see and use other social media outlets… (check Ross on Friends for the definition of a “break”)  You see the thing is, I think Facebook is a time sucker.  Even if I’m not stalking other people (totally never, ever do that) I am clicking on blog posts and recipe posts and advertising for cute dresses and amazing cowgirl boots.  I’m living in la la land of being able to be the next Pioneer Woman/Country Outfitter/Knock Off Wood/ Momastery.  

But really, I’m pretty happy, I’m good with being Kim, master chef of the Benz Family kitchen, wife extraordinaire to my husband Tyler, working diva for a hip hair extension company, part time photographer, wanna be Crossfit Games chick, and friend to many.  So, my decision to take a break from Facebook came pretty easy.  I need a breather.  I want to get things in order, I am the most disorderly person I know…and it drives me crazy, to the point of having to become the most orderly person that I know…even if it only lasts for about a month.  But, here I am, ready to tear things apart and put them back together, all in the name of order and structure and anti-chaos. 

Working from home sucks.  It’s hard.  WAY harder than having an office to go to.  I find myself doing a million other things during the day…hooking up with Facebook is always one of them.  So I decided to go cold turkey in hopes of being able to get more accomplished during the day.  More motivated to work and clean and bake and be the “perfect” working mom, housewife person that I can be…(don’t worry, this too shall pass).  And in taking this little break, I discovered that my friends depend on me.  They will miss me, they will mourn my not posting silly Crossfit posts and recipes and musings about my day.  And that makes me a little sad.  You see, I am a SOCIAL fanatic.  I love people, I love socializing, I love friends…I love making new friends.  Tyler and I have always had an open door rule, we never turn a friend away…and just so I make it clear there is ALWAYS room for friends at our dinner table…any day…anytime!  SO, I don’t need Facebook, you don’t need me to need Facebook.  I just need your friendship.  Without the whole menage a trois.  My friendship with others does not need a 3rd wheel.  If you want to know how I am, call me.  Text me even.  I want to talk to you.  I want to hear how you are.  I want you to send me a picture, old school like…not see a post on Facebook. 

So that is it.  I am off of Facebook.  However, my blogs are not.  So if you are seeing this as a post…it’s just so you know how I am, but I’M not really on Facebook!  🙂 

On Friends…..

This post has been a LONG time coming.  Like maybe my entire life long…well, not quite, but pretty close.  According to the dictionary, this is the definition of a “friend”.

Definition of FRIEND

1
a : one attached to another by affection or esteem

 

b : acquaintance

2
a : one that is not hostile
3
: one that favors or promotes something (as a charity)
4
: a favored companion
 
So let’s talk about that for a minute.  I think that the term “friend” is actually used rather loosely.  And, because of that, many people often mistake people as friends, when in fact they are just random people passing in and out of their lives that they may or may not socialize with on occasion.
 
Take for example number 1,

a : one attached to another by affection or esteem- this is to assume that you genuinely like someone and that you have things or views in common with them.

 
However, I have learned that it’s ok to have differences.  As long as you both understand that it’s OK TO HAVE DIFFERENCES.  When you feel like everyone should be and think just like you, that’s when problems arise.  It’s funny because I have friends that sometimes I shake my head, bewildered at what and how they are thinking and then I realize that, that is ok, I don’t have to share the same views with them, it’s what makes our friendship interesting and thought provoking.  We keep each other on our toes!
 
Number 2, a : one that is not hostile- well that one just stands to reason.  Why on earth would you want to be around a hostile person?  Yet, time and time again, in my history of friendships, I have inevitably found myself in just that situation.  Someone, that I felt was a friend, betrayed me, hurt me, left for no good reason.  Or better yet, left me out, or left my kids out…which quite frankly just pisses me off.
 
And then, there is number 4, : a favored companion…Of course we all want a “FAVORED” companion.  My husband is my favored companion.  By far, my most favored.  But, I have other favorites…my 2 high school best friends Patty and Vicki, who may I mention are so far from being alike…yet I love them both equally and for so many different reasons!  My partner in crime and cooking and everything I can think of, Kelsey,  is also one of my most favorite favored companions!  When I stop and think about it, I have many favored companions…new and old.  My new “family” at U-Turn are definitely some of the best people and I am so lucky to call them new friends…very favored.
 
This all brings me to the task of becoming friends with someone and staying friends.  As I write this my mind races through some of the past friendships that I have had.  There are some of them that I still consider friends, even though we may rarely ever talk.  I know that they are there, and at one point in my life they were such a huge part of who I am that they will always hold the title of “friend”.
 
What sparked this post though, what has me really thinking and pondering is HOW come it is so hard to be friends with someone?  So here it is, I’m laying it all out how I see it.  I am a good friend.  Ask those “favored companions” of mine, they will agree.  I bring a lot to a friendship, I like to think that I am funny, and caring and a good listener and a good advice giver.  I like to think that I am honest, maybe too much so.  I like to think I am a good cook, entertainer, hostess….I have a strong faith in our God and I pray for my friends with a passion.  But.  There always has to be a “but”, but I am also needy.  I want attention from my friends, I want to feel wanted, I need to be included and thought of.  That is something I just can’t seem to be able to put my finger on.  For whatever reason, I just can’t fit in.  I don’t fit in.  I am constantly excluded and not just me, but my kids seem to have the same thing happen to them.  Maybe it’s because I don’t conform to that whole “perfect school mom” mold, maybe it’s because I am a little stand offish, at least until you get to know me and that is only because my self confidence isn’t exactly the highest and I wonder what people are thinking of me.
 
I started this post off in an angry mode, but now I’m just tired.  It is exhausting this whole process of being and making friends.  I look at my kids, especially my daughter and my heart just aches.  I know what they have to go through. What lies ahead.  I saw it today when I went to Emma’s school and firsthand witnessed the aloofness of her former so called friends, how they snubbed her and  ME!  It makes me sad, but not surprised.  I can only hope that she finds her “favored companions” and she sticks with those that know her heart.  Then there is Riley, who is so easy go with the flow and likes everyone.  He is so much like me in that he just is there, he will befriend anyone and everyone…and he too will get left out and not included.
 
If you are reading this and wondering if I wrote any of it about you, I probably did.  This community is full of cliques and unfortunately I have learned that for the most part when I think I have made a new “friend” in fact it’s just the “friend du jour”  (thank you for that phrase favored companion!)  It really just is hard to trust and in my opinion being friends with someone just shouldn’t have to be so hard.