Learning To Love You More




Assignment #11
Photograph a scar and write about it.

Jean Rowe
Decatur, Georgia USA



Oh, that's not a freckle? No, Dr. Wernikoff said, shooting stinging numbness into my leg. You have to be careful of the flat, dark ones. Off to the lab with that puppy and 10 days later he leaves this message: everything's okay with your leg. We have a little more to cut. Mmm-Hmm. Like what? Cut it off? No, no, it's an insitu melanoma. That means it's just in your skin. Not the dermis or the bloodstream. This is good news. It is. The word melanoma is kind of scary, but I'll take the good news. Monday, Dr. Ditisheim removed remaining tissue around it on my right thigh. I'd also pointed out a place on my head (a horn perhaps) which has been there forever. Lynn Lakin, my friend, an angel, a nurse, a mother and one (that day) still without power in her home, picked me up at the ungodly hour of 5:40 a.m. to truck on over to the Same Day Surgery center at Presbyterian. The night before, Joy and Beth were over for our annual Christmas get together, and, in the treasures from Joy was included a beautiful rosary which I took with me to the hospital. Lynn, knowing the rosary well, held on to it for me and told me she'd pray to Mary because she'd want a mama to look after her. Dr. Benton, the anesthesiologist, popped in to discuss sedation pros and cons after which I likened myself to the John Wayne variety of patients and opted not to be loopy for the rest of the day. At least not from sedation. Dr. Ditisheim, four nurses and I became new best friends for the next almost two hours. Not having many "procedures" so far in life (thankfully), my outlook, in hindsight, was more than a little naive. I'd originally considered going to work after the surgery. Hahahahahahahahaha. Four shots to the leg and one to the head. The head first, supposedly the lesser of big deals, turned out to be a bony cyst. Oh, so it really is a horn. Big guffaws around the room. Hemostats clamping back my hair, this funky metallic smelling laser contraption was first. Followed by the Fred Flintstone school of plastic surgery when Dr. Ditisheim took the surgical equivalent of a hammer and chisel to my scalp. That's right. All of a sudden, I'm aware of every bone in my skull and feeling even more vulnerable and fragile. Each strike let me know my teeth were still intact. How long did that take, you might ask? Know how when the dentist is drilling and drilling and drilling and you think surely that was the last time and here he comes again. About that long. Even he joked that hey, and you thought the melanoma was the worrisome part of the day. This was after he told me that he didn't think he'd ever done that while someone was just under local anesthesia. Yep, John Wayne. Now for the leg. Keep in mind that I'm sporting one hot looking hospital gown that's twisted in a rather revealing position, arms stretched out to either side, booties over the only clothes of my own, red Smart Wool socks. It's about 50 degrees in the operating room. While cutting a chunk out of the top of my right thigh, Dr. Ditisheim decides to dish a little theology with me. I'm basically naked, right, and have just had my head sculpted and melanoma is still high in my vocabulary list in my head. But that's me. He asks me something like what's my faith. I'm Episcopalian, I tell him. He's Jewish and proceeds to wax on about how many texts there are about the Bible, even longer than the Bible. Yes, yes, that's true. Then he tells me that in listening to one man talk, there is a belief in the Jewish faith that all doctors will got to hell. Why is that? Because doctors think they cure people; they're too self-important, and that's a sin. Only God can cure people. Did you argue with him, I ask, talk about being a doctor is a gift from God. No, he says, I agree with him. Okay, have I mentioned that I'm naked and having surgery? So, I'm thinking, this man is telling me that he thinks he's going to hell. I sit quietly (as I was through most of the surgery; I know, hard to believe) pondering that. I tell Lynn about it later and she reminded me that in the Jewish faith, they don't believe in an afterlife, so what is hell? Mmm-Hmm. I'm told that instead of a football scar, it's going to be more like that of Harry Potter. One horn gone, magic installed. I've got a truckload of butadiene on my head giving me an enviable Sid Vicious coif, and we leave for breakfast. No time in recovery because I'm John Wayne. Not much information is passed along to me about once I'm home. If I can offer any advice from Naive Central, it's this. Ask a lot of questions. I was told I could take a shower when I got home. I take off the bandage on my leg and think, wow, it looks like I've been shot, and the opening scene from "Dances with Wolves" replays in my head. I take a shower and notice my leg is oozing blood. Mild panic. I call the Same Day Surgery Center. I call Dr. Ditisheim's office. I call Lynn (for whom, particularly after the last two days, I now must purchase a small country somewhere for all she has done for me). Robert Herrin, a surgeon in my writers' group, happened to call about writers' group and instead got bombarded with questions. It's NORMAL that my leg might ooze for up to 24 hours. That's in the would- be-good-to-know column. What were they thinking telling me to take a shower? No, no, that wasn't a good move. Wonderful. So, I prop my leg. I monitor the bleeding with feverish intensity. Motrin is my friend. I am wealthy with support and love from friends and family checking in on me. I surround myself with Christmas card preparations because I'm lousy at keeping still, bad TV going most of the day. Lynn picks up the big boy pain meds and comes over to sit in artificial light while her son, Andy, is at scouts. She redresses my leg and confirms again that if I've still got bright red blood there in the morning, it's back to the doctor for me. Another day off, back at Dr. Ditisheim's office yesterday a.m. Everything looks good, he says, great in fact. He cleans the area on my leg, redresses it with steri-strips and wraps an ace bandage around my leg. What if it bleeds through the ace bandage, I ask. He says it won't. I pull down my pants throughout the day to make sure he's right. And he was. In the midst of all of this, I broke a temporary crown and had to go to the dentist right after that. Don't touch my head! is what I'm thinking like Madeleine Kahn in that black and white movie with Gene Wilder (is it "Young Frankenstein"?) when he tries to say good-bye as he's boarding a train and she's all "the nails, the nails...the hair, the hair." If I'd had a sign like Brent wore after his neck surgery, I would have worn it. How much medical fun can one person stand? Another day of leg propping, listening to NPR rather than bad TV and wrapping presents. A nurse from Same Day Surgery called to check on me. This was unprecedented. I thanked her kindly and proceeded to give a speech about the importance of information shared with a patient before they leave. This all made for great story telling at Jan's Women's Holiday party last night, topped only by 3 year-old Audrey Stewart asking me to play with her and watching her imagination take flight while I was an attentive student with a bum leg in front of the fireplace. I'm quarantined from exercise until the stitches come out, except for exercise, which, at the moment, would be hilarious to watch, since I'm grand-master-flash-hip-hip-hippity-hop-hop. No titanium, though, so Jan maintains the gold medal as the Bionic One.