Saturday, 19 November 2016

The cancer diaries: You can leave your hat on

Once I read a story about a butterfly in the subway, and today I saw one. I couldn't believe it. It got on at 42nd -- and got off at 59th, where I assume it was going to Bloomingdale's to buy a hat that will turn out to be a mistake. As almost all hats are. -- Nora Ephron

When I was younger, I used to wear baseball caps all the time.
I loved them.
When I got into my 50s, I realized that the only baseball caps made for women my age were bedazzled, and were accompanied by pot bellies in velour track suits.
That ended my love affair with baseball hats.
I haven't worn a hat since. I don't like them. They give me sweaty hair and make my head itchy.

Today, I will have to change all that.
Today, I will go out an buy a hat, maybe two, to cover and protect my ear which received a skin graft last week follow microsurgery.
I will need the hat to protect my ear and my dignity.
Don't get me wrong. The plastic surgeon did a great job, although she did make me look like a Spawn of Spock from Star Trek. At the moment, it's still pretty raw and looks like Sophie the pug got hold of it and chewed it.
So I'm hoping the hat will protect me from ridicule.
I also need the hat because, if I don't wear it when I go outside, the skin graft will turn brown and I'll look like a basset hound.

Buying the hat is good news. It means I no longer have to walk around with a big white bandage over half my head like the victim of a drone strike.
Wearing the big white bandage wasn't the worst part. The worst part was having to apply the surgical tape daily. It simply wouldn't stick, and kept sliding off the river of the Vaseline on my ear. At one point during my Trump Trauma last week, I was so frustrated that I got drunk and wrapped the tape around my head like a mummy. The next morning, I realized my folly and spent an hour pulling tufts of hair out of my head. Now, I rather resemble a half plucked Swiss Chalet chicken.

Like every other skin cancer patient, my goal is to try to look as normal as possible during the period described as "the new normal". It's the time when the person is adjusting to her new reality. Some people have to get used to having a face for a while that looks like it's been shot by kids trying out their new BB guns. In my case, it has been a time of general sliminess and such smelliness that got the dog so excited she tried to enjoy my bandage as an tasty delight.

Ah such is the world with small world problems. I am grateful that my cancer was only the maiming kind, not the killing kind, the dumbass cancer that one receives like a trophy from all those years playing bad tennis and golf, and after too many afternoons spent on sunny decks drinking swill and making fun of hipsters.
But I am lucky. It was only my ear, something that can be hidden by hair and hats.
Some of my ilk are not so lucky.
Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours in the MOHS clinic which is located near the front entrance of the old Riverside Hospital. The place was packed with patients having the same procedure I had last week, and most of them were holding big white bandages to their noses, cheeks and foreheads. The MOHS clinic is a sombre place, not like other cancer places where I've taken friends.
There is no trading of turmeric recipes at this clinic at the MOHS clinic.
This place looks like a M.A.S.H. unit.
Really, it's an amazing place filled with kindly staff with big smiles. The fine doctors are true artists who treat patients like people not colons.

I waited only for about half an hour to get my stitches out. It all went beautifully, though I was horrified to learn that the bad smell around my ear came from "necrotic" skin which was rotting.
Double gross.
The doctor gave me some ointment to make it better and to ensure my ear doesn't fall off.
Ah, the glamor that is my life.
Anyway, I am thankful that I successfully passed this leg of my cancer journey.
And I pledge to myself to stop being a dumb ass, and keep my face and ear out of the sun, or at least under a hat. It could be a lot worse. Carmen Miranda made a career of where stupid hats.

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