Saturday, June 29, 2013

Another day, another skin cancer

Since the weather is so pleasant here (only made it to 112 today, which is nothing since Death Valley saw 134 degrees!), it figures that it's that time of year for my various annual medical check ups.  

One of those was the dermatologist, who happily, too happily me thinks, burned 57 pre-cancers off my arms and legs and face!  I think that's a record for one visit, even for me, rather like the temperatures we're seeing!  And he sliced one off for a biopsy, which came back as a squamous cell cancer, but my guy got it all, no margins, so no more cutting on that one!!

It was also time for my six-month checkup for cancer, so I went in for a mammygram.  It showed a questionable shadow, so they ordered an ultrasound.  The mammy tech said she thought it was probably just the mass of scar tissue from the reduction surgery that caused the shadow, and I agree, because that's where I developed the horrid infection from the alien with four arms and razorblades in all four hands, hence a big ugly scar.  

But OK, we'll take a look.  The ultrasound wasn't definitive, so they suggested a biopsy.  I said no.  No more needles, no more knives.  They asked my oncologist to try and talk me into it, and bless his heart, he agreed with me and said we'd just take another look in 6 months.  And what's even better, there is only one side remaining to be squished in that nasty machine!

Meanwhile all my blood work came back showing great numbers, and my vitamin D rate was normal for the first time in years!  Of course, I've been taking 6000 i.u. of D everyday for most of a year!

I was interested to learn that while I consider myself cancer free for a little over three years now (my surgery was in February 2010), the oncologist says I'm a four year survivor, because I was diagnosed in 2009, November of 2009.  Illogical to say the least, IMNSHO! 

I've been troubled by an uncomfortable unexplained softball sized lump in my LLQ (medical terminology for lower left quadrant), which means down where my belly joins my leg.  It's been bugging me for almost a year now.  

The thing has been diagnosed as any number of things... beginning when I thought I had a blocked bowel last summer, and went thru a colonoscopy for the first time, to be told my bowels were in excellent shape - nothing wrong.  The gastroenterologist suggested it was probably adhesions due to the TRAM-flap surgery.  The softball is at the far end of the long scar across my belly, so might have made some sense. 

The plastic surgeon, Doc Hollywood, said there was no way that was the problem, because adhesions occur when the abdominal cavity wall is somehow damaged, and his surgery didn't do that.  OK, fine, so what is it?

I finally asked again for help, because I caught myself holding the damned softball like a very pregnant gal holds her big bump.  My PCP thought it felt like a hernia, which also made some sense because, again, it is located at the end of the incision, which could have provided a weak spot for a hernia to sneak through.

The new doc didn't think so, but he sent me for a CTscan.  This was a real eye-opener. 
The picture here, which is not well focused, shows a reverse image - but what it does show is fascinating to me.  First, the softball was described as a seroma - filled with fluid.  That is the protrubing gray shape on the top of the image.  Turns out it's about six inches wide and two and a half inches thick and about two inches top to bottom.

Remember that I said this image is reversed.  Just to the left and below the seroma is a smaller gray shape.  That is the muscle that runs up and down on either side of the belly.  You'll note that there is not one on the other side.  Apparently that is the muscle the was taken in the TRAM-flap surgery for the breast reconstruction.

I translate that to mean that there is no muscle to hold in all the flab and whatnot on that side, so that's why the seroma can just pooch out where it wants.  I have no medical basis for that statement, but it makes sense to my warped mind!

Anyway, I was sent for an aspiration of the seroma, and a biopsy - which also caught my attention, because it never occurred to me that it might be the big C  (biopsy was clear of anything cancerous).  The stuff that they sucked out was absolutely vile looking, interesting since is was supposed to be clear ... and they took out more than 60ccs of it - five big syringes.  Thankfully I still have no feeling under that nasty scar, so it wasn't painful at all.  

At this point, I suggest you check the link I put in a couple paragraphs ago about the TRAM-flap surgery - it appears that it's no longer recommended for breast reconstruction - isn't that nice?  Fuck a duck!!!

They sucked out everything they could get, but it still didn't make the thing go away.  It's somewhat smaller, and softer, and not so uncomfortable, but it's still there. 

The current status is that if (when) it fills up again, they can aspirate it again.  Perhaps they would offer to cut me open again (oh goody!) and remove it - the only reason I would even consider that is because they could also repair the scar tissue, which healed hypertrophic, probably due to the severe infection I developed after that surgery.  The scar is so bulky, it feels like I have a piece of re-bar in my lower tummy unless I stand up straight.

And I'm very sorry to say that all this verbiage is an indication that Johns Hopkins is right about not recommending that procedure anymore - I'm the prime example of why!  I'm really sick and tired of finding that everything they did to me for this damned cancer could have been done a better way!

Oh, well.

More.  Since before the holidays, I've been having problems with my leg and back.  If I stand for more than five minutes or so, my left leg goes numb.  If I walk for more than about 50 yards, the damned leg goes numb.  Soon after that, my lower back starts to ache, then cramp, and then it starts to spasm.  And that HURTS!

I've had an x-ray, that led to a CTscan, that led to an MRI.  Minor stuff, but nothing that seemingly could be linked to the pinched nerve indicators.  No suggestions to help me.  I do get tired, so very tired of the pain.

So I eat!  Preferably chocolate!  But, here's a recipe that will fix almost any problems!

Most everyone knows Red Lobster Restaurant, and if you've been there, you've had their wonderful Cheddar Bay Biscuits.  We who love to cook have discovered that recipes are available online for almost any favorite you might have from any restaurant.

With major contributions from Sooz in Honolulu, we have created an even better biscuit.  Based on the Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit, we call it 

Voilà Biscuits!

2 cups Bisquick
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup 7-up
1 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 cup melted butter

Mix  first 5 ingredients together while melting butter in bottom of cookie sheet pan (which is best if lined with non-stick foil – first!)  Drop biscuit dough – about 1/4 cup size so you get about 12 biscuits.   Bake at 425 until golden.  (approx. 13 minutes)

Brush on top- AFTER baking…
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted   (add garlic & bit of optional parsley or whatevers AFTER butter is melted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley flakes or whatever speck of stuff for coloring and character
  • 1 pinch salt

And this odd photo was snapped at night, obviously with a flash.  This is a nest I've pictured previously.  I just shot it on a hunch.  These three birdies are obviously not babies, but they still come home to sleep!  Sure looks cozy in there!

And now I think I'll take my little Misha for her evening stroll - I mean it has cooled down a lot - it's about 8:30 p.m. and it's all the way down to 101 degrees!

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