As I wrote last week in My unpleasant health news , I very likely have some form of lung cancer. I am currently waiting to hear from the hospital to schedule my biopsy to get further information on my condition. As I am a committed non-smoker, you can imagine my surprise at this news. On further reflection, however, I have had skin cancer three times (see the Page on which I discussed that here.)
One September 11, a month ago, I had a basal cell carcinoma removed from my face and another one removed from my back.The facial incision extends an inch and a half while the one on my back stretches to three inches. I have spent the past month recovering from those surgeries.
I was a good patient and did not ride my bike for the first two weeks after the operation. Actually, I was surprised that I did not even have the energy to take the bike out in that period. I was also taking a round of antibiotics to protect the two wounds.
I started riding again after two weeks, but on a very restricted basis. I rode less than 10 miles on each of my first two days compared with a usual of 20 miles a day.
For the first three weeks after the surgeries I napped from one to two hours a day in addition to a full night’s sleep. So, my body was clearly in recovery mode.
At this point, a month later, I feel that I am about 80 to 85 per cent recovered. I am able to ride 20 miles a day although it is in two sections of around 10 miles each. I no longer need to nap.
In the past month I have added about a pound to my body weight. I think my appetite was curtailed from the procedures, too. My resting heart rate remains in the low 40s.
In summary, I consider myself well along on the road to recovery. I went into the operations a healthy
74 year old man and I am now finding my way back. I hope these details about the operations and my recovery have been of some value to you. I was surprised at how much they took out of me.
I went back to the doctor this week to have the stitches removed from my back. That pretty much brought my third surgery to closure (pun intended).
To summarize, this go ’round with skin cancer was much stronger than my previous one, two years ago. In each instance I had a basal cell carcinoma removed. Two years ago, I had one growth cut out and ended up with about 15 stitches in my cheek. This time I had one removed from my cheek and another from my back. I had 15 stitches in my cheek again, but more than double that in my back. The facial scar is about 1.5 inches long while the one on my back extends to three inches. So, there was more cutting this time and as a result my body had a lot more healing to do.
Two years ago I was riding my bike within five days of the surgery. In contrast, this year, I did not have the energy to ride for two full weeks. Then, when I returned to riding, I felt a lack of power in my legs which tired easily.
This year, I napped nearly every day for the first two weeks. Good naps that extended an hour and sometimes two. Clearly my body craved downtime.
In my third week, I have commenced riding again, but can feel limited by my condition. I am taking it slow. I rode around seven miles the first day and went up to 10 on the second. At the end of the third week I managed 20 miles today, but it was in two rides. I don’t think I could have done it in one bite. The good news is that I didn’t feel the urge to nap today. Last, but not least, I added one and a half pounds in the past three weeks with my sedentary recovery. I have no worries about burning that off going forward.
I feel that my life is coming back into its own now in terms of energy, if on a slow pace.
I am now in the latter part of my first week following Mohs skin cancer surgery on my face and my shoulder to remove a pair of basal cell carcinomas. I have included links at the end for those of you who might want details of the operations.
My energy is returning slowly, but I am still following the doctor’s instructions to take it easy. I have not ridden my bike since the surgery. The doctor has also prescribed an antibiotic for me to take to fight possible infection in the incisions.
Each day following the surgery I have napped from one to two hours and then gotten a full night’s sleep, so I conclude from that my body is mending itself full time.
My girlfriend has been great about changing my bandages and putting fresh Vaseline on the cuts to protect them from infection.
I am including in this post some unpleasant photos of my incisions, but I thought they might be helpful for anyone who may be going in for surgery or simply wants more details on skin cancer.
The first is a shot of the incision on my face. It measures about 1-1/2 inches. We shot this about 48 hours after the surgery. I wanted to keep it sealed up in the hospital’s original dressing until we had to change it. There were 15 stitches.
The second photo is my shoulder. It measures three inches long and was also taken 48 hours after the operation.
Since I had similar surgery on my face two years ago August, I know how these scars can heal. Last year I did a post with photos of the scar a year later. I used Emu oil and coconut oil on the scar regularly to help heal it. You can judge for yourself how well they worked. The post is How Emu Oil and Coconut Oil Hid a Facial Scar.
My surgery left me with a scar just over an inch long with 15 stitches in it on my left cheek. You can see the first photo of it from two weeks after the surgery.
My scar today just short of 12 months after the operation.
Full disclosure time. I am a senior citizen over 70 years old. Getting a scar like that on my face at a time when my body is no longer generating new cells as it did when I was young left me with expectations of a bit of a facial disfigurement in my future.
What to do about it? Plastic surgery is out of the question for me for financial and other reasons. Continue reading →
The incidence of melanoma is rising, according to Mary Martini, MD, FAAD Associate professor Dermatology, Director, Melanoma and Pigmented Lesion Clinic Northwestern University.
Dr. Martini said that in 1900 the incidence of melanoma was one in 2000. In 2004 it had risen to one in 70 and by 2012 melanoma incidence had climbed to one in 58. Melanoma is the rarest form of cancer, but it is the most deadly.
Melanoma is an odd duck. The website Second Opinions points out that “During the 1980s and early ’90s more than a dozen studies compared histories of sunburn in patients with melanoma and controls. But differences in design and definition of sunburn make it difficult to quantify a single estimate of risk.”
“There is five times more melanoma in Scotland on the feet than on the hands. And melanoma in Orkney and Shetland is ten times that of the Mediterranean islands.”
Another sobering statistic she offered was the changes in overall cancer mortality from 1975 to 2000. Prostate cancer mortality has fallen five percent, breast cancer mortality has fallen 15 percent, colorectal cancer is down 25 percent, but death from melanoma has risen 28 percent. Continue reading →
As we move into summer it seemed appropriate to write about riding my bicycle in the heat. I know for a lot of folks cycling season ends in September.
The first photo shows the ecstasy of summer biking being out on the Chicago lakefront enjoying the beauty of the parks and the skyline.
The Ecstasy of summer cycling on the Chicago lakefront
The second photo shows the agony of biking when you don’t make an effort to wear sunscreen. It is the scar from my Mohs surgery to cut out all traces of skin cancer remaining in me. If you missed it you can read about my discovery that I had skin cancer and subsequent surgery in my posts of the past two weeks.
This is my surgical scar with nearly two weeks of healing behind it. Agony indeed.