Thursday, May 5, 2011

After the Final Rose...

It’s been 9 and a half months since I kicked cancer to the curb. I gave the final rose to life and we have been happy together ever since! I am still so grateful to Dr Bobyn and Dr Baliski for their vigilance in this fight. I have not forgotten that I owe them my life. The cancer may be gone, but the journey is not over. I went to see Dr Bobyn for my 6 month (closer to 7 month when I got in) check up at the beginning of February and learned that I would possibly need yet another surgery. Two actually, however the second was unrelated to cancer. After I was given the okay to start playing volleyball again, I had another set back. During a game at the end of October, I suffered an extreme dislocation to my finger. The finger didn’t heal properly and my right hand ring finger is now gimpy the finger. Surgery was put on the table for this too. Apparently the cosmos thinks surgery is a favourite past time of mine! Haha

I am getting ahead of myself though. I should go back to shortly after the last surgery. I had my follow up appointment with Dr Bobyn on August 9th, and everything was looking great. My results had all come in and were all fantastic and he was happy with the progress of my arm and arm pit. After this appointment, my arm pit continued to heal fabulously however my arm did not. I developed an infection in my arm. After my at home methods of controlling the infection did not work, I went to see Dr Bobyn at the walk in clinic on August 30th. I had a suspicion that the internal dissolving stitches were not dissolving and that’s what was causing the infection. Dr Bobyn confirmed this suspicion. The internal stitches in two spots were not dissolving and that was where the infection was occurring. My body was rejecting them and trying to push them to the surface. Dr Bobyn called a nurse into the room and, with a scalpel, removed the stubborn stitches. After he was done, I looked at the tray he had placed them on and it appeared to me that the stubborn stitches were perhaps the knots that had been tied to keep them in place. Dr Bobyn cleaned up my arm, coated the incisions in cream and wrapped my arm up like a sausage. He gave me a prescription for antibiotics and told me to leave the white tension sleeve (aka the sausage casing) on as much as possible. I went and filled my antibiotics prescription and started on my two week regimen. Man oh man, did they make me feel horrible!! I couldn’t wait to be done with them!! After I finished my prescription, I went back for another follow up with Dr Bobyn. The infection was gone (hallelujah!!) and my arm was back on track. Or so I thought.

After the fiasco with the infection, the scar on my arm widened quite a bit. There is no missing it! When I touched the scar, I could also feel two hard balls of scar tissue in my arm. I also discovered that if I have my arm lifted for more than a couple minutes, my arm starts screaming in pain. At my 6 (7) month follow up, I showed this to Dr Bobyn. He felt that the build up of scar tissue in my arm was perhaps interfering with some nerves when my arm was at that angle. Dr Bobyn decided that I would need surgery to correct this and to fix the cosmetics of my arm. When I dislocated my finger, the doctor that I saw in the emergency room that night sent me for a follow up to a hand specialist who also happens to be a plastic surgeon. This was the first time that Dr Bobyn had seen my finger and since its healing had also stalled out, he felt that surgery would be needed to fix it as well. Since I’d already seen Dr Williamson (the hand specialist/plastic surgeon) and since he’d be able to do both surgeries, Dr Bobyn suggested that I see him again as it would cut the waiting time down drastically. So he had Dawn fax in the request and I waited for a call.

Although the news of more surgery was a bit upsetting, I had something wonderful to look forward to! In just a few weeks I would be turning 30. Now I realize most people dread this milestone; I however was looking forward to it. I was so done with my 20’s. It had been such a roller coaster decade with more than its share of upsetting news, I was ready to celebrate its end. And what better place than Hawaii!! Yes I know, you’re going to go to the land of sun? Are you crazy?! Well my frienemy Mr Sun and I have come to a truce. I am going to slather myself in SPF protection and he is going to respect that and we are going to maintain a cautious truce. Mr Sun may be a dangerous foe, but with proper protection (SPF, hats, extra coverage when possible) we can still maintain a relationship. After the crazy year we’d had, Kerrie and I needed a break. We planned a 30th birthday/celebration of beating cancer trip; a week in Oahu, aka paradise. It was amazing!

You can see my scar in this picture.

About the second week of April, I got the call from Dr Williamson’s office. They had an appointment for me at the hand clinic at Kelowna General Hospital for April 28th. Ever since leaving Dr Bobyn’s office back in February, I have been struggling with the idea of more surgery. These two surgeries would mean I would have had five surgeries in three years!! Good lord! I have been back and forth on to slice or not to slice. On the side of the pro’s; hopefully it would fix the pain I’ve been having, maybe I’d get more range of motion and use out of my finger, my scar would hopefully look better. On the side of the con’s; MORE SURGERY!!! I was still so conflicted when I went to my appointment on the 28th. So much so that I drove right past the hospital! I didn’t intend to, I think even my car didn’t want to be there! Haha I got to my appointment on time and waited to be called in.

One of the great things about the KGH hand clinic is that they are usually on time. I had been here in early December for a follow up on my finger and was called in right on schedule. This time was the same. Promptly at 1:00, my name was called. Dr Williamson was just finishing up with another patient in the seat beside me. After he finished up, he flipped through my file, took a look at my original finger x-ray one more time and came and sat down. He looked at my finger again, which hadn’t improved much at all since I’d seen him last. I asked if he had been told about my arm as well and showed him the scar. He asked when he had done the surgery and I told him that it was cancer surgery done by Dr Baliski last July. Now that everyone was caught up, we discussed my options. It was a good news/ bad news situation. To be honest, I’m still not sure how I feel. He started by telling me that he would not do any surgery until at least 1 year post injury/surgery. That was a bit of a relief as that meant I had more time to think about this. He agreed that my issue with both my arm and my finger was likely due to too much scar tissue. Now here comes the conflicting feelings part. Dr Williamson isn’t convinced that surgery will even help me. Part of me is jumping for joy that I may not have to have any more surgery. But part of me is also realizing that that means I may always have to deal with the pain. Don’t get me wrong, a bit of pain and an ugly scar are a small price to pay for being cancer free. And my finger is an inconvenience, but I’ll adapt and hopefully the pain will be gone after it’s been a year. It’s still a mixed ball of feelings though. I asked Dr Williamson that if my problem is too much scar tissue (and my body seems to make A LOT of it), what would be the chances of the same thing happening again. This was exactly the reason that he is hesitant to try the surgery route. It is not completely off the table, but it is not the first thing he’d like to try. He also said there is a small chance that surgery could even make it worse! Eep!! His recommendation was for me to try massage therapy on both my arm and my finger. Sounds bizarre, I know, but the more I think about it, the more it does kind of make sense. His hope is that regular treatment will help break down the scar tissue that has built up and gain me more range of motion. He also prescribed me a silicone patch to wear on my scar to hopefully help smooth it out and help to remove some of the redness.

My next appointment is with Dr Bobyn on May 18th. I will meet with him to discuss what Dr Williamson said during my appointment with him and get a referral to a massage therapist. I see Dr Williamson again on July 11th, to see if the massage and silicone patch are helping my arm and then I’ll see him again in November (the one year mark) for my finger. So for now surgery is on the back burner. I am hoping and praying that this massage therapy works! My arm will always look like it’s been bitten by an elephant, but I just keep telling myself that it’s a small price. The reminder isn’t bad either. Keeps me from getting lazy with the sunscreen! So that’s my update. I sent cancer packing, but he left some of his baggage. A little reminder of our time together. And sometimes, those little reminders are a good thing. Stay safe this summer! Practice smart sun! Remember, no one thinks it will happen to them. Do what you can to make sure it doesn’t!!

For more information on melanoma and what to look for:

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