Chapter 5:

Recover and pathology

Work was a pretty good place for me to be on a daily basis.  I received wound care as needed. My boss and one of the wonderful nurses checked me regularly.  At this point, two events occurred which in retrospect were foreshadowing my future. First, as time progressed, my forehead stitches became a nuisance.  Because of the type of incision and its aesthetic location; my wound closure entailed first suturing the tissue inside, and then merely applying Steri-Strip dressing and compound to the outside.   For those who haven’t experienced these, the Steri-Strip dressings are thin rectangular super sticky strips of tape.  The compound is a sealing/binding glue spread over the incision to both stabilize and protect the opening.   The internal sutures will dissolve and the outside has less scarring since no thread is used.  The hang up was that my internal sutures weren’t dissolving; rather my body was rejecting them, or “kicking” them out of my body. My nurse friend at work was pulling on little “nubs” of thread sticking out of the incision.  On the other end of these nubs were tumbleweeds of thread, for lack of better words. This happened multiple times for the next few months.  My body was rejecting the sutures before they had a chance to disintegrate.  Secondly, after chewing, the left side of my face would swell rapidly.  The swelled area was right in front of my left ear lobe where the hinge of the jaw is located.  It would grow to the size of a golf ball.  I showed it to my boss who said it was actually my parotid gland filling up with fluid as I chewed.  The fact that it was my parotid gland is somewhat important for future chapters.  This gland is the largest of your three salivary glands.  At its highest point it starts on a level with your ear opening, and extends wrapping just under the hinge in your jaw. She called my surgeon to make sure he was in agreement with her draining it as it swelled.  He of course was fine with it.  So each time this happened in her presence she would stick a needle in my face/neck and suck out a yellow tinted, but clear fluid.  It was a very effective technique left only to the most experienced of head and neck surgeons.  The trunk of your main facial nerve passes through the middle of the gland.  Therefore she had to get the needle in the gland, BUT NOT IN THE FACIAL NERVE. She did it with precision each and every time.  This was done for a few weeks until it stopped filling up with fluid.

Now on to the most intriguing part of this whole mess I got myself into. The pathology of the skin and lymph nodes.   Was the lesion completely removed this time?  Did my lymph nodes come back clean?  It took about a week to find out.   The relieving and most important part was that my lymph nodes were clear of melanoma cells.  Spic n’ span clean.  That meant this episode was brought to an end.  I would need no further treatment.   My surgeon explained that he thought the lesion had been caught just as it was changing into melanoma at the cellular lever.  If it had been left longer I would have been in a very bad position. But I wasn’t! To an extent it will always be shrouded in mystery since the spitz nevus and melanoma look identical at the cellular level.  That was irrelevant anyway since I was in the clear.  Now I can be relieved and move on with life back to normal.  At least that’s what I thought….

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